As vacations come to a close, college universities fill its dormitories with students from all over the world. Unbeknown to some of these eager learners, they are arriving at their new home accompanied by an uninvited guest. More commonly known as the ‘bed bug‘, it will hitch a ride into college dormitories via back-packs, dirty clothing and suitcases alike. This nuisance pest may arrive in even larger numbers via second-hand furniture that may have been gifted or donated and then introduced to the students living quarters, sorority and frat houses.
Across this country and others, universities are combating large infestations of this infamous ‘hitch-hiker‘. The university setting is a perfect breeding ground for this pest. And in recent years, local colleges and universities alike have reported a significant increase in bed bug epidemics all across their campuses. Students share a great disadvantage in their close proximity to each other. They eat, study & sleep in multiple complex settings. Thereby, creating a perfect environment for this parasitic insect to not only survive, but also flourish.
In recent past, it was more probable that this pest was introduced to college dormitories by students from abroad. But with increases of the American household becoming infested, they are now potentially arriving from this source as well. This constitutes an even greater challenge for university authorities to effectively neutralize this pest.
With the aid of a flashlight, a small magnifier, half a dozen large garbage bags and some basic know-how, students can be proactive in minimizing an infestation in their room by following a few simple guidelines:
- Before inspecting your room, do not fill your dresser drawers with any of your (hopefully cleaned) clothing. Secure your suitcases and other back to school items in large garbage bags or machine washable bags and place in the bathtub (not on the floor), until completing your inspection.
- Inspect the bed railings, frame and behind the headboard for any black fecal matter (dry blood spotting).
- Inspect the seams and between the folds in the corners of the mattress for small black specs (dry blood spotting). Also, check the box springs and lining that the bottom side is often encased in.
- Pull out the dresser drawers and check behind them as well as in the rail areas (the grooves where the drawer slides in are great hiding places for this pest). Do the same with any night stands or other furniture near the bed (especially wicker or other wood fiber and pressed particle board).
- Wash all clothing in hot water, preferably above 120 degree Fahrenheit (in the event that you may have brought an unintended guest along for the journey). Also, dry the same articles of clothing at the highest temperature possible.
- If possible, disinfect your suitcase prior to packing your clothing. One method that some use is a permethrin-based insecticide. If it is decided to take this route it would be advisable to do so in a well ventilated area and away from any pets, birds and fish. Read the label and use accordingly.
- One non-toxic approach and very easy to do would be using a small portable steam cleaner. Either way, it is important to eliminate and get rid of any eggs, nymphs or adults that may be in the seams and small pocket areas of your travel gear.
In the event that you awake with any raised welts, a itching sensation, or redness and swelling, immediately contact your dorm leader or school advisor and report your specific situation at hand. If you are able to get a live, or dead specimen (simply stick to a piece of scotch tape and fold in half), then all the better for school advisors to make an informed decision on your circumstances. Be prepared to relocate to another room and not immediately adjacent to the one infested. If advised to relocate, then above inspections need to be followed at a minimum to reduce risk of relocating your uninvited guests as well. Before heading home for semester breaks and holidays, it would be wise to also disinfect your luggage belongings as well as thoroughly wash and dry all clothing at a high temperature so as not to bring any unsuspected travelers home with you.