Every year thousands of young people attend summer camps all over the country. Hosted by jovial and skilled hosts backed with years of on-the-ground experience, these camps are places where lifelong memories are made.
Unfortunately, summer camps are also favorite destinations of bed bugs. Some people might be surprised to learn that the old “don’t let the bed bugs bite” saw their parents used to say is actually a real thing. Bed begs are similar to ticks in appearance—about the size of an apple seed and reddish-brown, oval-shaped, and flat. They are insects with piercing mouthparts that are used in most species to feed on plants, and they like to live in beds.
But some bed bug species have adapted mouthparts capable of feeding on human blood while inflicting very little pain on the victim. In fact, most people never even know the nasty little critters are attached and feeding. That does not bode well for camp owners and staff charged with maintaining a clean and safe environment.
A venerable and reliable source in this regard is the American Camp Association, and their Camp Crisis Hotline fields dozens of calls every year from camps with bed bug sightings or those seeking help in preparing for bug battle. In an effort to lend a hand, ACA offers a collection of proven strategies:
Bed bug awareness and prevention
- UNDERSTAND: Become knowledgeable about bed bugs, their prevention, treatment, and abatement.
- INSPECT:If you suspect that someone in your camp has been bitten by bed bugs, thoroughly examine crevices in walls, mattresses, and furniture. You will need to perform your inspection at night when bed bugs are active. Examining during the day most likely will not be useful.
- ABATE:If your camp is infested with bed bugs, understand that eliminating them can be a very difficult process because bed bugs hide so well and can live for months without eating. Quickly consider all the options before deciding on your plan of action. Recommendations are listed below and range from those you can do yourself to those that must be completed by a licensed professional.
- TREAT: Bed bugs are gross and irritating but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they do not transmit disease. Treatment of those who have been bitten can usually be handled by an on-site healthcare staff. However, there are situations where those afflicted should see a doctor.
- PREVENT: Be very wary of accepting second-hand items such as mattresses and upholstered furniture. Examine any second-hand item extremely carefully and don’t use if not in exceptional condition.
A plague of these tiny nasties sounds like insect Armageddon. Let’s get to know the enemy a little better.
Habitat and damage
Bed bugs don’t have wings with which to fly around and cause trouble, so they hitch rides on passing dogs, cats, people, and even random objects. Since bed bugs are indoor inhabitants, they take advantage of luggage sitting in a hotel room or ensconce themselves in old furniture until a likely victim comes along.
Bed bugs hide during the day and come out at night to feed on human blood, just like vampires. They spend daylight hours breeding prolifically, laying hundreds of eggs in a sitting. Even worse, the eggs can remain dormant for months, merely delaying their scourge. Indeed, once bed bugs are entrenched, they breed and spread with reckless abandon.
They are excellent and hide and seek as well. Some favorite hiding places include:
- Mattress and sofa seams
- Bed frames
- Underneath chairs, beds, and rugs
- Drawers, baseboards, window casings
- Behind light switches and outlet plates
- Cracks in plaster walls
- Backpacks, sleeping bags, and clothing
Treating a bed bug infestation
An infestation of beg bugs can spell doom for your camp and pose a health risk to guests. If you suspect a scourge of these pests, it is best to enlist professional help and implement preventative measures, including the following:
- Thorough and regular vacuuming, followed by sealing the bag in plastic and disposing it in an outside container
- Wash clothing in hot water (at least 120 degrees)
- Dry clothing in a dryer at hot temperatures
- Seal infested items with a plastic, zipped cover to trap bugs and prevent them from feeding
- Use metal bunk beds with sealed metal tubing
- Wrap infested items in plastic and place outside in a hot, sunny location
- Do the above method but place the items inside a car parked in the sun with windows up
- In winter, chuck infested items outdoors. Bed bugs will freeze but you’ll have to leave items outside for about five days, depending on temps.
Heating is generally a faster control method than freezing, but it is not enough to simply crank up the thermostat. Prevent future infestations by using only new mattresses and other bedding, store gear off the floor, and hang clothing away from beds.
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.