Five things you should know about bed bugs

How to avoid unwanted roommates at school


Photo courtesy of JayMazzolaa on Flickr

Cimex lectularius, the barely-visible beast that sucks human blood in the the night, has invaded our capital’s universities. Bed bugs have been found in residence rooms at both the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. But the truth is, they’ve invaded many more schools than that. “There isn’t a major university anywhere in North America that does not know this is a major problem,” Don McCarthy, president of Braemar Pest Control in Bedford, N.S. told Maclean’s last fall. It’s in the very nature of residences—the more transient a building’s population, the more likely the bugs will spread. Oh, and they can survive in the baseboards for many months without food. Scared yet? Don’t be. The best defense, says McCarthy, is old-fashioned education.

Here are five things every student should know about bed bugs:

1. You can’t get rid of them on your own. Over-the-counter sprays will only spread them around. Bed bugs are killed by professional treatments that include pesticides, exposure to extreme heat and major vacuuming. Pest control agencies will almost always tell you to put all of your clothing in the drier on high heat for a forty minutes to kill eggs and to then store it in plastic bags for weeks after treatment. They may also advise you to throw away books, furniture and mattresses.

2. Bed bugs don’t carry disease, so relax. Bed bugs can leave you with something that itches much like a mosquito bite. “But the mental problems are worse than the physical,” says McCarthy. Knowing you may be bitten can leave you anxious and without sleep. The upside, if you can call it that, is that the bugs aren’t known to transmit diseases. That will help you sleep easier, right?

3. You can protect your stuff. Keep your books and clothes in airtight plastic containers to keep bugs out. If you buy a new mattress, buy a new bed-bug cover too. It could end up saving you from throwing out your $800 bed-set. Protect your parents’ home by keeping your clothes in a plastic bag inside your suitcase and then dumping the contents straight into the drier when you go home.

4. Inspect your bed when you wash your sheets. Regular inspections can help you discover a problem before it spreads. Look for tiny brown stains that look like a ballpoint pen mark. It may be excrement. Blood stains indicate, well… The most common places bugs hide are inside tufts of mattresses, on box springs or inside wooden bed frames. Inspect those spots carefully. Don’t think because a place is clean that it can’t harbour the critters. “Bedbugs infect everywhere from slums to five-star hotels,” says McCarthy. Speaking of hotels, don’t forget to inspect those too.

5. Don’t buy used furniture or mattresses. There may be a reason that wooden desk was for sale at only $25 on Craigslist—its owner may have had bed bugs. “Even if you know what to look for, you might not see it,” says McCarthy. “So that old chesterfield is best avoided altogether.”


Five things you should know about bed bugs

  1. Kudos for excellent advice that is accurate and timely with the start of a new school term. I would add knowledge and early detection is the best defence – learn what bed bugs look like in all stages of development from egg through to adult development (5 instar stages, each requiring a blood meal) before reproduction is possible. And should you suspect exposure to bed bugs, a certified bed bug dog inspection with a handler that visually confirms the dog’s alert, is the fastest method for early detection. If such services are not available in your area, a visual inspection by a Pest Control operator is another option as well as installation of passive bed bug monitors, such as the BB Alert for ongoing surveillance. Remember, spread the word, not the bed bug. Ken Hando (I am associated with a canine bed bug detection service)

  2. 6. Bed bug populations increase at an exponential rate

    An infestation of one mated adult female bed bug, over a period of 180 days, can result in 7,848 adult bed bugs, 121,449 nymph bed bugs and 69,909 bed bug eggs*!

    The importance of early detection cannot be stressed enough. The lower the bed bug population is, the easier and less costly it is to control the infestation. For example in a dorm, a small bed bug infestation can be present in one room. But if the bed bug population grows then the bed bugs can spread into the adjacent rooms resulting in room closures as well as increased bed bug treatment costs.

    The bottom line is that bed bug monitoring can lead to early detection of a bed bug infestation which will inevitably help reduce unexpected costs in bed bug control.

    * figures are based upon average numbers of a bed bug’s biological cycle. Temperature and access to blood meals will vary these figures