While Temple remains unscathed, high-traffic living areas are hotspots for the bedborne pests.
They could be living in the mattress, in the sofa or in the carpet. They could be lurking wherever one decides to lie down for a little post-class rest and relaxation. They are bedbugs, and according to a report released by Terminix in August, Philadelphia has more of them than anywhere else except New York City.
“The number of calls for bedbugs has grown every year in the last three to five years,” said Shawn Hunter, a district manager for Ehrlich Pest Control. “We have technicians taking calls for bedbugs every day.”
The pests hide in furniture and suitcases, so incoming students could be bringing more than just clothing in their luggage.
Bedbugs can also crawl between walls to infect neighboring rooms. In dense living areas, such as dorms and apartment buildings, bedbugs can turn into a nightmare overnight.
“Bedbugs are extremely disgusting,” said Alyssa Pouleson, a sophomore psychology major. “But they do seem befitting of college. You get exposed to so many different things here.”
Temple has not reported an outbreak, but it is always good to know how to spot the nasty bugs and how to get rid of them if they should ever appear.
Bedbugs look like miniature cockroaches. They are nocturnal, feed off blood and tend to live in anything that is used frequently, so that they can be close to their food source. Common hotspots are beds, sofas and rugs. They have also been found in unusual hiding places, too, such as books and telephones.
“Bedbugs tend to congregate in little pockets in mattresses,” Hunter said. “When we do an inspection, we check in the seams, near the tag on the mattress, in the headboard, the box spring and other places. Bedbugs like to live 5 to 10 feet from their host.”
The bugs come out about once a week to feed, making their appearance just before dawn to drink their fill. Bedbugs can live anywhere from six months to a solid year without feeding, which makes them very difficult to get rid of. Even if you think they’re gone, they might not be.
Their bark is nothing compared to their bite, though. These creepy little bugs sink their teeth into humans, and then inject a chemical to clot the blood and stop the bleeding. This chemical is what makes the bites itch so badly.
“I’ve dealt with bedbugs once,” Augusta Greenfield, a sophomore nursing major, said. “I was staying at my aunt’s house, and I had to sleep on the couch. I woke up the next morning with a bunch of bumps on my skin. They itched, and then when I scratched them they got hard and turned red.”
The bites look like most other skin irritations. There is nothing distinctive about them, so it can be difficult to determine if the bites are actually from bedbugs.
Sometimes people don’t realize they have a problem because they attribute the bites to other things. The bright side to the bites, if there is one, is that they have not been found to pass diseases.
The bites might be the only reliable sign of an infestation. These bugs are only active at night, and they hide well, so it is nearly impossible to catch them in the act.
The other way to detect them is to set traps. You can line your mattress with double-sided tape, and check it after a few days. If they’re there, a few of them will likely be stuck to the tape.
If you discover you have bedbugs, the first step is to get a mattress cover. You should completely seal off the mattress so nothing can get in or out. The ones caught inside will eventually die without food.
Wash your sheets and your pillowcase regularly to get rid of any bugs that may be hanging around outside the mattress.
“We always recommend an inspection by a professional because the process to get rid of the bugs can be very labor intensive,” Hunter said. “The most effective methods for eliminating these bugs are fumigation and heat treatment.”
Kate Hartman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.