Bed Bugs at RIT

Recently, bedbugs have become a more pressing matter in the public mind. Horror stories of bugs in the most exclusive hotels have left travelers itching to stay home, but not everyone can stay in their homes. College students move to dorms, apartments and rental houses. The chances of bedbugs are high, and this is quite the case at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). These little ride-alongs, though, are not as much as a problem as some people might think.

Pat Adams was never in the habit of communicating with his roommate. As honors freshmen, they lived in the Gibson dorms. When he was not in class or doing work for his Industrial Engineering degree, Adams was spending time with his friends in other dorm buildings.

“My roommate mentioned having rashes on his back,” Adams said, now 21 and a third year Manufacturing Engineering Technology major. “He left overnight, he said something about not liking [RIT].”

Not long after, RIT Housing approached Adams, saying that they would need to test for bedbugs. Once bugs were found in his room, Exodus Exterminating got to work. Adams was instructed to keep his clothing in provided bags for three weeks. These three weeks would be spent with weekly treatments to combat the bugs.

But things did not go as planned.

“It sucked [sic],” Adams said. Exodus told him multiple times that his room was not in the correct condition to be sprayed by leaving a note on his door. Adams does not recall being told what is considered correct condition. This caused the treatment to go on for three months.

“Alerting the student should have been done by the exterminators,” Terry Walker said. Walker is the manager of Building Services for Facilities Management Services (FMS) at RIT. FMS is responsible for cleaning and maintaining dorms and academic buildings on campus. “Student notification is up to [Residence] Life.”

Walker noted that Residence Life and Housing Operations were in charge of hiring exterminators, servicing on-campus apartments and making procedures for handling bedbugs in dorms. Housing Operations could not be reached for interview.

Though academic buildings do not house students, that does not mean they are any safer from bedbug infestation. “We kept getting reports of bedbugs,” Walker said.  The complaints focused on the second floor of the Wallace Center. It is one of two floors were talking is permitted and features couches and lounges for students to rest and read.

FMS staff were sent to look for the signs of bedbugs. Michael Potter, professor of Entomology at the University of Kentucky says signs include eggs, egg shells, excrement and shed exoskeletons, along with the bugs themselves. FMS could not find proof of bedbugs, but still treated the area to be safe.

“What’s interesting about the library is we treated the furniture, the carpet and we couldn’t find evidence of bedbugs,” Walker said.  The Wallace Center replaced the furniture to be safe, Walker said.

Park Point and The Province are apartment complexes built adjacent to RIT and are marketed towards students. As they are not run by RIT, they have different practices and procedures in place. Park Point’s general manager, Nick Ippolito, explained the complex’s policies.

“We respond to every report of bedbugs, and we have only found one case. We have a plan, a response plan. We proceed with knowledge and care compared to renters in the area.” Park Point uses an outside exterminating company to handle bedbugs. Only two reports of bedbugs have surfaced. One was the apartment next door to the confirmed case.

The Province could not be reached for interview or comment.

Neither RIT nor Park Point disseminates information to about bedbugs unless an infestation is found.  “Bedbugs wouldn’t be good publicity for potential students and tenants,” Walker said. “We certainly don’t have the authority to run a campaign for awareness.” Walker cited that that would fall to Housing Operations’ responsibility.

“You know, we really should inform people about bedbugs,” Ippolito said.

A 2011 study from Virginia Tech found that the recent increase of bedbug infestations could be linked to resistances developed by the bugs. “Due to the widespread use of DDT, bed bugs were essentially eradicated from U.S. homes and apartments by the 1950s,” the study states. “While DDT was initially effective for bed bug control, resistance to the cyclodienes was well-documented among different bed bug populations by 1958.”

Due to this developing resistance, along with the banning of DD in the United States,  pyrethroid chemicals are now being used to combat bedbugs. The study found that the bugs are already developing genetic mutations where enzymes neutralize the chemicals.

The only proven non-chemical way to control bedbugs is through heat. Clothes, bedding and linens need to be washed and dried at least at 120o F. They need to be stored in bags to keep bugs from reaching them again. As not everything can be heat-treated, insecticides are still the main way to kill bedbugs.

Unfortunately, treatment of bedbugs are not as stringent in other countries. International travelers could have bedbugs hopping a ride with them back to the states. Soon, they find themselves in new environments and new beds.

Good night, sleep tight, and of course, wash your laundry in hot water to keep the bed bugs from biting.

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