Bed bug infestations on the rise

Daily Universe (UT)
Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Despite the efforts of the Honor Code Office, sometimes students do not go to bed alone. Bed bugs are invading the apartments of college students across the nation, and BYU could be next.

Over the past five years, numbers of bed bug infestations have increased dramatically nationwide, and college apartments are a key target for the bugs because of frequent moving and sometimes less-than-immaculate apartments. Derrick Turner, a junior in civil engineering, from Akron, Ohio, dealt with bed bugs while living at a local complex and said an apartment complex with bed bugs can create havoc with its residents.

"I lived in an a complex that had [bed bug] problems and my friends were covered in bites," Turner said. "They had to get the apartment sprayed three or four times before the bugs disappeared."

Bed bugs' size can range from as small as a sharpened pencil tip to as big as an eraser head. The bugs numb the skin when they bite so those bitten don't wake up and it can take days for red itchy spots to appear on the skin of those bitten. Michael Colongione, owner of Gotcha Bed Bug Inspectors, said although bed bugs are not known to carry disease, they can become a major inconvenience in a short period of time.

"Even one bug or one egg can be a problem because they procreate rapidly and food is plentiful," Colongione said.

Colongione said infestations can spread quickly at colleges because the bugs are easily transferred from clothing to furniture as students move from apartment to apartment.

A recent study by the National Pest Management Association showed that college  apartments were second only to hotels in bed bug infestations. The study also showed major universities such as the University of Illinois, the Ohio State University and the University of Florida have already gone to great means to rid dorms of massive infestations.

Although Utah's climate does not provide the most ideal environment for bed bugs, the state is not immune to the increase. Salt Lake City has seen a 94 percent increase in bed bug infestations in recent years. According to BYU's Off-Campus Housing Office, cases at BYU are few compared to other universities but  the problem still exists. Gary Briggs, manager of BYU Off-Campus Housing, said the problem needs to be taken care of swiftly so the bugs don't spread.

"Report it immediately to your landlord," Briggs said. "If the landlord doesn't do anything, contact our office and we'll deal with the landlord."

A variety of over-the-counter remedies are available to treat small problems and prevent bed bugs from  transferring from place to place, but once infested, professional-strength pesticides are usually the only way to completely get rid of an infestation.

"You need to do your research and be educated [about bed bugs]," Colongione said. "That's the best defense."