Emma Timan was living in Smith-Steeb Hall for her first-year at Ohio State when she noticed a bedbug crawling across her pillow in the middle of the night. She picked up her things, gave them a good shake and proceeded to call her mother for help.
“I was definitely freaked out … I called my mom and asked if I could sleep at home,” said Timan, a third-year in political science and international affairs. “The next day we took everything out and heated everything. My Uggs melted, but we never found another bedbug.”
Students like Timan who are concerned about bed bugs in their housing search will find validation in the fact that Columbus has one of the biggest bed bug problems in the nation.
Columbus was the third-worst city in the nation for bedbugs in 2014, according to Orkin, a national pest control company. Living in Columbus might raise the chances of getting the bugs, and so do communal living arrangements like student housing, which can be a haven for the pests.
For some students, the reality is they might encounter bed bugs, despite attempts to stop the pests from becoming house guests.
Office of Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs said there are about 10-12 cases of bedbugs in residence halls every year. The number of cases that occur off campus is unknown.
“There isn’t any chemical or treatment to prevent them,” Isaacs said. “Any student who finds them should alert their hall staff or alert Service2Facilities. If they find there are bedbugs, we coordinate a treatment schedule with the resident.”
When OSU receives an alert, the university contacts a pest company that investigates and then treats the affected room and the rooms above, below and beside the one found to have bedbugs, Isaacs said. The pest company then comes back a week later to check the rooms. After the checkup, the company decides whether to conclude the treatment or extend the treatment zone.
If bedbugs are present, the area should be treated by pest control, and fabric items should be heated to kill any survivors. This usually entails putting clothes, towels, bedding and shoes in a dryer that can reach high temperatures.
“We had to take everything we owned and put it in an industrial dryer. It was awful,” Timan said.
After her experience with bedbugs, Timan said she recommends that everyone use a bedbug cover for their mattress and that they occasionally look around their room for signs of the parasitic insects.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bedbugs usually live within 8 feet of where people sleep and hide during the day in places like mattress seams, box springs and night tables.
On their website, the CDC has a FAQs page for those worried they might have bedbugs. The list includes red bug bites on the skin, bug exoskeletons left behind after molting, rust-colored spots on bedding and the presence of a musty odor.
“The quicker you take care of it, the smaller the problem,” Timan said.