How should Wayne State students protect themselves from bed bugs? Mark VanderWerp, an entomologist at Rose Pest Solutions, gives the facts about the pests and how to keep dorms bed bug-free.
“These are not ‘Ebola bugs.’ It’s not like you just walk past somebody and you get them,” said VanderWerp. “There is really one way a bed bug is brought into a building structure: through people and their belongings.”
VanderWerp said bed bugs can travel anywhere, but most often they are attracted to cloth and upholstery. This includes couches, clothes, bags, and beds. He said that move-in day is when dorms are the most vulnerable because people bring in hundreds of these items.
VanderWerp said he suggests often checking for bed bugs or the red fecal spots they leave when traveling to new places or having people over frequently, especially with bags.
VanderWerp said he doesn’t recommend many of the at-home remedies to get rid of these bugs.
“People see signs of bed bugs and the first thing they do is go to a store and buy a bug bomb,” said VanderWerp. “But there are plenty of stories of people trying to kill bed bugs with them and it’s just not working.”
The latest reported case of bed bugs at Wayne State was in February in Towers Residential Suites. As it gets colder, bed bugs are attracted to warm places, said VanderWerp. Bed bugs thrive in warm fabrics and one of the myths of bed bug extermination, such as “drawing out bed bugs” with a hair dryer, or turning up the temperature in the room, is not effective.
“One of the easiest things to do that is a highly effective way to kill bed bugs is to just dry sheets and fabrics on high heat,” said VanderWerp. “But the best thing to do is contact your landlord or RA about the problem.”
While this is the most effective way to kill bed bugs, VanderWerp said he knows this doesn’t solve the problem in a serious infestation.
“While the heat and dryer method works, there are still some limitations,” said VanderWerp. “You can’t put an entire laptop, mattress or couch into a dryer. This is why you will often have to contact professionals.”
If left untreated, bed bugs spread rapidly around living areas, which is why housing officials encourage students to immediately contact the front desk in the residence halls.
Ghafari Hall Community Director Shaun Simon said she always encourages students to notify the front desk of their building.
“A student should come down and ask for a pest inventory if an infestation is found,” said Simon. “It would be them and the treatment specialist working together to remove them by whatever way is best.”
Simon said the next step for students would be to wash all of their clothes and continue to work with the specialist.
Both Vanderwerp and Simon said that the issue with bed bugs is often blown out of proportion. Infestation is deemed a cleanliness issue and anyone with them is considered unsanitary. Simon said bed bugs are not like cockroaches; bed bugs follow blood so literally anyone can come into contact with them.
“Bed bugs are no more than pests, and have more harm on mental state than actual health,” said VanderWerp. “At the worst, they are a nuisance that can disrupt anyone’s life, but it can always get better. It just takes more effort and time.”