Bed Bugs: What Schools Need to Know

Recently, Michigan and other states have seen an increased number of bed bug infestations plaguing residents. As bed bugs infest more and more homes, they may find their way into schools. When this happens, the school needs to take proactive action to prevent infestation and stop them from spreading in the school setting.

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are small, brownish, flattened insects that feed on the blood of people while they sleep. Although the bite does not hurt at the time, it may develop into an itchy welt similar to a mosquito bite. Bed bugs do not transmit disease, but they can cause significant itchiness, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Bed bug infestations are also very difficult and expensive to control. Usually, bed bugs will hide during the day and only come out to feed during the night. Unlike head lice, they do not live on a person. However, they can hitchhike from one place to another in backpacks, clothing, luggage, books, and other items.

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Bed bug images provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Could my classroom be infested?

Actual bed bug infestations in schools are uncommon. More commonly, a few bed bugs will hitchhike to school from an infested home by hiding in a student’s clothing or backpack. Bed bugs that hitch a ride into the school in one student’s backpack could be carried home by another student, making the school a potential hub for bed bug spread. This is not a minor concern – bed bugs are very expensive and difficult to eradicate. If a school plans to use pesticides to control pests indoors, then they are required under Michigan law to have an integrated pest management (IPM) plan in place. If a bed bug infestation is suspected or a number of students are getting bitten during class, the school should contact a licensed pest management professional for assistance.

Bed bug bites

Bed bug bite image provided by University of Sydney Department of Medical Entomology

What if I find a bed bug on a student?

If a bed bug is found on a student, it may indicate that the student has bed bugs at home. However, bed bugs can crawl onto or off of a person (or their belongings) at any time, so it is also possible that the bed bug was brought to school by someone else. If a suspected bed bug is found on a student or a student’s belongings, the following procedures should be followed:

  • The student should be discreetly removed from the classroom so that the school nurse or a qualified individual can examine the student’s clothing and other belongings. Any bugs found should be removed and collected for identification. Try to keep the specimens as intact as possible.
  • If a confirmed bed bug was found on a student, then the school principal or nurse should contact the student’s parents or guardian to inform them of the bed bug presence on their child. Consider sending a bed bug inspection form home, a sample is provided at the end of this document. Educational materials, such as those available at http://www.michigan.gov/bedbugs should also be provided to the family.
  • The school principal or nurse or center program director should consider notifying the affected class or classes. A sample notification letter is provided at the end of this document.
  • Students should not be excluded from school due to bed bugs unless repeated efforts have been made to remedy an infestation. Schools should not be closed due to bed bug presence, if pest management is necessary it will normally be targeted to certain areas of the school.
  • Ongoing pest management that includes the use of pesticides indoors should be overseen by the school principal or designee and must conform to the school’s integrated pest management plan, as required by Michigan law (MCL 324.8316).

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What can I do to eliminate bed bugs from my classroom?

  • DO NOT allow untrained staff to apply pesticides on school property. By law, only IPM trained applicators can apply pesticides (even ready-to-use products like sprays) in schools, and in compliance with the school’s IPM plan.
  • Backpacks, lunch boxes, and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and sealed in plastic containers to prevent bed bugs from getting into them at home.
  • Hard surfaces can be cleaned with standard cleaning products.
  • If bed bugs have been found repeatedly in a particular classroom, have the room inspected by a pest management professional or other trained staff.

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Bed bugs in baseboard image provided by Ohio State University Extension Entomology

What if one of my students has an infestation at home?

When a student is dealing with an infestation at home, it is important to be sensitive to their problem. Although bed bugs have nothing to do with cleanliness or socioeconomic status, there is still a stigma that can come with having bed bugs. As a result, parents may be hesitant to admit to having bed bugs, and students may not want others to know they have an infestation at home. Students living in an infested home may also feel anxious or tired during the school day.
Schools should work with the parents of any student living in an infested home to develop strategies for preventing the further spread of bed bugs.

  • Determine if the infested home is being treated. Home remedies and do-it-yourself treatments are usually insufficient and could cause negative health effects or produce potential hazards in the home.
  • If a parent lacks the financial resources to hire a pest management professional, they can reference the online resources at: http://www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.
  • In an infested home, parents should store their child’s freshly laundered clothing in sealed plastic bags until they are put on in the morning. This prevents bed bugs from hiding in the clothing and being carried to school.
  • Backpacks, lunch boxes, and other items that travel back and forth to school can also be inspected daily and stored in sealed plastic containers at home to prevent bed bugs from getting into them.
  • At school, the student could be provided with plastic bags or bins in which to store their belongings in order to prevent any bed bugs from spreading to other students’ belongings.
  • If bed bugs are finding their way into the school, consider notifying the affected classes. A sample notification letter is provided at the end of this document.
  • Continue to use these measures until successful treatment of the home has been verified.

Additional Resources

  • Michigan Bed Bug Resources http://www.michigan.gov/bedbugs
  • Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force http://centralohiobedbugs.org/
  • Model IPM Plan for Michigan Schools http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mda_A_Model_Integrated_Pest_Management_Policy_for_Mich-
    igan_Schools4_130114_7.pdf

Bed Bugs: School Response Flowchart

School Responsibility:

  • Providing a healthy, pest-free environment in which students can excel Parent/Caregiver Responsibility
  • Providing a safe and healthy living environment for the student

bed_bug_for_school (1)

See the Schools and Daycares section of Michigan’s Bed Bug Prevention and Control Manual for detailed instructions.

** SAMPLE**
Bed Bugs Found in a Classroom
Parent Notification Letter
[fill in appropriate school letterhead]

Dear Parent or Guardian:

We recently found a bed bug in your child’s classroom. Bed bugs are a nuisance, but their bites are not known to spread disease. Bed bugs are usually active at night and feed on human blood. The bite does not hurt at first, but it may become swollen and itch, much like a mosquito bite. Watch for clusters of bites, usually in a line, on exposed areas of the body. If you have medical concerns for you or your child, please contact your doctor. The source of bed bugs often cannot be determined, as bed bugs may be found in many places including hotels, planes, and movie theaters. Even though it is unlikely for bed bugs to infest a school, [fill in school district] will conduct an inspection and, if needed, will implement an integrated pest management plan in the area where the bed bug was found. [fill in school district] will continue to work to identify bed bugs, provide thorough inspections of schools, and have licensed pest control specialists assist with pest management.

Contact your physician or school nurse for proper care and treatment of bed bug bites. If you have any questions regarding bed bugs in your school, please contact Principal [fill in principal’s name and contact info]. If you have any questions regarding bed bugs found in your home, contact your local health department or visit http://www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

Sincerely,

[signature]

School Nurse Principal
(If one is available)

Sample letter adapted with permission from materials provided by the Central Ohio Bed Bug Task Force

** SAMPLE**
Bed Bug Inspection Report

Dear Parent,
Today, a bed bug was found on your child or in your child’s belongings. While this does not necessarily mean that the bed bug was brought to school by your child, it is important to your child’s health and to the school community that you inspect your home for signs of bed bugs. Enclosed you will find information about bed bugs and an identification guide to help you with your inspection. Once you have inspected your home, please fill out the form below and return to the school office by [fill in date].
Sincerely,
[signature]
School Administration
I have been informed that a bed bug was found on my child at school. I understand that bed bugs pose a threat to my child’s well-being and to the greater school community. I have read and understood the educational materials provided to me regarding bed bugs, and have:

  • carefully checked my family and home for signs of bed bug infestation myself
  • hired a pest management professional to check my family and home for signs of bed bug infestation.
  • Name of pest control company: [company name]

After completing a careful inspection, I certify that to the best of my knowledge:

  • I or a pest management professional found signs of bed bugs in my home, and I will take the following actions to eliminate this infestation: [fill in actions]
  • I or a pest management professional did not find signs of bed bugs in my home at this time. If I find evidence of bed bugs in the future, I will notify the school immediately and take action to address the infestation.

I understand that bed bugs can be spread to other homes if they are brought to school in backpacks, clothing, and other belongings. I understand that if bed bugs are repeatedly found on my child, that the school may take additional actions to protect the school community from bed bugs.

Signature [signature] Date [date]
Pest management professional’s signature
[professional’s signature]

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This fact sheet has been published by the Michigan Bed Bug Working Group (Update May 2010).

 

Link to this file can be found at:

http://www.michigan.gov/documents/emergingdiseases/Bed_bugs_schools_293498_7.pdf

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