Bedbugs take a bite out of Burleson field trip plans

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

Burleson Superintendent Richard Crummel said the trips have been postponed pending the outcome of testing and treatment for bedbugs. The YMCA of Metropolitan Fort Worth, 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."

The overnight trips were optional for students, who 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 found none until an entomologist with a specially trained dog was brought in.

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

Caldwell said the YMCA is contracting with a Fort Worth company called Rid All Pest Control to clean and re-treat the cabin. The dog will also be brought back to check it, she said.

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

The first appearance

Caldwell said the bedbugs surfaced in early March, when a mother from Burleson noticed some bites after a night at the camp with her daughter. But she did not report the bedbugs to the YMCA until March 21, which 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," she said.

Rid All entomologist Patrick Prather said he is using an organic treatment method to get rid of the bedbugs.

He also contracts with a company whose springer spaniels can sniff out the intruders. The spaniels are small and don't mind being around people, he said.

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

Almost eradicated

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

If you notice bedbugs, he said, it is best to have a professional exterminator get rid of them instead of trying to do so yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Campbell, 817-390-7696, Twitter: @fwstliz