Friday, January 20, 2012

The Bedbug Epidemic: These Annoying Critters are Showing up in Schools - What Can We Do?

According to the Department of Education, there were approximately 3,500 confirmed cases of bedbugs in public schools in the past school year, a number that is triple that of the year before! As frightening as this is, it is not unexpected, as these tiny insects are seeing a rapid increase in numbers across the country. What used to be something from our distant past that remained only in a quaint old saying, "Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite," infestations of bedbugs are currently at epidemic proportions.

Head lice have been a problem in schools throughout history, but compared to bedbugs they are easy to deal with. We know just where to look for lice and they are relatively easy to eradicate. Not so with bedbugs. These little critters are about the size of an apple seed and love to hide in cracks, crevasses and other tight spots. They come out only at night to feed on the blood of their hosts- namely us! During the day, they are incredibly secretive and can squeeze into the tiniest spots, avoiding detection. This is also what makes them difficult to eradicate, as most sprays require direct contact to kill.

Bedbugs are showing up in a vast array of public places. In fact just about anywhere that you find humans, it is possible to find bedbugs. Dorms, summer camps, retail stores, movie theaters and now schools are facing the tough battle against bedbugs. They may actually be in many more public places than reported, but have simply not been spotted yet. Their secretive nature and their increasing resistance to pesticides are conditions that are allowing these insects to proliferate and spread.

So, how do bedbugs get in the schools?

As they seek a hiding place during the day, backpacks, lunchboxes, spines of books and seams in clothing are ideal spots. Once that backpack or jacket gets grabbed up and taken to school, the little critters take a ride right along with the student's belongings. Once at school, the bugs may move from their hiding place and infest the school. Or, they may simply move to another student's belongings and hitch a ride to their homes. Bedbugs can go for months, maybe even years without feeding, so a female with eggs can rapidly infest a new area. It just takes one surviving bedbug to reinfest a spot that was exterminated. Not a pleasant thought!

If you get a letter from your school that bedbugs have been found, don't panic, prepare. Read everything you can about bedbugs, their lifecycles, how to detect their presence, how to prevent them from coming into your home and how to eradicate them. While many pesticides, especially the ones you apply yourself, are ineffective, heat is a guaranteed method for killing bedbugs. If the school has notified you of the presence of bedbugs, a great preventive measure is to immediately have the kids remove their clothing and wash and dry them on high heat. Some schools have banned backpacks and lunchboxes, if your school hasn't, seal these in plastic bags at home.

Remember, bedbugs are not known to carry disease and are thus not considered a public health risk. They certainly are a disgusting annoyance though. Also keep in mind that many of the chemicals used to kill bedbugs are much more dangerous to your family's health than the bedbugs, so use common sense. The heat method, whether you use a steamer or hire an exterminator that heats the entire home above about 115 degrees, is the safest and most effective treatment. Good luck and God bless!

About the Author Grace Pamer is the author of, one woman's on going quest to keep romance alive despite the time pressure of dealing with three beautiful but crazy kids and an always working husband. Check out her love letters for her section if you're looking to put the romance back into your marriage with a well crafted love letter to your nearest and dearest.
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