How to Prevent Bed Bugs in College Housing

Bedbug feces
Bed Bug Feces ©Thrasher Termite & Pest Control, Inc.


Bed bugs are an introduced pest and a persistent problem in campus housing and in many Greek houses. Your room may have already been infested with bed bugs when you moved in, or they may crawl over from the room across the hall. You also put yourself at risk anytime you bring in used furniture, get a new roommate, or let a friend stay for the night or weekend.

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The two keys to bed bug control in college housing are prevention and early detection. We’ll discuss prevention in moment. First, it’s important to understand bed bug habits and signs of a bed bug infestation.

Bed bugs are extremely difficult to detect. They are small, nocturnal, and relatively fast. Only about 3/16-inch long, 1/8-inch wide, broadly oval, and flat, their small size and flat shape means they easily slip into the smallest crack or crevice. They’ve been known to crawl behind switch plates and outlet covers to hide in walls. They slip behind baseboards, under carpet, and between the boards of hardwood floors. They hide behind the screen of fabric under furniture and in picture frames. Of course mattresses, box springs, headboards, and slatted bed frames are popular hiding places.

If you can’t find them, how do you know they’re in your residence? Bites are one indicator of a bed bug infestation, but bites alone aren’t conclusive. The world contains a lot of biting insects. Some people experience a delay of up to 14 days between being bitten by a bed bug and an onset of symptoms. Additionally, 30% of people experience no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they may be confused with other insect bites, poison oak, scabies, or allergic reactions.

Excerpt from Bed Bug Battle Plan: Field Tested Solutions for Bed Bug Extermination and Prevention by Garrett Thrasher, available at

Itchy welts on the neck, arms, legs and sides of back are one indicator. Small dark specks on your pillow and on your sheets are another sign of bed bugs.

English: Picture taken with permission of wome...
English: Picture taken with permission of women affected by bed bugs in infested dwelling, by Andy Brookes BSc(Biol),FRES (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Prevent your space from being invaded by bed bugs while at college by using bed bug prevention products. If you suspect bed bugs in your living quarters, report the problem immediately to the appropriate housing authority. DO NOT attempt to get rid of bed bugs on your own.

Encasement with bedbug fecal spots
Encasement with bedbug fecal spots (cc) Exit Zero Photography

Bed Bug Prevention Shopping List for Dorms and Greek Houses

• Certified Bed-Bug-Proof Mattress Encasement

• Certified Bed-Bug-Proof Box Spring Encasement

• Certified Bed-Bug-Proof Pillow Protectors

• Furniture Leg Insect Interceptors

• Dissolvable Laundry Bags

• Ziploc® Big Bags for storage and transport

• See-through Storage Boxes for storage and transport

• Clear Contractor Bags for transporting bulky items

• Zip ties to seal contractor bags

• Zippered bed, sofa, and chair storage bags for furniture that will be transported

For more information, download the Free Bed Bug Prevention Checklist


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kids-drawing-of-a-bedbug  (cc)Thrasher Termite & Pest Control, Inc.


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How to Identify Common Bug Bites

I often receive phone calls from people truly distressed by itches, who say, “bugs are biting me.”  Most of the time the callers are correct and they are suffering from insects we can take care of:  bed bugs, fleas, or bird mites. If itching isn’t caused by any of these household pests, and mosquitoes are not suspected, then the problem might be scabies or lice.

Identifying Bug Bites

Bedbug BitesBed bug bites often appear as red itchy welts in groups of three. Bites will be located in the areas of the body most easily accessed in a sleeping person: neck, arms and legs, the sides of the back. Some people have extreme reactions to bed bug bites and may experience very large welts. Thirty-percent of people do not react to bed bug bites at all.

Flea bites typically result in very small raised, itchy welts below the knee. In a residence with a high flea infestation, bites may be encountered on any part of the body, but still mostly confined to areas of exposed skin.

Bird mite bites usually appear as multiple small (pin-point sized) red lesions on the extremities. Bird mite bites may cause intense itching and irritation even when there is no visible sign of a bite.

Bed bugs, fleas, and bird mites can be exterminated by a pest control company.

Human itch mites (scabies) burrow into the skin, often between the fingers, or the bend of elbows, knees, and groin. This is considered a medical problem and is easily diagnosed and treated by a doctor.

Bites of a head lice

Head lice cause itching to the scalp and neck. The diagnosis of head lice infestation is best made by finding a live nymph or adult louse on the scalp or hair of a person. A fine-toothed louse comb is a very helpful tool for finding lice or louse eggs. Head lice respond to home treatment.

Now and then, however, a caller will suffer from an invisible itch—an itch caused by something we can’t see. While there are only half a dozen insect species likely to cause itchy bites, there are hundreds of household products, environment factors, and health-related conditions that can make you itch.  An excellent list of these itch triggers is found in “Invisible Itches: Insect and Non-Insect Causes,” from the University of Kentucky.

Itching is real and causes real distress. We hate telling someone we can’t find evidence of bugs. With a bug infestation there is a clear protocol for control, and for itch relief. When confounded by itching without a known source, consider non-insect causes.