An exterminator treated Sulphur Springs High School Monday for bed bugs, according to Sulphur Springs Independent School District Superintendent Michael Lamb. There have been no findings at any other district campuses.
When the potential problem was noted in limited areas at the school, the plant operations director was contacted.
The areas were isolated and Terminix contacted.
“Terminix was brought in Monday. It was not in my places. Those areas have been quarantined and treated. The Terminix guy visited with staff about it,” Lamb said.
The library and one other area were shut down. Furniture was removed, not necessarily because bed bugs were found on the items, but because the items were identified as as places bed bugs could potentially be, according to the superintendent.
The exterminator, according to Lamb, said bed bugs are a widespread problem in the area and across the state at the moment. He also described the issue so that staff would be aware of it and what to watch for.
Lamb said bed bugs can be spread in much the same way as a head lice infestation. Bed bugs can enter the school on book bags, clothes or individuals, then like lice jump and spread to other students, furniture or other items. They could also be picked up at locations or homes as well.
“It’s been treated. We’ve done what we can do. We are fortunate that it’s not a wider spread problem than thought,” Lamb said.
School staff will remain vigilant in watching for bed bugs or any other pests, and actions will be taken as needed. With more than 1,000 students at the campus, plus staff, there a many places they could potentially come into contact with bed bugs and spread them.
Parents of SSHS students received emails through the school notification system Wednesday so they are aware of the issue and can be alert for the potential pests.
School officials hope that the problem can be kept under control until spring break, and additional treatment can be applied to ensure the problem is eradicated. If any additional bed bugs are identified necessary action would be taken to get rid of them, according to the superintendent.
So what do bed bugs look like? Wizzie Brown and Noel Troxclair in “Common Insect and Mite Pests of Humans: Lice, Fleas and Bed Bugs” described bed bugs as “small, dark brown to reddish, flattened insects with oval bodies and no wings.”
A bed bug’s size and color depend on the amount of blood that the body contains, Roger Gold and Harry Howell wrote in “Bed Bugs – How can you protect yourself from bed bugs?” for Texas AgriLife Extension.
Unfed bed bugs are 1/4-3/8 inch long; their upper body appears flimsy, and crinkly appearance. When filled with blood, bed bugs’ bodies become elongated and swollen, and appear brown to dull red, according to Gold and Howell.
“Bed bug eggs are white and about 1/32 inch long. Newly hatched bugs are translucent and nearly colorless, but similar in shape to the adults. As they grow, they molt (shed their skins). After each molt they are pale in color, then become brownish as the exoskeleton hardens,” the AgriLife Extension report states.
Bed bugs feed mostly at night on sleeping people. However, if the light is dim, a hungry bed bug will feed during the day, Howell and Gold report.
Bed bugs are “spread mainly through the clothing and luggage of travelers or by secondhand bedroom furniture,” according to Brown and Troxclair.
“At the beginning of an infestation in a room, bed bugs are likely to be found only in the tufts, seams, and folds of mattresses and covers. Later they spread to crevices in the bedsteads. If allowed to multiply, they establish themselves behind baseboards, window and door casings, pictures and picture moldings, and in furniture, loosened wallpaper, cracks in plaster and partitions,” according to Howell and Gold.
The best way to get rid of bed bugs is to “locate their hiding places and improve sanitation by vacuuming or removing the bugs by hand. As necessary, you may need to treat with an insecticide approved for this use,” Howell and Gold reported.
An insecticide whose label specifically says for bed bugs may be sprayed or dusted on bed slats, springs and frame; and other hiding places in a room.
For heavily infected areas, Howell and Gold recommend consulting a commercial pest control operator to control the infestation.