Bed Bugs at College
A Note from Phil Cooper
This specific bed bug page is devoted to bed bug infestations in colleges and universities but the information is applicable to any residence hall based housing.
BedBug Central works directly with colleges and universities in managing their bed bug issues along with developing communications to their student body. We are sharing this material to help guide other Universities and students throughout the country with the growing bed bug problem. The material is copyrighted, but may be reproduced or used with written permission from BedBug Central. We hope you find the information informative and helpful.
Bed bug reports on the rise!
Bed bugs have made a recent resurgence all across the United States as well as worldwide and are now being found in high-end hotels, apartment complexes, hospitals and even college residence halls. No one knows for sure why they have made such a drastic comeback but some explanations include changes in pest control practices, increased international travel and fewer pesticides being available to pest control companies. This pest that was virtually non-existent just a few years ago is now affecting colleges and universities nationwide. Experts believe that within as little as one to two years it will be difficult to find a college or university that is not being affected to some degree by bed bugs in student housing. This being said, we are fortunate that with the number of people we have staying on campus, bed bug complaints at our university have been sporadic. One step you can take to help keep the number of bed bug complaints low is to be educated on bed bugs and keep an eye out for any evidence that they may exist.
Bed Bug Identification & Behavior
Bed bug adults are small, brownish insects, just under a 1/4 inch long and are relatively flat. They are nearly as wide as they are long, and oval in shape. Immature bed bugs (nymphs) resemble the adults, but are much smaller and lighter in color. Newly hatched nymphs are translucent and are no bigger than a pinhead (1 mm about the size of a letter on a penny). The eggs are very small (approximately 1mm), whitish, and very difficult to see on most surfaces without magnification (individual eggs are about the size of a dust speck).
Both immature and adult bed bugs feed exclusively on blood and while they have been shown to feed on other animals such as mice, dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., their primary food source comes from humans. Bed bugs do not live on, or infest people instead they are similar to a mosquito that feeds and then leaves. They are nocturnal insects and spend most of the daylight hours hiding in locations where they are unlikely to be seen. They are most active late at night when the occupants of the structure are sleeping, during which time the come out of their hiding places to feed. They cannot fly or jump instead, they move about by crawling. If they are present in a home, they are usually associated with the bed or couch so that the bug can be in close association with its food source but can also be found in other areas as well.
Bed Bugs and Disease
Despite the fact that bed bugs feed on blood they have never been shown to be effective at transmitting diseases. As a result while being bitten by bed bugs may be very upsetting, aside from the itchy red welts that may result from their bite, they are not considered a medically important pest. The reaction to the bite can also vary quite a bit from one person to the next. The most common reaction is similar to that of a mosquito bite, however some reactions can be more severe and then there are some individuals do not react at all.
How bed bugs are introduced
Bed bugs do not simply wander in from the outside; instead they have to be transferred from one infested environment to another. Because of this, bed bugs have evolved into masters of hitchhiking. It is very unlikely that you have a problem with bed bugs if you have not picked up an item that is infested, stayed in an infested environment or had someone visit you that has been in an infested environment.
Avoid getting bed bugs
To prevent bed bugs from getting into your room, do not bring any used or discarded items into your room. Also, if you were at a location you thought could have bed bugs, inspect everything you brought with you (backpack, luggage, etcâ€¦) for the presence of bed bugs. Pay special attention to seams, folds, zippers or any other location that provides the bed bugs with a hiding place. There are many other ways bed bugs can be transported into your room. Visit the website links referenced at the end of this piece for more information.
Bed bug symptoms and signs
If you repeatedly wake up with unexplained bug bites on your body this could be a sign that you are experiencing a bed bug problem. Another thing to look for is live bugs matching the description above. Even if it turns out not to be a bed bug, housing should be aware that another bug problem exists within your room. Finally, if you see dark brownish black stains appearing on your linens or mattress this could be a sign of a bed bug infestation.
If you suspect you have bed bugs
The first and most important thing is to contact the student housing office. Student housing departments around the country take this problem very seriously and have a pest control contractor to deal with these issues.
Cooperation is Key
Our primary goal is to get all of the bed bugs eliminated from your room in as timely a fashion as possible and your cooperation is key in doing so. Another important thing to do is to try not to panic. We know having bed bugs is a very stressful situation but be assured we can take care of the problem and we will do so as swiftly as possible.
There are several things that you should not
- Do not throw items away or remove them from your room. If items are not removed in the correct fashion you may inadvertently spread the problem into the halls and other areas. In addition, once items have been discarded they may be picked up by another unsuspecting student spreading the problem to their room.
- Do not attempt to control the bed bugs on your own. Any actions that you take to control bed bugs on your own could complicate the problem and may cause unexpected problems for others. In most college settings, the student should advise housing who will then take the appropriate steps.
- Do not relocate yourself to another room. While the initial instinct is to get out of the room and sleep elsewhere, in doing so you run the risk of taking bugs with you in your belongings. Instead the student should contact housing immediately so that the appropriate corrective actions can be taken.
In addition to reporting any suspected bed bug activity to the housing department, there are a few other things that you can do to help in reducing the likelihood of perpetuating the bed bug problem.
Clean up clothes and general clutter found throughout the room
Not only does clutter provide an ideal place for bed bugs to hide that cannot be treated, but it also makes completing the bed bug service very difficult.
Bag laundry and launder in hot water
Your clothes could have bed bugs or their eggs. By correctly laundering the clothes you will further reduce the spread of the bugs. Place linens and other items that can be laundered items in plastic bags and take the bag directly to a laundering facility. Dump the contents of the bag into the laundry machine and place the empty bag inside a clean bag. These items should be laundered in hot water. Bed bugs are susceptible to heat and this exposure will kill any bugs as well as their eggs. If you cannot wash the clothes on a hot wash cycle, then dump the bag directly into a hot dry cycle which will serve the same purpose. As soon as the items have been dumped from the bag
into the washer or dryer the bag should be disposed of in an outdoor dumpster.
After washing these items, anything that does not need to be used in the next month or so, place in a clean garbage bag and seal it tightly. This will assure you that the clothes/bedding is free of bed bugs and will remain free until the problem is eliminated from your room. If you need to use it over the next month or so, keep it in your room in an organized, neat fashion.
Other than cleaning and laundering, leave the rest of the service to the trained professionals. Inspecting excessively, treating on your own or throwing items out can spread the problem and make it more difficult to treat.
Bug bites and itching
Just because you have itchy welts does not mean that it is necessarily from bed bugs. There are many things that can cause bed bug like symptoms. Another step you can take to help with your potential problem is to visit your student health office. Health professionals may be able to assist in identifying your problem as well as prescribe a medication to assist with any itching or irritation associated with your bug bites.
Bringing Bed Bugs Home
Transporting bed bugs home is something to be concerned about. The most important step that you can take is to limit what you bring home. If possible only bring home clothing, prior to bringing the items home they can be placed in a hot dryer and then bagged. If back packs are being brought home and they are of the type that can be laundered, they can first be emptied and placed in the dryer as well prior to bringing home. There are many other preventive steps that can be taken. A comprehensive source is the Bed Bug Travel Guide (see link below for how to purchase this guide).
Learn more about bed bugs
First and foremost please understand that the internet can be a great source of information but there is a huge amount of bad information present on many websites. Bed bugs may be one of the most misunderstood insects on the internet and there is an enormous amount of bad information and advice being given by people who are not trained in eliminating them. If you are looking for more accurate and helpful information please feel free to visit to following sites:
Please remember that our first concern is addressing your problems in a precise and timely fashion. We hope that this information along with the supplied links are helpful and if you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact the student housing office. We are doing everything possible to combat this resurging worldwide problem.