It’s that time of year: “Welcome to college. Meet your new roommates: bed bugs!”
Whenever lots of people move around, bed bugs will too. And in the first few weeks of the new semester, we always hear reports of bed bugs turning up at college. As with the bed bug press in general, it does seem that there are a lot of these stories this year.
School officials say the pests have been popping up in five residence halls over the past few weeks, so they decided to inspect and treat each room.
“We’re treating mostly to be comprehensive and proactive at this point, not because there’s a huge outbreak,” said Housing Director Sarah Rossini.
Inspecting every room and treating where necessary is absolutely the right thing to do.
However, finding even one bed bug case in each of five dorms suggests a widespread problem. The school should be vigilant and should consider inspecting other areas of the campus, because bed bugs may also be present there.
Elsewhere in North Carolina, bed bugs have also been troubling students at Wake Forest University since August.
And bed bugs have been found recently in “various dorms” at NYU, according to NYU News. In comparison, there were two cases of bed bugs at NYU around this time last year, according to this 2009 article.
However, NYU believes it has provided students with mattresses bed bugs can’t infest. Alena Yang reports for NYU News:
According to [Beth Morningstar, NYU’s director of strategic assessment and communications], the university buys mattresses “deemed by the manufacturer to be ‘bed bug-proof.’ ” However, an infestation is still possible “either because of a tear in the mattress or because bedbugs have hidden in the bed frame.”
And students are picking up this idea too:
“I’ve never heard of any problem in NYU dorms because NYU mattresses are bed bug repellent, so it’s probably impossible to get bed bugs,” Stern senior Annie Chung said.
I am not sure whether NYU’s mattresses are sealed, to keep bed bugs from harboring inside the mattress, or repellent, or what.
However, students and administrators need to be aware that regardless of the mattress used, the bed frames, but also the other furniture, belongings, and the structure itself can still become infested with bed bugs.
Last week, a Penn State University junior went home to stay with her parents because bed bugs in her rented apartment were too much for her. According to WPXI, Penn State is asking students living on- and off-campus to report bed bug cases to them.
This student risks taking bed bugs home with her. She might have been better off staying at school and getting help there: Penn State Housing is a member of the Centre Region Bed Bug Coalition:
… a joint effort by Centre Region property owners and managers, the Borough of State College, the Pennsylvania IPM Program, Penn State Entomology Extension, Penn State Housing, and commercial pest management operators to provide education about treatment and prevention of bed bug infestations.
This is according to Pennsylvania Integrated Pest Management, itself a joint effort of PSU and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. The PA IPM site also noted last May that there had been two dozen documented cases of bedbugs in student housing at PSU in the last two years.
Missouri State University has had three cases since the semester started, according to OzarksFirst.com, and is now training residence hall advisers about detection and prevention. The school uses canine scent detection and professional heat treatment (at $1000 a pop) to detect and treat bed bug problems.
Meanwhile, Keene State University’s Equinox reports no current bed bug problems at the school.
I would not be surprised, however, if there were currently bed bugs somewhere in on- and off-campus housing at every residential educational institution in North America and beyond.
Everyone, including college students, should learn to identify bed bugs and their signs. New York State Integrated Pest Management has a wonderful travel card (PDF) you can keep in your wallet, which shows you what you need to know to search a room for bed bugs (it’s great for going to college or for travel).
Students who see signs of bedbugs or who experience suspected bed bug bites in student housing should tell their residence hall director or apartment building manager right away.
Those in off-campus housing may first want to ask their colleges for help in determining what their rights are in off-campus housing, so they are armed with this information before speaking to their landlords.
Students should also consult the advice in the Travel FAQs about how not to bring bed bugs home from an infested location, if they go to visit their parents, or otherwise leave infested lodgings.
Inside Higher Ed (a higher education online journal) also covered the bed bugs in higher education story today.
Their article is fairly good (with some interesting details about the approaches taken by schools mentioned above).
Good, that is, aside from the statement that “bed bugs are the size of a pinhead.” (Only first instar nymphs are so small. Full size adults are around 6mm or 1/6 inch long.)
Despite that, I was really glad to see this article, because higher education faculty and administrators need to be thinking about this issue — and learning what other universities and colleges are doing about the problem.