Bed Bugs In College Dorms: How We Beat Them & How You Can Too
Oh no!! You’ve got bed bugs.
Nothing inspires as much dread in the minds and hearts of college residence hall and facilities managers to say nothing of anxious students.
With good reason.
Bed bugs in college dorms are a growing problem across the country and it’s tricky to treat. Thankfully, we’ve engineered an effective solution that halts infestations.
And there’s a reason it’s called an infestation. Bed bugs spread quickly, and once they do, you have to deal with the situation. Worst case scenario, it means dramatic disruption to students’ daily routine.
We’re talking about removing students and furniture from your residence hall and taking the items to a special treatment facility.
That’s why we’ve dedicated real resources to engineering a reliable and proven solution. If you catch the problem early enough, you can avoid a costly remediation effort.
But before I tell you how we’ve worked out the bugs, let’s do a quick review.
What are bed bugs and why do they spell T.R.O.U.B.L.E. for your residence hall?
Why Are Bed Bugs A Big Problem?
Bed bug is a nice name for something that amounts to a little vampire. The insect feeds on human blood in the dark while we slumber. Although they don’t live hundreds of years like a vampire, they can survive up to a year between feedings.
That’s just one reason why exterminators consider bed bugs one of the most troublesome and intractable pests.
Unlike other pint-sized parasites—think ticks—bed bugs don’t pass on infectious diseases. However, they do leave a nasty little bite that’s painless at first but then turns into an itchy and painful welt later.
These parasites have been around for thousands of years, but in the early part of the twentieth century, we’d done a good job of beating back the hordes...until the ‘80s. Since the mid-1980s bed bugs have resurged.
There are a lot of reasons and speculation behind the increase.
For one, these blood-chugging bugs are expert hitchhikers, catching rides in luggage and the folds of clothes. And international travel has exploded over the last several decades.
They’re also difficult to detect.
As thin as a credit card and shaped like a small flat apple seed, they hide in dark crevices and hard to reach cracks. They’ll stow away deep in box springs, bed frames, headboards, mattresses, and of course linens (eeew!).
But it doesn’t stop there. They can live anywhere within a 25-foot radius from where they feed, secreted in clocks, closets, clock radios, laptops, paintings, phones, wherever they can fit.
Bed Bugs In College Dorms
So why are bed bugs in college dorms especially troublesome?
Well, it’s the perfect environment. You have tons of people living in tight quarters travelling from across the globe to reside in the same small space. Also, bed bugs are frequently found in that timeless staple of student habitation—second hand furniture.
And let’s be honest, college dorm rooms aren’t known as paradigms of Mary Kondo tidiness.
With clothes strewn across cubbies, cabinets, and carpets, student rooms offer generous folds to shroud these blood-loving denizens of the dark.
But contrary to popular belief, bed bugs aren’t the consequence of a dirty living space. Clutter is the main issue. In truth, you’re as likely to find them in haughty hotels as you are in dirty dives.
That’s why residence hall facility managers across the country are dealing with this issue, independent of school pedigree or purity.
But one truth stands, if they aren’t stopped right away, bed bugs can get expensive and expansive. They can spread quickly and lay hundreds of eggs, each one as tiny as a speck of dust.
If that happens, you’ll probably have to remove all the combustible materials in the contaminated rooms and then heat them up to kill the bugs and/or take all the furniture to a treatment chamber.
This article from WebMD offers more detailed information on bed bug identification and prevention.
Addressing Bed Bugs At UC Santa Cruz
When the housing team from UCSC reached out to us in 2015, bed bugs were a big concern in their residence halls.
Specifically, they had isolated the wooden bed decks as a major source of their problem. Small voids in the wood created a space for the bugs to burrow and lay their eggs. Naturally, the school was ready to throw away their wooden beds.
That was a big deal on a number of levels, not least because the team at UCSC loved the wood bed decks and would need to switch to beds with metal springs instead. That was not their preferred bed option.
Bed bugs in college dorms wasn't a problem we'd dealt with before. We had to develop a solution quickly.
Our engineering team went back to the factory and hit on a novel solution. We would sand, finish, and seal every plane on the bed deck. A typical bed has three bed decks, so we applied this treatment to each deck.
Then we banded the edges of the plywood–all 4 sides–with thin strips of finished wood. By gluing thin pieces of finished wood to the sides, this treatment creates a perfectly smooth edge, with no voids to veil the would-be vampires.
Our goal was to halt the infestation by eliminating the option for the bed bugs to lay their eggs anywhere in the bed deck.
(Note: This solution is available to our customers as an upgrade and does not come standard on our products.)
Halting The Bed Bug Infestation
Months after we implemented the solution, we met up with the UCSC Facilities team. They were thrilled with the results. First, our design solution contributed to a major reduction in bed bugs after we retrofitted a number of their beds.
Second, the solution was so successful that UCSC integrated it into the design standard for their entire campus.
Are there other ways to manage bed bugs and get them out of your residence hall? Yes, but it's not simple. Here are some other bed bug treatments you can consider. But as the article states:
Once established, bed bugs are extremely difficult to get rid of. This frequently requires a combination of nonpesticide approaches and the use of insecticides.
Bed Bugs On Your Campus
Do you suffer from bed bugs in your residence halls? If you do, maybe we can help. At the very least, you should contact an exterminator immediately.
Remember, bed bugs are hardy and one of the hardest pests to stop. And you definitely don’t want them multiplying like a blood-sucking host through your dorm.
Isolate the problem now and you’ve got a real chance at containing the problem.
At UCSC, we successfully halted the infestation with our solution. If you’d like our help to do that in your residence, please don’t hesitate to shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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