Sure, it’s annoying when friends overstay their welcome, but no uninvited houseguest is more infuriating than bedbugs. These dastardly critters, long associated with medieval times, have made a strong resurgence, with infestations reported nationwide in hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, homes, and yes, even college dorms.
What Are Bedbugs?
Bedbugs are wingless insects, dark red or brown in color. Adult bugs can grow as large as apple seeds, while younger bedbugs and larvae are often smaller than one millimeter. Their nocturnal feeding habits give these bugs their name; the bloodsucking parasites tend to feed on mammals that are at rest or sleeping.
Bedbugs do not discriminate. They infest thousands of residences despite class distinction or cleanliness; however, they are not known to spread disease.
Hunting and Killing Bedbugs
Most bedbug infestations are detected, not surprisingly, in or around a person’s sleeping area. Inspect your sheets, mattress, and box spring, examining folds and seams for black fecal matter, transparent eggs, and exoskeletons shed by live bugs. Also check the folds of linens and curtains, loose sections of wallpaper, cracks in walls, and other remote corners—bedbugs can hide in the unlikeliest of places.
Another sign of bedbugs is the appearance of itchy red welts or rashes. You may even notice small splotches of blood on your bed sheets. To avoid infection, refrain from scratching affected skin, and contact your RA or landlord right away for help in securing the services of a local extermination company. Before treating your dorm or apartment, most exterminators require that you complete the following:
- Do not remove potentially infested items—such as clothing and furniture—from the area until it has been properly treated.
- Seal clothing, shoes, and linens in plastic bags until they can be thoroughly washed in hot water.
- Cover mattresses, box springs, and pillows in bedbug-proof encasements.
- Remove all clutter (even in “junk” drawers). The fewer places bedbugs have to hide the better.
- Disassemble the bed. Clean each non-porous piece thoroughly with a mixture of hot water and rubbing alcohol.
- Vacuum and clean the entire space thoroughly, paying special attention to the spaces where carpet and molding meet walls.
Once your dorm or apartment has been inspected, a professional exterminator can determine whether more intensive treatment methods—such as fumigation or heat exposure—are necessary.
Better Safe than Sorry
Prevention is the key to avoiding a bedbug infestation. Though it is unclear how and why bedbugs have recently reared their ugly heads, many experts agree that increased travel and mobility could be major contributors—humans carry a lot of microscopic baggage as they move from place to place.
As you go about daily campus life, be mindful of the things you bring into your living space. Check and pre-wash secondhand furniture and clothing thoroughly before bringing it home. Limit traffic into and out of your dorm room or apartment, and be sure to wash and dry your clothes immediately upon returning home from the movies or a hotel stay. (If this isn’t possible, store clothing and shoes in airtight bags until they can be laundered.) All of this might sound like one big hassle, but you will thank yourself in the long run for keeping your home free of the worry and frustration that come along with bedbugs.