Educating the Public about Bed Bugs

Bed Bugs in the Hall

As if we don’t have enough problems in the world to worry about, now we are facing a resurgence of bed bugs in our communities. And while people may not agree on the cause of their rise from obscurity, they do seem to agree we need to find ways to control their spread. Part of this includes educating people on how to avoid transferring bed bugs from one place to another. Public agencies are typically tasked with offering this information, and the EPA and CDC do offer some educational materials. But the challenge in offering these types of materials is getting the public to pay attention and actually read the information. That’s why we are highlighting a recently released training tool developed by the National Extension Initiative. It was set up in the virtual world of Second Life by LuAnn Phillips, through her avatar Thynka Little, to teach people about the bed bug problem. The benefit of setting up this training in a 3D environment is it allows the eXtension to take advantage of a more engaged and interesting delivery system that might better hold someone’s attention.

So today I braved the virtual hotel filled with bed bugs to bring you this summary of the eXtension’s bed bug training module:

I first arrived outside a hotel where I was able to pick up a notecard from a nearby sign. The instructions said to stop inside at the front desk.

Arriving at the bed bug training site

Once inside, the hotel clerk welcomed me to the hotel, told me to grab my luggage and take an elevator to room 101. Of course he neglected to warn me about the bed bug infestation. Good thing I was tipped off to be on the look out.

Hotel clerk at the bed bug hotel

Here I am arriving at the floor where my room is located. If the signs in the hall weren’t enough to caution me about the possibility of bed bugs, the large bed bug waiting for me at the end of the hall defnitely reminded me (the photo at the start of this story shows this bed bug welcome).

Here I am cautiously entering my hotel room. Looks nice enough but who knows what lurks behind the headboard.

Entering room 101 of the bed bug hotel

Once inside, I was told to put my luggage in the bathtub. It’s the one place in the room least likely to have bed bugs. Then I set about exploring. First I checked out the area by the refrigerator where I found inspection tools that can be used to look for bugs in the room.
Bed Bug inspection tools
The next step was to check out the bed. Instructions there suggested looking through all the bedding and in all the crevices of the wood making up the headboard. At one point I tried lying down on the bed and was told to “get off the bed and search the room for bed bugs.”
Inspecting the bed for bed bugs
After getting up, I moved on to look through the night table and all the objects on it. While there, I also looked through the drapes and along the baseboard.
Inspecting the night stand, drapes, and baseboard

After checking out the chair and other furniture in the room, I also looked behind the art work on the wall and all over the luggage rack to make sure no bugs were hiding there.

Inspecting art work and luggage rack

After deciding the room was clean, I relaxed and watched a few of the videos on the television in the room. These offered more advice along with what should be done if bed bugs are found in the home.

Watching bed bug videos

Before I left, I read the final message which offered some useful information including a website where you can find reports of bed bugs in hotel rooms across the U.S.: and Then I took the “teleport” back to the front desk to report my findings to the desk clerk. He gave me this t-shirt after I mentioned the secret code I had learned.

Fortunately it was the only thing I brought back with bed bugs on it. I guess there was supposed to be a little bug hidden somewhere in the room that I never found, but I chose not to even try going back to look for it – just didn’t want to take a chance having bed bugs infest my virtual home.

Bed bug t-shirt

Overall, I enjoyed the training as much as I could enjoy learning about a creepy little bug that wants to bite me and suck my blood. LuAnn and her organization have done a great job creating an interesting educational experience that other public agencies can take advantage of by offering it as a training option for their citizens.


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