College dorm life is busy and complicated enough without having to worry about taking care of bed bugs. But like all college students, bed bugs are eager to strike out on their own and find their place in the world. Unfortunately, that place is usually in a mattress — especially one of the multiple mattresses housed in a typical college dorm.
Responsible handling of bed bug infestation in a college dorm room requires a little bit of effort and continued management. But when done effectively, the measures a college dorm resident takes against bed bugs may only require a few, minor adjustments to their daily routine.
What are bed bugs?
Bed bugs are extremely small insects. Adults grow to around 5 to 7 millimeters (0r 3/16 to 1/4 inch) long; younger ones can be nearly impossible to see with the naked eye. A healthy bedbug looks like a flat, oval speck with a reddish-brown tint.
Besides being generally unpleasant and unresponsive to negotiation, bed bugs live off human blood. They make themselves scarce during daylight hours, then come out at nighttime to find a place to eat. But they’re also annoyingly resilient: Bed bugs can live over a year without having a meal, although it’s unclear how they otherwise spend their time.
Where do bed bugs hide?
Bed bugs gravitate toward convenient food sources (i.e., you) and thrive in temperatures between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit, the typical temperature for just about any inside room. Colonies of bed bugs are usually found within 8 feet of a human resting place.
Bed bugs seek hard-to-reach, isolated areas to hide. Beds are, of course, their preferred homes: mattresses, linens, box springs, and frames all offer cozy and convenient places for them to live. But they also thrive in other nooks and crevices in the room, including behind wall hangings or peeling wallpaper, in curtains, under carpets, behind electrical outlets, or between hardwood floor cracks. They’re not too picky.
What to do if dorms have bed bugs
- Establish a “clean zone.” Cleanliness is the strongest line of ongoing defense against bed bugs. Do a thorough round of cleaning to set up a clean zone that’s resistant to infestations. Pay special attention to hard-to-reach corners, wall edges, cracks, and crevices. Use a damp cloth for hardwood floors; vacuum carpets, rugs and upholstery; dust and wash off lamps, pictures, and wall hangings.
- Hunt them down. Use a flashlight and an expired credit card (or similar card) to find escaping bed bugs along the edges, cracks, and crevices of your wall. Root them out from their hiding places or set up a trap of double-sided sticky tape to set up a snare. Always wash down areas of infestation along the walls and floors with hot, sudsy water.
- Kill them by hand. Manually crushing the life out of bed bugs isn’t always a foolproof method, but it can be helpful and is usually very satisfying. Trap and squash a bed bug between two fingernails until its shell cracks and its remains are visibly spilled out. You can also use double-sided sticky tape to trap them where they live.
- Freeze them out. Should your dorm have an accessible freezer, another option is to deep-freeze bug-infested items for four days. Although this is a highly effective manner of killing bed bugs, make sure whatever item you freeze can stand up to the cold.
- Vacuum or steam-clean floors. Use a vacuum cleaner to go over carpets, rugs, and soft furniture, paying special attention to the surfaces around dressers, beds, baseboards, and electric components. If you use a cleaner with detachable bags, throw the bag away as soon as you’re done. Steam-cleaning is another cleaning option for hardwood floors, drapes, and some upholstery; rent a steamer with a 1-gallon capacity, preferably with volume and temperature control. Surfaces should be between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit immediately after the steam brush passes over them.
- Take extra steps with laundry. Separate your bed bug-friendly items — linens, clothes, mattress covers, and so forth — and collect them in their own individual plastic bags. Wash them at the highest temperatures the materials can stand; be very cognizant of delicate items. Items that you can’t clean in a commercial washer should be hung up for at least 30 minutes somewhere that’s as hot as possible.
- Use mattress encasements. Mattresses are prime spots for bed bugs. Some manufacturers make mattress encasements specifically designed to take care of bed bugs (make sure you check the label to be sure). An encasement can trap bed bugs between the sheet and mattress so they can’t get out; in this situation, they usually die within two weeks. You’ll want to leave the encasement on for as long as possible — up to a year and a half if you can manage it — and immediately clean it if a new infestation occurs.
- If you can, hire a professional that uses the right insecticide. If you happen to have some disposable income, it’s never a bad idea to hire a pro. But make sure they’re accredited and have a strong professional reputation. And make sure your pro uses pesticides that specifically, explicitly target bed bugs. Other pesticides will just make them mad.
Other Helpful Bed Bug 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?
- How to Find Bed Bugs During the Day
- Bed Bug Prevention Tips: How to Prevent Bed Bugs in Your Property
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