Expert Advice For a Bed Bug-Free School Year

Rose Pest Solutions shares back-to-school tips to prevent a bed bug infestation 

Summer vacation is over. Schools and universities are back in session. It’s officially the first day of Autumn! Shopping for school supplies and a new wardrobe might have been the biggest stresses just a few weeks ago, but now is a great time to be proactive and incorporate this advice on bed bug prevention into your daily routine so you don’t end up asking yourself “Do I have bed bugs?” when your child comes home with unwanted pests.

The Risk

They’re more common than you think. Studies and reports all over the world are showing that bed bugs are not going away anytime soon. Although they don’t spread diseases, the mental and physical trauma they’re capable of inflicting on us is beyond stressful. Plus, exterminating bed bugs can be very expensive if you don’t catch an infestation quickly. Trust me, I’ve been there TWICE and still freak out about checking things in my house even when I haven’t been travelling.

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Bed bug on velcro, NPMA

“Bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and thrive in heavily populated places,” said Bill Hastings, Director of Specialty Services for Rose Pest Solutions Northfield. “This makes classrooms and dorms the perfect settings for bed bugs to take up residence.”

A study conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky found that bed bug infestations are on the rise in many different types of dwellings, including school and college settings. According to the survey, 47 percent of respondents had treated for bed bugs in college dorms in 2013, while 41 percent had reported bed bug infestations in schools and daycare centers.

What do bed bugs look like?

Depending on whether they just fed, what life cycle stage they’re in, and if they’re male or female, bed bugs can appear in several colors, sizes and girths. The following images are a good amount of examples from all of these variables.

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Not recently fed adult bed bug on finger, NPMA

They’re pretty flat when they’re not filled up with blood. Can you see the beak ready to stab and feed? So gross…

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Recently fed adult bed bug (engorged with blood), NPMA

Once they’ve fed, they appear more puffed up, and red to rust brown in color.

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Bed bug hiding on luggage zipper, NPMA

See how easy it can be to miss something this small?! When you don’t know what you’re looking for, it’s so easily overlooked. Identification is the first defense against any pest. I say this all the time, but it’s true. Learn what to look for, and when you do, you’ll know to contact a professional immediately. The longer you wait to have a bed bug problem treated, the harder it is to control them because of how well they hide and how rapidly they breed.

bed bug eggs and nymphs unfed
Bed bug eggs hatching and nymphs (unfed baby bed bugs), NPMA

Birth should be a beautiful thing, but this is definitely NOT. Bed bugs eggs are clear, super tiny and not easily seen. Bed bug babies are off-white to yellowish in hue. You can see right through them because they haven’t fed on blood yet. So if you’re asking the question, Can you see bed bugs?, the answer is yes. They’re just amazing at hiding like creeps until you fall asleep. (I’m itchy all over right now because bed bugs seriously freak me out.)

all lifecycle stages of bed bugs
Male and female bed bug life cycle, NPMA

See how some of the bed bugs have a dark spot or squiggle on their abdomens? That’s their intestines, filled with blood and they’re about to poop it out. I’ll show you that next. Aren’t you so excited??

Bed bugs what to look for

Familiarize yourself with these signs of bed bugs so you know what to look for in addition to live bugs when checking your child’s backpack or belongings every day when they get home. I’m telling you! Get in the habit of inspecting now! You just never know what your kid will come into contact with in such public places.

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Bed bug shells, or exoskeletons, NPMA

As bed bugs grow into each life stage, they shed their skin. These bed bug shells look like clear to yellowish casing and will often be a first sign that bed bugs are present and feeding.

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Fecal deposits on filter paper, NPMA

Just like other living animals, bed bugs poop. It’s digested blood. Remember the squiggly intestine I pointed out in the photo above? This fecal spotting is the aftermath. These dark brown to black flecks will appear on sheets, blankets, clothing, backpacks, on walls, and pretty much wherever the bed bug spends its time resting when it’s not feeding. Keep an eye out for this.

what do bed bug bites look like
Bed bug bites

Everyone reacts to insect bites differently. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you that bed bugs bite in linear patterns as they crawl along veins that they seek out using their built-in heat detection skills. Take my advice, if you seek help from a doctor regarding insect bites, please keep in mind that they probably studied the subject for like ONE chapter in med school. They’re not bug experts. A dermatologist may be a better bet when seeking medical help or care for bug bites.

I personally look like I have leprosy or something whenever I’m bitten by mosquitoes or any kind of bug. I’m hyper sensitive to insect bites. Some people show no bite marks or reaction at all. Others swell up and need to take Benadryl (me). I’ve even talked to couples that sleep in the same bed that had bed bugs and one person isn’t bitten at all while the other lying right beside is eaten alive.

All I’m saying is, don’t judge a bug problem based on bites without actually SEEING the bug that could have bitten you.

Rose’s Bed Bug Solution

Use these tips as a guide to routinely check items like purses, briefcases, backpacks, duffel bags, etc. Bed bugs use these items to hitchhike home with you so they can get closer to their next meal. Early detection and identification will save you mental strife, and tons of money on trying to correct a full-blown infestation of bed bugs in your home. Trust me. I’ve been there. 🙁

NPMA experts recommend the following tips for students in grades K-12 to avoid bringing bed bugs home:

  • Parents should regularly inspect their children’s belongings for hitchhiking bed bugs
  • If the school has reported an infestation, consider housing all related items in a sealed plastic bin
  • Wash and dry cloth items returning from school in hot temperatures
  • Ask school administrators whether they have bed bug detection and elimination plans
BedBugs Backpack resized 600

NPMA also advises college students to take steps to protect against bed bugs, including:

  • Fully inspect suitcases, backpacks, sports bags, etc. prior to re-packing for a return to school, especially after any summer trips
  • Before putting sheets on the dormitory bed, inspect the mattress seams, particularly at the corners, and box springs for telltale stains or spots
  • Thoroughly inspect the entire room before unpacking, including behind the headboard and in sofas and chairs
  • Inspect any “secondhand” furniture for bed bugs before bringing it into dormitory rooms or off-campus housing
  • When coming home with a backpack or laundry bag, launder and dry items in high heat before unpacking and settling in
  • Reduce clutter at all costs in dorm rooms and at home to reduce the amount of hiding places a bed bug would love to take advantage of

messy dorm room_2
Messy dorm room=millions of hiding spots for bed bugs!

You now have yet ANOTHER reason to get on your kids about keeping their rooms clean. The less clutter there is, the less advantage bed bugs have for hiding out and multiplying. Keeping bed linens and blankets up off the floor will eliminate the possibility for bed bugs to climb up onto the bed if they are present in the room. Regularly laundering clothing items that end up on the floor in high temperatures will kill off all cycles of bed bugs, including eggs.

Overwhelming? Please don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re here for you!

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