Ryerson University: a study in unenthusiastic bed bug control practices

by nobugsonme on November 15, 2006 · 4 comments

in bed bug treatment, bed bugs, bed bugs in colleges, canada, ontario, tools and weapons

From a Ryerson student paper:

Several Pitman Hall residents were forced to move last Wednesday after a resurfacing bed bug problem required Ryerson housing to call in a pest control company.

The rooms, located on the eighth floor, were fumigated Friday afternoon and will remain empty for at least 14 days before students can move back in. The pesticide treatment is expected to cost Ryerson housing almost $1,000.

Ryerson has a recurring bed bug problem, and yet students were only moved out for 2 weeks while the units were “fumigated”. I put this word in scare quotes, because it is unlikely an experienced Pest Control Pperator (PCO) would use fumigation to treat bed bugs.  True fumigation (tenting an entire building and using Vikane gas) is not widely done.  Bug bombs (the fumigation most people know) are not effective with bed bugs–they simply spread further.  I assume this terminology was applied by the writer and not the Pest Control company, since Toronto has quite a bed bug epidemic, it’s likely PCOs in Toronto know not to use bug bombs.  And I think if the entire building were tented with Vikane gas, if that’s even legal in Ontario, the description would be quite different than that above, and the cost much higher.

Students were moved to other rooms. I wonder if any precautions were taken against their moving the bed bugs around the dorms? The article does not say. But we at Bedbugger can tell you, moving bed bugs–even if you take what some would consider extreme precautions (like throwing away nearly everything you own and laundering and bagging the rest) can still allow you to “move” bed bugs to your new home.

Needless to say, students who’d taken no precautions will very likely move with some bed bugs, and spread the infestation.

Ryerson’s administration also does not understand how hard it is to see your bed bugs:

Weppler said only one bed bug was found on the eighth floor, but that one bed bug was a good enough reason to call in pest control.

Yes it was. Some of us rarely or never see bed bugs. That does not mean they are not there.  Just as seeing one bed bug does not mean there are not hundreds more, multiplying daily.

Weppler said that the housing department steam cleans all the rooms at the start of the school year, and uses sticky insect traps to catch any bugs that may crawl into the residence. But even if all of the bugs are gone, the students who were moved out are not obligated to return to their former room, and may choose to stay in their new digs instead.

Despite the offer from housing to move back, Kovacs will be the only student from the group to return to the suite. She will probably be alone there until January, when a new batch of students may arrive.

Well, Kovacs may move in to a still-infested unit, since most bed bug infestations (based on those I am familiar with, which is many) take at least three treatments spread over a month or two in order to get rid of bed bugs. And you don’t just spray, you need to do a lot more. And adjacent units, if not the whole dorm, should be treated. You can’t just see one bug and assume it’s the only one.
On the other hand, Kovacs’ old roomies may also be living with bed bugs. Under these apparently poor pest control conditions, whether you move or return home is probably not going to make a huge difference.

The student paper is called The Eyeopener. It sounds like Ryerson’s eyes aren’t quite open, when it comes to this hardy pest.

1 jessinchicago November 15, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Well, I threw away everything I owned, including an entire bookshelf full of books which was, unfortunately, directly adjacent to my bed. I threw away a brand new bedframe and box springs, a couch, an armchair, my dining room table… The list goes on and on, but my point is that all I took with me when I moved was clothes. Clean clothes, on hangers.

And somehow, in my shoes or in my jacket or possibly in my bag, or in my hair or HOWEVER, the bugs followed. I would say, from personal experience alone, that it’s safe to assume these kids are transporting bedbugs to new dorms without a clue.

That said, what of this “fumigation?”

Granted, we may not be getting the full story, but considering that it cost me $1500.00 for ONE treatment with only a 30-day guarantee for a two bedroom apartment, I highly doubt that this $1000.00 treatment is going to do much at all, except perhaps scatter the bedbugs to adjacent dorms.

Did the University take care to hire experienced exterminators who would spend hours upon hours (literally) removing outlet plates and ceiling lights on entire floors of dormitories? Did the University do any sort of research on bedbug activity, so as to be as proactive as possible? I’m sure, at any university, entomologists must be available. Were they consulted? Are the people at Ryerson who are handling this infestation even aware of the potential for spread and reinfestation? If not, why?

I suppose that’s my question and my main point: Why? If you know you’ve got a bedbug infestation, why not research bedbugs? And then research them again and again? Why not?

I’ll answer my own question, because I’ve been there. It’s because when a person discovers a bedbug infestation, he or she immediately contacts and relies solely on an exterminator to resolve the infestation. Quickly.

Unfortunately, most exterminators (or Pest Control Operators- PCOs) are not trained for bedbug infestations, which require much more work and diligence on behalf of the customer and the exterminator than a typical ant or roach problem.

I suppose I mean to say that it becomes our responsiblity, as people who have contracted bedbugs or are highly likely to encounter bedbugs (and this includes college personnel, workplace human resource personnel, officials of public transportation, department store managers, storage rental facility managers, car rental facility managers, airline personnel, apartment managers, landords, etc.) to inform ourselves and proceed with infestation control as EDUCATED parties.

Otherwise, we’re doomed to repeat history, as I’m certain will happen at Ryerson University.


2 parakeets November 16, 2006 at 6:13 pm

My management company was “self-treating” for bedbugs and they used bug bombs. This treatment drove the bedbugs into the wall voids. Now we can’t get the bedbugs out of our building. Bug bombs not only didn’t work, they make the problem worse.

I wonder if Ryerson will disclose to the incoming students that the rooms they are being moved into had bedbugs? If it’s like my building, they won’t. Tenants moving into our building are not told about the bedbugs. Funny that our management company doesn’t use real estate agents anymore, just Craigslist. Real estate agents are licensed and have rules governing what they have to disclose (and I bet tenants who have paid a real estate agent a hefty 1.5 months rent as a fee will ask for it back if the agent rents them an apartment in a building that has bedbugs).

3 nobugsonme November 17, 2006 at 3:34 am

Really good points, Parakeets and Jess!

Sadly, it’s all being repeated in Montreal too at McGill — “fumigation” (whatever that means), persistent infestations, students being moved to other locations and perhaps spreading the infestation.

If any colleges want some advice, they can read it here for free, or hire me as a consultant for $200/hour 😉

4 parakeets November 17, 2006 at 1:39 pm

$200 an hour–and how about college admission consulting services to parents of prospective college students, letting them know how to tell if their precious child’s dorm has bedbugs and what to do about it? Bedbug-sniffing consultant! You should at least make what the dog makes!

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