Children and parents across the country look forward to summer camp every year. Kids get to go hiking, swimming, and form new friendships, whether it’s a day camp or a sleep-away camp. It’s enough to keep the summer boredom at bay, but it’s not without its pitfalls — including bed bugs.
Bed bugs at camp are increasing along with typical spots like dormitories and hospitals. If you’re one of the camp employees, do you know how to handle the situation? Could you identify a bed bug and effectively treat the infestation? By the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll be able to answer yes to both questions.
What is a Bed Bug?
Bed bugs are insects similar in size and appearance to an apple seed — round, flat, and reddish-brown. They have piercing mouthparts used for eating plants.
Unfortunately, some bug species have mouthparts modified to consume human blood without causing much discomfort. In fact, most people never notice the bed bug biting them while it’s happening!
Bed bugs’ white eggs measure 1 mm in length; although they are smaller, the nymphs resemble adults. Depending on the temperature and amount of food available, the time it takes them to develop into full adults can range from four weeks to several months.
What Are the Signs of Bed Bugs at Camp?
These flat, wingless creatures can be seen with the human eye but tend to hide during the day. They feed at night, so you may only realize there’s an issue when you wake up in the morning with small, itchy bites arranged in a cluster. Fortunately, there are a few signs of bed bugs at camp to watch out for that will signal their presence.
Rust-Colored Mattress Stains
Check carefully for tiny, rust-colored stains when changing the sheets on your camp mattresses. These stains occur because the bed bugs get crushed while campers sleep during the night. If you see this sign, it’s time to take action. Even one affected mattress can quickly spread, infecting the entire camp.
Examine the sheets for pinpoint-sized dark-colored spots. These spots are bed bug waste that has been left behind! If your camp uses light-colored sheets, these spots are easier to find.
Eggs and Eggshells
The female bed bug can produce up to three eggs per day! If you have a female living in your bed, there will be a trail of eggshells and eggs along the way. Look for a pale, yellow-colored egg that is about one millimeter wide.
Where Can I Find Bed Bugs at Camp?
Bed bug eggs can lay dormant for months, only delaying the catastrophe. In fact, once settled, bed bugs at camp breed and spread like wildfire. Don’t forget to look in all of their favorite hiding spots to remove any potential eggs or existing bugs.
Check the following places in your search for bed bugs at camp:
- Mattress seams
- Bed frames
- Underneath chairs and beds
- Baseboards and window casings
- Behind light switches and outlet plates
- Backpacks, suitcases, sleeping bags, and clothing
If you find any bed bugs or eggs, take immediate action and begin treating your camp.
Treating Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can ruin your camp and risk your visitors’ health. Get professional assistance and put preventative measures in place if you notice these pests invading your bunks. Preventive measures include the following:
- Meticulous and frequent vacuuming
- Sealing the garbage bag in plastic and throwing it away outside
- Washing clothing in hot water of at least 120 degrees
- Using hot temperatures to dry clothing
- Placing infested items in plastic bags to trap bugs
- Using metal bunk beds with sealed metal tubing
- Using zippered mattress protectors
- Wrapping infested items in plastic and putting them outside in direct sunlight
- In winter, throwing infested items outdoors (for five days) to freeze the bed bugs
Although turning up the thermostat is a common control strategy because it is quicker than freezing, it is simply not enough. Use only brand-new mattresses and other bedding, keep equipment off the ground, and hang clothes away from beds to avoid recurring infestations.
Preventing and Treating Bed Bugs at Camp
The best treatment for bed bugs is to prevent an infestation from occurring in the first place. Educate yourself about prevention, treatment, and elimination.
If you suspect bed bugs have infested a bed, carefully examine the mattress and surrounding area. Once you’ve identified the infestation, quickly review every option for removing the bugs before proceeding. It’s crucial to have a thorough plan of action. Make sure any bitten individuals receive treatment from the on-site healthcare staff.
Be cautious of accepting hand-me-down items, like mattresses and upholstered furniture. Scrutinize any second-hand item and don’t use it if it’s not in exceptional condition.
It may seem to be more cost-effective to treat the bed bugs on your own, but it’s always best to bring in a professional. Consult with someone soon if you suspect your camp has been infested with bed bugs.
ESS Universal manufactures and supplies high-quality, cost-effective commercial grade beds, mattresses, and furniture to camps, hostels, shelters, dorms and more. View our entire line of furniture products including our popular waterproof foam mattress for institutional use, single metal bed frames, single over single bunk beds, single over double bunk beds, and triple bunk beds. Download our catalog for detailed information on our complete product line.