Young man moving into dormitory on college campus

Bed bugs on college campuses

Eric Braun

When we think of bed bugs and travel, hotel rooms and homes are often what come to mind. However, one particular place is widely overlooked: college campuses. In a 2018 survey of almost 250 pest control providers, college dormitories accounted for nearly half of the facilities treated for bed bugs.

The more you ponder it, the more it makes sense — due to college students’ transient nature. Almost all students that live in college dorms pack up their belongings and make the journey back home for winter break. Whether by plane, train, or automobile, bed bugs can easily hitch a ride. After a couple of weeks, it’s time to head back to school to start the new semester. The same occurs for spring and summer breaks. With students frequently on the move, student housing is at an increased risk of pests such as bed bugs. Students come from all over to live in a shared space and they might just be bringing along a few extra guests.

So how can universities stop bed bugs from coming onto campus grounds? The somewhat disheartening news is that there is no infallible way to ensure a completely bed bug-free campus. Even with the best safeguards in place, the bloodthirsty parasites can always find a ride inside. There are, however, ways to prevent an entire infestation from occurring.

Educate students about bed bugs

Educating students on the signs and risks of bed bugs is imperative. It takes everyone involved (staff and students alike) to help detect an infestation before it gets out of hand. Early detection is critical as the sooner the issue is identified, the easier it will be to contain and control. It is important to note that anyone, not just students, can bring bed bugs into a building – the cleaning staff, residence hall directors, resident assistants, or even professors. Consider educating the entire school community on the following topics:

  • Basic bed bug biology, identification, and habits
  • Roles and responsibilities regarding bed bug control
  • The university’s philosophy on proactive bed bug processes
  • Actions helpful in reducing the risk of bed bugs spreading
  • Who to contact with bed bug questions

Facilitating bed bug education includes providing comprehensive learning materials to staff and students. This can be done via an educational seminar on what the university is doing to prevent and control bed bugs. It is paramount that all university staff be prepared with the exact steps to take in the case that a bed bug is spotted on campus. Rentokil offers a free, one-hour bed bug training designed to arm staff with all the knowledge they need to identify bed bugs and the signs of an infestation. Through the training, staff will gain general knowledge on best practices for handling a suspected bed bug issue as well as effective treatment methods.

Proactive measures

On top of education, there are certain preemptive measures colleges can take to combat the risk of bed bug infestations. During seasonal breaks such as winter, summer, and spring breaks, universities can conduct periodic inspections such as canine sweeps while the students are not present to prevent any potential bed bug infestations. Additionally, Rentokil specialists can provide proactive treatments to the dorm room and furniture.

men chatting in a dormitory room

Bed bugs in dorms

Without question, the most common location for bed bugs on a college campus is campus dormitories. The tiny rooms are packed full of furniture including at least two sets of desks, chairs, shelves, and of course beds. Dorm room mattresses can be protected with a high-quality mattress encasement and mattress liner.

90% of bed bugs in infested homes are found near boxsprings or mattresses, making encasements a must for dorm room beds. The main purpose of a mattress encasement is to protect the integrity of the mattress by keeping bed bugs from getting inside and starting an infestation. A mattress encasement will only be able to kill bed bugs that are trapped inside of the encasement itself. Once trapped, they eventually die from starvation. Rentokil bed bug experts highly recommend installing an Active Guard mattress liner. These liners are like fitted mattress sheets that are pre-treated with insecticide. Unlike traditional mattress encasements, they will actually kill bed bugs and impact their reproductive and feeding behavior.

rentokil bed bug dog

How to detect bed bugs on college campuses

The larger the campus, the more difficult it can be to discover an infestation. This is where the bed bug specialists at Rentokil come into play. There are a variety of bed bug detection methods. Our specialists can help you determine which is best for your property.

The most successfully proven detection process, however, is Rentokil’s canine inspection service. Using their keen sense of smell, the specially-trained dogs are able to detect odors 10,000 times better than humans. Bed bugs have a unique scent that is detectable by a trained bed bug dog. This allows the inspection process to be discreet and swift — ensuring greater control of a possible infestation. If bed bugs are found inside a dormitory area, the inspection will take place when students have vacated the premises. Specialists will then visually verify any dog alerts before any bed bug treatments are made – something other pest control companies do not always do.

Bed bug treatments for colleges

Bed bugs spread fast – each mature female bed bug can lay as many as 500 eggs in their short lifetime. This is why it is best to let pest control professionals handle these blood-thirsty fiends. Depending on the size of the infestation as well as other factors such as the construction of establishment, or allergy sensitivities of the inhabitants, our bed bug specialists will work with you to determine specific treatment options that work best for you. Solutions for bed bugs include heat treatments, conventional treatments, steam treatments, and fumigation. Conventional treatments utilizing insecticides remain Rentokil’s primary and most frequently used approach for handling bed bugs. Most treatments are done in a timely manner when students are not present, and should quickly begin to take effect on pests.

Bed bug solutions from Rentokil

Holiday and summer breaks at universities are the perfect time to have your local pest control service provider pay the campus a visit to provide a canine inspection on school grounds. Without students present, we can perform this service in dormitories with minimal disruption. When a holistic bed bug control approach is paired with a school administrative team that is engaged and committed to implementing preventative bed bug measures, students and staff will be able to effectively respond in a safe and efficient manner should an infestation occur.

Bed bugs can be one of the more difficult pests to eliminate, especially on a large property like a college campus. It is best to have a professional pest control company like Rentokil handle an infestation of this nature. Rentokil specialists have industry-leading training and unparalleled experience in the field. They understand the patterns of bed bugs and use their expertise to find the right control methods and materials needed to develop an effective management program. If there is any concern about bed bugs on your campus, contact Rentokil today.

Eric Braun
Eric Braun

Eric Braun is a Technical Services Manager for Rentokil. Since joining the company in 1997, Eric has held a variety of service and operational management roles. In his current role, he holds responsibility for the technical and operational support within the north eastern region of North America.Eric has a Bachelor of Science in Entomology from the University of Delaware and holds the Board Certified Entomologist credential from the Entomological Society of America. He has his Commercial Pesticide Applicator License in Pennsylvania and is also Sentricon Certified, and GreenPro and QualityPro Certified by the National Pest Management Association. When he’s not immersed in the world of pest control, Eric, his wife, and two small children enjoy being outdoors and exploring U.S. National Parks and have a goal of visiting all 58 parks.

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