As Ohio State welcomes students back to school, there might be unexpected and unwanted guests tagging along — bed bugs.
To make matters worse, an OSU entomology professor said Columbus is a bed bug hot spot.
But Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said bed bugs aren’t usually a problem at OSU — the last reported case was in spring. Still, on average, OSU handles 10 to 12 cases of bed bugs per year, he said.
Last fiscal year, Student Life spent $124,055 on pest control. The funds covered preventable programs, regular treatment and the monitoring of all types of pests, Isaacs said.
OSU has a contract with JC Ehrlich Company, a pest control company.
One off-campus landlord company said bed bugs are an issue from time to time. James Lentz, maintenance coordinator at Buckeye Real Estate, said about one case of bed bugs is reported per month, though its difficult to track an exact number. The real estate company also uses JC Ehrlich Company for pest problems.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, there has been a resurgence of bed bug infestations in the United States in recent years. They can be found in homes, hotels and apartments.
Entomology professor Susan Jones said bed bugs typically stick to people.
“Humans are bed bugs’ primary hosts, although they will feed on other warm-blooded animals, only if humans aren’t around,” Jones said.
And they don’t go away on their own, Jones said.
“When they start breeding, you will only have more and more and more, and then they will start hitchhiking with you, will spread bed bugs to your friends, to people who come visit in your room. This is the bug that keeps giving,” Jones said. “You will share the wealth.”
Unexplained red, itchy welts can indicate a bed bug problem, Jones said. The bugs themselves only come out about every six nights to feed.
“They are only in contact with your body for many 10 to 12 minutes at the most, then they get off of you and then they go and hide somewhere in your room,” she said.
Move-in typically is the time when bed bugs are most likely to appear because there’s a large influx of students, said Mike Bernava, training and service supervisor for Rose Pest Solutions in Columbus. Rose Pest Solutions is a Michigan-based pest control service that serves six states including Ohio.
In the past year, Rose Pest Solutions has performed roughly 877 treatments for bed bugs in the Central Ohio area, Bernava said. That number also includes precautionary treatments for surrounding areas of the main infestation.
The resurgence of bed bugs is partially a result of increased international travel, Bernava said.
Students can look for a few warning signs that come with bed bug infestation.
“The first evidence that is found is fecal spotting,” Bernava said. The spots are the size of a dot made by a fine point Sharpie and appear in a dark brown to red color.
Bed bugs generally like to hide in areas where they are protected, which include mattress corners, box springs and electrical sockets, he said.
As a preventative measure, OSU has switched its mattresses to a seamless style because the seamless ones don’t have places for the bed bugs to hide, Isaacs said.
To limit the risk of having the bed bugs spread, OSU follows a diamond strategy, where the rooms above, below and next to any affected area are treated as well. Throwing away clothes and linens isn’t necessary, Isaacs said, as placing all fabrics in the dryer on high heat for 30 minutes should kill bed bugs in all life stages.
When getting rid of infested furniture, Bernava suggested making it appear unusable and unappealing by spray-painting or cutting slits in the furniture. This ensures no one else will take the furniture into their home.
Bed bugs will live in more than just furniture and clothing. Bernava said he’s seen instances where the bugs appeared in an alarm clock battery and even a motorized vehicle in a nursing home.
Alexa Norris, a fourth-year in speech and hearing science, is a returning resident adviser for Paterson Hall and said she has never had to deal with bed bugs.
“We do not receive training as RAs on what to look for when it comes to bed bugs,” she said.
If bed bugs were to emerge, she said she’d be very concerned.
“The transition from high school to college is already stressful enough and I wouldn’t want to add any extra stress to our residents,” Norris said.
If OSU students find bed bugs, Isaacs recommended they contact Service2Facilities, OSU’s maintenance facility.
Logan Hickman contributed to this article.