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Featured Guest: College/University Residence Halls are not Long Term Stay Hotels
by Wayne Walker

Wayne Walker, ACE
Senior Pest Control Technician University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education

Click here to read Wayne's bio

I n recent years the bed bug problem has gone from being an issue with the hospitality industry (hotel, motel, hostels, and cruise ships) to an issue within our college/university communities.  I and one other technician have responsibility for over 9,000 beds at the University of Florida.  We have been working on bed bug solutions for the past 8 years and have been involved with numerous other institutions in bed bug solutions.  The bed bug has become a problem in a significant portion of our colleges/universities around the nation and abroad.  A relative few institutions have an in-house pest management programs, probably less than 10% of the institutions around the world.  That leaves a huge portion of them that must hire PMP�s to provide the bed bug services.  The challenges of finding and treating bed bugs in a residence hall setting, is a lot different than those of the hospitality industry.  In the average hotel room there is little in the room other than the furniture.  In the residence hall you will have all of the student�s personal items that will need inspection/treatment.  I am sure that there are some of you who are reading this article that have not experienced bed bugs in the residence hall settings.  This article will assist those who have not faced this challenge to become familiar with some of the difficulties and those who have treated residence halls to pick up a few gems of wisdom.

This first thing that comes to mind is the fact that each campus is different from all other campuses and that on each campus each residence hall may be different from others on that campus.  As an example, we have 4 distinct types of facilities for our residence halls on the University of Florida campus.  Our single undergraduate students are housed in facilities that fall into 3 categories of residence halls.  We have the traditional halls, where two students share a very small room and the bath facilities are common for all of the students on that floor.  We then have the suite style, where two people will share a significantly larger bedroom and the bath facilities are shared by 2 suites.  We also have apartments where there is a common bath, kitchen, and living room for 4 private bedrooms. Our married and graduate students are housed in typical one and two bedroom apartments, similar as would be found in any community. 

When we encounter bed bug reports from the different styles of facilities the approach to inspection and treatment will be somewhat different.  The traditional residence halls are probably the most challenging due to the crowded environment that the students live.  We have two typical teenage students who had a room to themselves when at home.  When they arrive on campus they bring far too many belongings with them.  There are just too many items that they �simply can�t live without�.  This creates a clutter issue that must be accounted for when inspecting and treating.  Another issue that arises is the close knit groups that live on the same floor of the traditional halls.  They will hangout down the hall with friends and be in and out of many rooms on each floor.  When a bed bug issue arises, we interview the individuals to determine their social habits.  The rooms of their social network connections must be inspected and sometimes treated. 

The suites and single student apartment style are easier to inspect and treat.  The suites have large bedrooms that accommodate two students much better than the traditional halls.  It also seems that they do not have quite as large social network.  The questions of where else do they hangout still needs to be asked, but the answers are a lot less complicated.  The single student apartments are probably even easier than the others, due to the fact that they have a private space to migrate to rather than socializing in other rooms.  Anytime a bed bug issue occurs in an apartment setting, it is rarely isolated to just one bedroom.  I attribute that to the interconnection of all of the rooms in some manner.  Many of them share television cables, high speed access ports and cables, along with the electrical conduits.  Another issue is that the doors to the individual rooms are in many cases inches apart.  It is really amazing how bed bugs can be found in so many adjacent rooms of apartments.

The housing for the graduate/family students consists of traditional apartments like would be found in any city.  We have a unique challenge at the University of Florida in that our graduate/family housing apartments are not furnished by the university.  This coupled with the fact that 85% of our graduate/family students are international students who travel more and whose families come for long term stays, provides us with unique challenges with bed bug introductions.  Many of our international students arrive here with just enough money to survive on.  This does not leave funds to buy new furniture, thereby promoting scavenging and hand-me-down furniture from their social ethnic group.  We have had numerous occasions where the bed bug introduction could be traced to �friends� who provided furniture from an off campus location.  With �friends� like these, who will need any enemies? When we have reported bed bug problems in our graduate/family housing apartments, we have discovered that they are generally isolated and not spread to other adjacent apartments.  I surmise that part of this is due to the lack of socializing among our various different nationalities within our complexes.  We have discovered a few instances where we found the problem in some of their countryman�s apartments.  These connections are something that also always needs investigation.  Sometimes they will to tell you about their friends and sometimes that information will not be shared because of embarrassment.

Detection of low level introductions has always been a challenge in any of our environments, whether it is university housing or the hospitality industry.  In our single student resident halls we have developed a protocol to deal with the times where we cannot locate the bed bug issue thru visual inspection.  We will do a very thorough inspection of the bed and surrounding area.  We will bag up the linens from the bed and have the student place them in the clothes dryer and complete a cycle on the hot setting.  We then place a high quality mattress cover on the mattress.  The last step is to make the bed an island, by moving it away from other furniture and the walls.  We insure that the bed linens will not touch the floor or other items that would allow the bed bugs to climb onto the bed.  We place Climbup insect interceptors under the legs of the bed and monitor them for one to two weeks.  If the bed bugs are located off of the bed in areas of the room where we could not locate them, they will move toward the bed and their food source, ultimately being caught in the Climbup.  This procedure will verify the presence of bed bugs by utilizing the very best attractant, a human inhabitant.  There are so many things in the lives of students that could cause welts and itchy sensations that we experience about 60%-70% unfounded reports.  We especially get an influx of reports right before exams and final grades. 

I hope that this has shed some light on the college/university housing facilities and some of the challenges that you may be faced with.  While we do not have all of the answers to the bed bug solutions in university housing we have been successful for a number of years and have been able to keep our instances of bed bug issues at a low level.  I hope to share more information in the future that could assist you when performing bed bug work in the college/university setting.