Bed Bugs in College Dorms
Just as they’ve made an itchy and scratchy comeback in hotel rooms, bed bugs are appearing increasingly in dorm rooms, say college officials and pest control experts, who are busy devising ways to eradicate the bloodsuckers.
“They’re taking off right now,” says Dan Mizer, associate director of residence life at Texas A&M University. Bed bugs are everywhere, he says.“They’re finding these things in public transit, in movie theaters, in cruise ships and in all the hospitality accommodations.”
There are many elements at blame for the influx of bed bugs, including international travel, bigger bed bug populations worldwide, new protocols that discourage widespread spraying and possibly even tougher bugs that are resistant to pesticides.
The size of an apple seed, the nocturnal six-leggers hitchhike on luggage, old furniture and clothing and can live up to a year without a blood meal. So a dorm room left empty over the summer poses a brief nutritional challenge for these insects. Among those fighting the bugs: Ohio State University has seen “several incidents” over the past 15 months, spokeswoman Ruth Gerstner says, including an outbreak in May 2007 in three rooms of a high rise dorm. Workers treated 114 rooms.
In the University of Florida’s 4,000 dorm rooms and 980 apartments, “bad” infestations are limited to a couple of times a year says Wayne Walker (supervisor of the dorm pest control). The school treats the problem with extreme heat, steam cleaning and pesticides. Greg Baumann of the National Pest Management Association says he has heard from quite a few members called to campuses. Like hotel rooms, dorms are the ideal bed bug habitat: small and crowded with “quite a bit of humanity per square foot.” Unlike cockroaches, bed bugs aren’t an indicator of bad housekeeping, says Richard Cooper, coauthor of Bedbug Handbook: The Complete Guide to Bedbugs and Their Control. “The bugs don’t discriminate based on social status.
Blood is blood. Texas A&M has spent $37,000 in the past year to fly in bed bug sniffing dogs. This fall, Mizer plans to call in a Minnesota outfit called TempAir, whose eradicator heats the room overnight to 130 degrees, killing the bed bugs but leaving students’ belongings unharmed. His other secret weapon: eternal vigilance. “When we get a report, we get the pest control staff and we respond. These bugs can take over quickly.”