Bugs are my least favorite part about camp. When I was younger, I would plug my ears and nose, squeeze my eyes shut, and sip air through my lips when trying to fall asleep outdoors.
I realize they’re a vital part of our ecology. Just not at camp. So today, I will conquer my fears and tell you all about how to fight these silent suckers.
Lice, Bed Bugs, and Ticks can be a significant challenge for camp operators. Of course, we can’t zap them, gas them, or poison them. So let’s talk through some ways of keeping these creepy crawlers out of your camp in an ecologically sensitive way!
Let’s Start With Lice.
Not everyone knows this (me, I did not know this) but lice is the plural word for a louse. A louse is a small, wingless, parasitic insect that lives on the skin of mammals and birds (Google Dictionary, 2019).
Lice can vary in appearance, but this is a male louse that you may have the privilege of meeting at camp. From all of us at CampMinder, we pray that you don’t.
We can’t expect immunity to the infestation of head lice. Camp = close quarters. Whether campers are squeezed into a double hammock, packed into a three-person tent, or bunking up in a multi-camper bunkhouse, there is a risk of exposure to head lice. Lice can’t fly or jump, but they can crawl, and crawl they do!
The Lutheran Outdoor Ministries Center take advantage of their local resources when it comes to lice prevention. LOMC requests that campers go to the school nurse 48 hours before arriving at camp and have their head checked for lice.
You can find lice combs anywhere but here is a quick and easy link to lice combs on Amazon so you can see what your camp needs to stay lice free. Click on the image below for these products. These combs are used to comb through hair and remove lice from the hair follicle. Lice reproduce near the hair root and spread throughout the scalp. Camp nurses, counselors, or any staff for that matter can have one of these combs on hand to help prevent a lice occurrence from becoming a camp-wide problem. Make sure your camp has the tools you need to get these ‘extra campers’ out of site.
Below is an image of a lice comb. Click the image to find your camp lice comb on Amazon.com.
You and I both know that there is no time to inspect each campers’ head once they get to camp. Combing through registration information can be very time consuming (unless you use CampMinder’s registration software of course) if you have a small camp and think that doing a lice-check before camp starts we encourage it. But there are, however, many steps to take to minimize the likelihood of head lice spreading from camper to camper.
- Alternate your bunkhouse sleeping arrangements from head-to-toe to toe-to-head orientation. Do this so that your campers’ heads aren’t right next to one another. Additionally, this can help prevent the transfer of airborne pathogens between camper and maybe make bedtime a little quieter.
- Staff should emphasize the importance of avoiding head-to-head contact. Encourage them not the share brushes, combs, or other hair items, as well as clothing that may come in contact with one’s head.
- Between sessions vacuum, disinfect, and inspect all mattresses.
If your camp receives a verified report of head lice in a camper from an earlier session, immediately notify all parents of campers in that and any other previous sessions. Also, encourage them to check their campers for infestation.
Important Note: Head lice are not known to transmit disease.
For more information on diagnosis, treatment, and prevention about head lice from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.
What’s Could Be Worse Than Lice? Ticks!
Some areas in the US and around the world are home to ticks. According to the CDC, there are seven different species of ticks in the US alone. The map below shows where you can find the American Dog Tick east of the Rockies and on the coast of California. The CDC provides maps for all species and their locations on their Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans.
After you know what to expect in your campgrounds, it is essential to prepare your campers for the possibility of finding a tick and teach them how to identify ticks common in your area. Another important thing is to make sure that campers know it is not the end of the world if they do find a bug on themselves or a friend. We don’t want to encourage catastrophic meltdowns due to any bug bite a camper may get.
Campers should be reminded daily to check themselves for ticks. We encourage you to emphasize to your campers the critical importance of taking these reminders seriously. Maybe pair up your campers or assign a “Tick-Check Buddy” helps examine areas that one cannot easily see, such as the back or head. Here is a photo of what to be looking for!
Campers should also know what to do if they find a tick on themselves. Whether embedded or not, s/he should proceed immediately to the nurse’s station to have the tick removed. Again, unlike lice, ticks can transfer bacterial infections as well as diseases, and they are best to be treated as soon as possible.
Don’t Let The Bedbugs Bite!
North America saw a massive decline in Bed Bug population after the widespread use of insecticides such as DDT. Safety and environmental concerns have led to a significant restriction of pesticides, which is welcome. But that reduction, plus bed bugs’ growing resistance to commonly used insecticides has meant that bed bugs have made an unfortunate, dramatic resurgence.
In the past few years, bed bugs make their way into hotels, shelters, hospitals, universities, schools, apartments, and homes. Bed bugs don’t discriminate. They will infest any human dwelling, from the most cramped student apartment to the most luxurious five-star hotel.
Just imagine what they could do to your camp! I have attached one of the best manuals I’ve found about bedbugs. This PDF will tell you everything you need to know about the bed bug. It includes history, biology, health concerns associated with bed bugs, treatment guidelines, and prevention in multi-living housing and group living environments. A huge thank you to the Michigan Department of Community Health for their Michigan Manual for the Prevention and Control of Bed Bugs.
We hope you and your camp don’t have to deal with any of these unwelcomed critters this summer. But if it happens, we expect some of these tools can be helpful. I know I’ll be sleeping a bit more soundly this summer!