What's the size of an apple seed, the width of a credit card, and feeds every seven to 10 days? Bedbugs.
These critters hitchhike in the purses or backpacks of their victims and, according to the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, are a continuing problem in urban districts across the country. Thomas Green, founder of the IPM Institute, a nonprofit organization that recognizes and rewards integrated pest management providers and services, spoke at the Environmental Protection Agency Bed Bug summit recently about the increasing reports of bedbugs in schools. According to Green, the New York City Department of Education, the nation's largest district, has experienced 400 bedbug incidents per month since the start of the 2010- 2011 school year. That is a dramatic rise from the 2009 and 2008 school years, when the district reported 100 and 50 incidents per month, respectively.
The bitten areas, says Glenn Waldorf, director of corporate development at Bell Environmental, an IPM company based in New York City and New Jersey, appear as small bumps in a cluster. they hitchhike on people, which is how they find themselves in public places like schools.
"Every time we find a single bedbug we are required to report it," says Marge Feinberg, communications officer with the New York City Department of Education. "Schools are not hospitable environments for bedbugs, and a confirmed incident generally represents an isolated bedbug brought into the building."
Teachers are trained to look for signs of bed bugs on students. Feinberg says the DOE works closely with the city's Department of Health, and a "Bed Bug Information Kit" is posted on each school's Web site as a reference for families and has instructions for teachers for how to report a bed bug incident.
According to Waldorf, the safest method pest control services can use to get rid of a bedbug infestation is dry ice, as the bugs die in extremely cold temperatures. "You can get rid of the problem, but you need to be forever vigilant."