Bedbugs take a bite out of school's plans

Bedbugs took an unwelcome bite out of plans for Burleson fifth grade students to have overnight field trips at Camp Carter this spring.

Burleson School Superintendent Richard Crummel said the field trips have been postponed pending the outcome of testing and treatment for bedbugs. The YMCA, which operates Camp Carter, notified the district last week that bedbugs were found in one cabin.

"We were concerned about the health and safety of our students," Crummel said. "The school principals will make the final decision on whether the trips will take place," he said.

The overnight trips were optional for students. The students were to take part in the camp's outdoor learning program, he said.

Hope Caldwell, director of marketing for the YMCA, said the camp tested for bedbugs, but none were found until an entomologist with a specially-trained dog was brought in to sniff out the pests.

The dog found the bedbugs in one cabin in a set of bunk beds, and the cabin has been quarantined, she said.

Caldwell said the YMCA is contracting with a company called Rid All Pests, and the cabin will be cleaned and retreated. The dog will also come back to check the cabin once it has been retreated, she said.

The company will also check the entire camp to make sure the bugs haven't spread.

Pesky critters

Caldwell said the pesky critters were discovered in early March when a mother from Burleson noticed some bites after spending the night at the camp with her daughter. However, she did not report the bedbugs to the YMCA until March 21, and that was when the testing started, Caldwell said.

Caldwell said she isn't aware of other districts postponing or canceling field trips.

"Bedbugs occur in a lot of different places. We have no control other than testing or monitoring for them," Caldwell said.

Patrick Prather, an entomologist with Rid All Pest Control in Fort Worth said he is using an organic treatment method to get rid of the bedbugs.

He also contracts with a company that has specially-trained springer spaniels that can sniff out the unwanted intruders. The spaniels are small, compact dogs and don't mind being around people, he said.

"Bedbugs are still around. Everyone is just quiet about them," he said.

Almost eradicated

David Jefferson, environmental health manager for Tarrant County Public Health, said bedbugs don't carry diseases, but their bites itch. Excessive scratching can lead to infections, he said.

If people notice bed bugs, it is best to contact a professional pest control company and not try to get rid of them.

"That can open up a Pandora's box," Jefferson said.

For instance, people often use the wrong type of pesticide.

"Bed bugs haven't gone anywhere. They haven't been on the front burner. We still get call from people wondering what to do about them," he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, bedbugs are reddish brown, oval flat creatures about the size of an apple seed that hide in used mattresses, headboards and couches during the day. They feed on blood and bite exposed skin when people are sleeping at night.

Bedbugs were almost eradicated decades ago because of DDT, but the pesticide was banned because it was so toxic, and now the bugs are back.

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696

Twitter: @fwstliz