Bed Bugs: Packing for Prevention

Mindset for Prevention:

Pretend YOU have bed bugs. Pretend WE have bed bugs.

In recent years, bed bugs have made a resurgence in North America. They are often found in hotels, multi‐unit dwellings, and other structures that house people for short periods of time, such as camps. While bed bugs may be a nuisance, they do not transmit disease to people.

The good news is that there are simple steps that can be taken to help ensure that children do not bring bed bugs to camp or back home from camp. We are taking proactive steps in our camp facilities, please help us by following the packing advice listed below:

Prevention Before Camp

  • Visually inspect items for bugs. Take sleeping bags, blankets, and luggage out of storage, place them outdoors, and inspect them carefully for any signs of bed bugs or eggs.
  • Tumble linens and luggage in clothes dryer. Place linens or luggage in the clothes dryer and tumble them on a high heat setting for 30 minutes. The heat from the dryer kills bed bugs and eggs. For items that cannot be placed in a dryer, bed bugs and their eggs can be killed by direct application of alcohol, the higher concentration the better. Vacuuming an item can remove the bed bugs, but be sure to dispose of vacuum bag immediately by sealing it in a garbage bag and placing it in a trash can outdoors.
  • Pack in a bed bug free area. Choose a place to pack that is away from bed bug friendly zones such as beds or couches. Ideally you would take your camper’s clothing and linens directly from the dryer and place them in the camper’s luggage. The kitchen table or the middle of the floor are good places to pack.
  • Choose luggage wisely. Duffle bags and/or Rubbermaid totes* are recommended as luggage for campers as they can be placed in a dryer or sanitized with alcohol. Keep in mind that the clearance under the camp bunk beds is only 9 ½ inches. Consider packing individual clothing outfits in separate Ziploc bags.
  • Pack extra garbage bags. Be sure to pack at least two extra large garbage bags for your camper, one bag for all dirty clothing and the other for dirty linens.

Prevention After Camp

  • Learn more about bed bugs. Explore some of the resource web sites below and educate yourself about bed bugs and their habits.
  • Place all of your camper’s luggage and linens in garbage bags for the ride home.
  • Do not bring your camper’s luggage into your house immediately. Leave it on the porch or in the garage until you have time to visually inspect the items before you bring them indoors.
  • Clean all camp items. For items that can be laundered, use a hot water setting and tumble dry on high heat for at least 30 minutes. (Dispose of the garbage bags they were stored in outdoors.) For items that cannot be laundered, such as suitcases, vacuuming or sanitizing with alcohol are good cleaning options. Pay special attention to zippers, seams, buttons, cracks, and crevices. Use rubbing alcohol to wipe off the bottoms of shoes.
  • Contact us if you find evidence of bed bugs! Evidence includes live bed bugs, dead bed bugs, exoskeletons, blood stained linens, and suspicious bites. (Keep in mind that we also have ticks, chiggers, and mosquitos that could be responsible for suspicious bites and indirectly responsible for blood stains on linens.)

Bed Bug Facts:

  • Bed bugs are flat and wingless. They have six legs are a shiny reddish brown. They go through 7 stages of development from egg to adult and look different at each stage as well as after eating. This web site has great pictures of bed bugs at every stage.
  • Their main food source is human blood, however they are not known to transmit any diseases. They tend to feed every 3-7 days so the blood they ingest is typically digested before they feed again so there is no cross contamination.
  • They typically feed at night and hide during the day. They are exceptional hiders. Favorite locations are: in the seams of mattresses, sofa seams, cracks in the bad frame and/or head board, under chairs, couches, beds and dust covers, under rugs, edges of carpets, drawers, baseboards and window casings, behind light switches, electrical outlet plates, cracks in plaster, televisions, radio clocks and phones, backpacks, sleeping bags, clothes, behind wallpaper, picture frames, and other dark areas.
  • Most people do not feel bed bugs biting them because components in bed bug saliva act as an anesthetic and promote increased blood flow at the bite site, making the feeding process quick and nearly painless.
  • Bed bug bites are often red bumps or welts arranged in a rough line or cluster. (Imagine little piglets all lined up to feed on the momma pig.)
  • Bites can be extremely itchy. Some people have a severe reaction to the bites, while others (an estimated 30% of population) do not react at all.
  • Bed bug bites are difficult to distinguish from other insect bites. They tend to bite exposed areas of the human body that they can easily reach. For example, if most of your body is covered with pajamas they would be inclined to feed on your exposed face, neck, hands and feet. Keep in mind that chiggers and ticks tend to bite in areas where there is soft skin and constriction. Ticks like armpits, the backs of knees, waist bands, and underwear lines. Chiggers like inside socks, waist bands, and underwear lines.
  • Bed bugs can survive months without eating. Some have been known to survive being frozen for months. They cannot tolerate heat over about 126 degrees though. Thirty minutes in a clothes dryer on high heat is enough to kill bed bugs and their eggs.

Please help us keep Camp Heritage (and your home) bed bug free by following the prevention steps outlined above. A bit of hassle now can prevent a lot of hassle and expense later.


Resource Web Sites:

*We recommend this  10 gallon Rubbermaid Roughneck tote for camp luggage. It fits nicely under the bunk beds.