Bed bugs in workplaces

Bed bugs can be found in workplaces as well as homes. Take precautions to keep bed bugs from spreading.

The resurgence of bed bugs throughout the United States means that they are increasingly found in places that are not used for sleeping. The possibility of encountering bed bugs in offices, workspaces, schools, hospitals and other public places is a concern for many. How can we keep bed bugs out of our workplaces? If we find them, what should we do about it? Michigan State University Extension has partnered with the Michigan Department of Community Health to address the bed bug issue.

This article focuses on workspaces such as offices. Schools and hospitals are unique sites with their own procedures to follow. When bed bugs make their way to offices and other similar workspaces, they don’t tend to behave the same way that they do in homes. Infestations in workspaces often involve relatively small numbers of bed bugs and they tend to be scattered. This makes it difficult to determine the infestation’s point of origin and may also make it difficult to control.

In homes bed bugs typically infest sleeping and resting areas. They come out at night while we’re sleeping and prefer to hide after feeding. In contrast, bed bugs in workplaces tend to wander and spread around the workspace. They may be active at night initially, but with no food source, they will often shift their activity to daylight hours when people are present.

How do bed bugs end up in workplaces? Bed bugs are hitch-hikers. They will move from place to place in purses, briefcases, shoes, books and other items that are transported from one location to another. Employees may be the culprits, but also vendors, custodial staff, visitors, customers, clients and others who come into the building.

If you suspect bed bugs may have entered your workspace, you may be able to confirm that they’re there by using a flashlight and checking the following sites:

  • Between cracks and crevices of walls and floor moldings
  • Where carpeting meets the walls
  • In upholstered furniture, desk drawers and file cabinets
  • In the crevices of picture frames and wall hangings
  • In switch plates and outlets

If you find bed bugs, make sure to capture some in a zippered plastic bag, plastic vial or jar. Do not smash them as that will make identification difficult, if not impossible. Get a positive identification from an expert. Diagnostic Services at MSU can provide identification. An article written by MSU entomologist Howard Russell provides helpful tips on how to provide a usable specimen. Many pest management professionals are also willing to provide identification services.

For information on how to prevent or treat bed bug infestations, visit the Michigan Department of Community Health website at www.michigan.gov/bedbugs.

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