Salem’s Latest Residents: Bed Bugs


In elementary school, there were lice. In college, there are bedbugs. In late September, students all across campus were evicted from their rooms overnight as pest crews heated up their rooms to 120 degrees to kill the bedbugs that had been finding their homes in dorms.

Complaints of bites and unidentifiable critters made their way from Gramley to Babcock to Strong residence halls, forcing many students to uproot their lives for the night with little to no prior notice.

Una Stroszeck, a first-year in Babcock, said that she received an email from her Residential Coordinator that informed her of the problem in her room. In the email, there was an attachment regarding what she and her roommate would need to do in order to prepare their room for the heat treatment that kills bedbugs. “However,” she said, “because the pest control people arrived so promptly, we didn’t have any time to complete that process fully, so we ended up grabbing our essentials for the night and sleeping overnight a floor down in Babcock residence hall.”

Stroszeck emphasized the fact that the idea of sleeping in a bed that was infested with bedbugs was a disturbing one and the rapidity of the situation made it far more stressful than it needed to be. “I would have liked more time to prepare, to clean out our room, and to bring a proper overnight bag,” she said.

The ordeal could have been made far easier if students were given a list of things to be aware of. Most students come from homes where this sort of situation never occurs, so they don’t know what to look for. Bites are the most common way of identifying whether or not bedbugs have found their way into a living space. If there is no allergic reaction to a bite (meaning they don’t itch and swell), then it’s best to check in the corners of the mattress near the wood of the bedposts to see if anything is crawling around down there. Eggs can also hide deep in the seams of the mattress, so take a flashlight and see if there is anything to cause concern.

If nothing is found but the bed’s habitability is still questionable, talk to a Residential Assistant and see about sending in a request for a bug-sniffing beagle to check out your room. If the dog finds something, an email will be sent out telling the students living in that room about the heat procedure to exterminate the bugs. In order to make sure no bugs reach any other part of campus, a change of clothes will be provided and most of the student’s belongings will need to stay in the room overnight. However, the room will be clean and ready for habitation again early the next morning, so life should carry on as normal after the night is over.

Above all, remember that bedbugs aren’t born out of uncleanliness. They could have been living in a dorm for months before the arrival of students. Bedbugs don’t ask for consent to enter your bed; they just make themselves at home. They are certainly annoying, but with the proper procedures and direct communication, they can be exterminated easily and relatively painlessly for students.

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