Bed Bug Cost? $65 Per UNL Resident
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

LINCOLN - The University of Nebraska-Lincoln spent nearly $400,000 - roughly $65 per resident - to track down and eradicate bedbugs in its student housing.

It was worth it, according to Juan Franco, UNL vice chancellor of student affairs.

"We think any parent or student would think it's worth $65 to be certain that we're providing a comfortable place for our students to live and study," he said.

UNL last week wrapped up a six-week effort to sweep all 3,256 residence hall rooms with bedbug-detecting dogs.

These were the results: 197 rooms treated; $324,000 spent on detection and treatment and $60,500 spent on equipment that will continue to be used in the future.

Although 197 rooms were treated for the pests, UNL officials say they believe that far fewer rooms actually were infested.

There were only eight cases of students reporting bedbug bites. Bugs, eggs or droppings were sighted in fewer than 10 other cases.

In all other instances, rooms were treated only based upon a dog's indication that it detected bedbugs. In some cases, the detection was confirmed by a second dog, Franco said. In others, rooms were treated at students' request even though the dog's detection was not confirmed.

Franco said that many other campuses across the country have battled bedbugs in recent years.

To his knowledge, UNL mounted a more comprehensive attack than any other campus. "I don't know any that have done the exhaustive review we did," he said.

It was necessary, he said, to assure students and their families that UNL housing is clean.

"We knew it would take a lot of effort and would be expensive, but students come first," he said.

Franco said housing rates have already been set for next year and will not need to be increased to cover the costs of the bedbug outbreak.

He said the cost can be absorbed in the housing department's $55 million annual budget. It represents less than 1 percent of the budget.

A mild winter has helped because heating and snow removal costs have been lower than normal.

Bedbugs were detected in some rooms in Abel Hall on the downtown campus after students returned after winter break Jan. 9.

Franco said UNL will continue to aggressively battle bedbugs into the future.

Students departing for spring break next week will leave with fliers giving them advice on how to avoid bringing bedbugs back to campus from their travels.

In mid-May, after residence halls empty out at semester's end, housing officials will again sweep all rooms with bedbug-detecting dogs.

The sweep should take less time when there are no student belongings that need to be moved out of the way. The mid-May inspection should reassure those arriving to stay in the residence halls for summer conferences.

Another sweep will be conducted in early August, after summer camps and before students arrive on campus for the fall semester.