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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Garrett Thrasher is Vice President of Thrasher Termite & Pest Control, Inc., a San Diego District Director of the Pest Control Operators of California (PCOC), a member of the bedbugFREE network, and a member of the National Pest Management Association. His company has been awarded the QualityPro mark of excellence in pest management.

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