Since mid-September, Maryville College residents have become aware of rumors regarding an issue that seems to have crawled out of a horror story: bedbugs.
What are symptoms of a bedbug infestation exactly? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), students should not assume that their beds have been infested solely by the appearance of bug bites. The bites often disguise themselves under the appearance of rashes or other insect bites, such as those from mosquitoes.
Instead, students are encouraged to look for small dark spots on bed sheets or pillowcases. These spots indicate bedbug excrement, tiny eggs and eggshells, or rusty colored stains on sheets where bedbugs have been crushed.
“I’ve heard some talk around campus about bedbugs, and it kind of weirds me out,” said Cicely Babb, sophomore Gibson resident. “I’d like to know if it’s even true, really.”
As of yet, MC residence halls have had no official meetings to inform students of possible preventative steps or solutions to cope with the bedbug problem. However, Ben Wicker, assistant director of residence life, assures that there is no need to take these measures.
“There have been four or five reported cases of bedbugs in the past year, but only one has actually been real,” Wicker said. This case took place around early September and affected only one room in Gibson Hall.
“Residence life, the affected students and the physical plant all worked very well together and we took care of the problem within 24 hours,” he said. Wicker said that the presence of bedbugs on campus is very rare and that students should not be worried by the rumors around campus.
“If students find bugs in their rooms, they should tell their RA, and we will send out a work order to get your room cleaned up,” said Thomas Sykes, junior Gibson resident assistant.
“Students should tell someone immediately if they have a problem,” Wicker said. “You can use your RA or your residence director, or you can contact me directly.” Once residence life has been contacted, the physical plant is notified. In the case reported in September, students did their laundry at the plant, the room was treated with insecticides and the mattresses were replaced.
No incidents have since been reported on MC campus. The main preventative steps students can easily take, according to the EPA, include simply leaving less clutter in bedrooms and common areas for bugs to reproduce and hide in. Bedbugs are not necessarily associated with dirty places, but a warm and cluttered area tends to make a better home for the creatures than a freshly cleaned one.
Always having a clean floor and checking to make sure mattresses are bug-free can decrease the chances that a particular student will experience the fright of facing a family of bedbugs. Regular vacuuming and heat treatment of bedding and furniture will help to clear out the area, but pesticides and chemicals should be handled only by professionals, according to the EPA website.