Bed bugs—just knowing they’re real and crawling around is enough to send shudders through some people. What exactly are these pesky little nuisances? Similar to ticks in appearance, bed bugs are flat, oval-shaped, and grow to about the size of an apple seed. Their reddish-brown color is complemented with piercing mouthparts used in most species to feed on plants.
Alas, rogue splinter group species decided plants weren’t quite enough to satisfy their bloodthirsty hunger so they adapted new tools within their mouths that allowed them to feed on humans. Not only that, bed bugs are stealthy and inflict little if any pain on their victims. In fact, most people have no idea they have been bitten and that is dire news for college dorms and other residences packed with young students, all loaded with enormous quantities of clothing and other assorted gear.
Bed bugs in action
Bed bugs don’t have wings, so how do they cover so much ground and infiltrate nooks and crannies all over the dorm? Along with adapting sharp piercing tools, bed bugs learned how to become resourceful hitchhikers, scoring rides on backpacks, jackets, hats, and anything else they can cling to. They are also keen on burrowing into furniture and waiting patiently until an unsuspecting target sits down.
Bed bugs are indoor inhabitants and they squirrel away and hide during the day, waiting for darkness to emerge for feeding. However, they don’t just sleep or hang out in daytime; instead, they spend countless hours breeding with verve, laying many hundreds of eggs at a time. Making matters worse is bed bug eggs’ ability to go dormant for months, fooling residence hall managers into thinking the scourge is beaten.
Where do they live?
For the most part, bed bugs are found within 8 feet of a person’s resting place but as their numbers spread, so does their range. You will find them in mattresses, box springs, bed frames and bedding, in the cracks and crevices of furniture, behind wallpaper, behind pictures and clocks, curtains, cracks in hardwood floors, under carpeting, and behind electrical outlets or switch plates.
How to treat a bed bug infestation
An infestation of beg bugs can mean big trouble for a dorm and indeed the reputation of the entire campus. More importantly, it poses a potentially significant health risk to guests. If you are under fire from hordes of bed bugs, the smart strategy is to call in professional help and implement your own preventative measures, including these tips:
Kill ‘em by hand
Hunting down and killing bed bugs by hand isn’t easy and you’ll never get them all, but it’s a start in reducing their numbers. Capture and squash or leave out tape and when a bunch of bugs get stuck, toss them out. When hunting, use a flashlight, old credit card, tape, plastic bags, and hot soapy water. Search for the critters with the flashlight and flush them out of cracks with the card. Apply the soapy water to clean up larger infestations, blood stains, eggs, droppings, and previously shed skins. Ugh.
A thorough vacuuming can quickly suck up and contain large numbers of bed bugs. Target crevices like baseboards, beds, couches and other furniture, TVs, dressers, and similar places. Immediately empty the vacuum into a plastic bag, seal it tight, and throw it away. Remember to clean the vacuum cleaner afterward to mop up any stragglers.
Traditional laundering is very effective in treating clothing and linens. Wash clothing in very hot water (at least 120 degrees) and then dry it for at least 30 minutes at high temps as well. Prior to washing and drying, seal infested items in a sealed plastic bag to trap bugs and prevent them from spreading.
Hot and cold treatments
Heating is a faster control method than freezing, but the surface temperature of the treated item must be in the 160-180-degree range. If your school is located in a cold climate, leverage freezing weather to kill the bugs. Throw a sealed bag o’ bed bugs outside; they will freeze and die but it will take 4 or 5 days. Plant ahead to prevent future infestations by using new mattresses and bedding, encourage students to store gear off the floor, and hang clothes away from beds.
Other helpful resources
- How Long Can Bed Bugs Live in a Plastic Bag?
- Do Bed Bugs Go Dormant in Winter?
- Bed Bugs vs. Ticks: The Differences Between Ticks & Bed Bugs
- 4 Early Signs of Bed Bugs on Mattresses
- Do Bed Bugs Hide in Metal Bed Frames?
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