Bed bugs back at Mac, now in Dupre and Kirk

By Kyle Coombs

For Justine Sigel ’14, her first week as a Macalester student should have been about making friends, adjusting to classes and learning her way around campus. But just days after moving into Dupre Residence Hall on Jan. 19, Sigel—a new transfer student this semester—began to notice some small bites around her chin. With the help of Residential Life, the culprit was quickly identified: her dorm room was infested with bed bugs. Plunkett’s Pest Control treated the fourth and fifth cases of bed bugs on campus of this academic year this past week. The most recent cases were identified in a single in Dupre Hall and four adjoining rooms in Kirk Hall. The first two cases occurred in Bigelow, the first in late November and the second in early December and the third a week later in Kirk. Peg Olson, Associate Director of Residential Life, said that she does not know of any other reported cases of bed bugs in the history of Macalester. “It’s hard to know how they come to us,” Olson said. “You know a lot of times students have been traveling, but in the last incidences it was the middle of the semester or late semester, they hadn’t been traveling, they hadn’t been anywhere odd.” Every case has been isolated, she said, meaning there was no solid connection to pass the bed bugs between any of the affected students. Due to confidentiality policies Residential Life cannot release the room or hall number of the affected students. “The bed bug hall is public knowledge since I have to notify the entire hall,” she wrote in an e-mail. “The floor locations are much more confidential and sensitive in nature – I want to make sure that this info, for the sake of the residents, is not shared with others.” Sigel said she was instructed by Residential Life to search for the bed bug nest. “They told me to look for little black specks that kind of look like dust,” Sigel said, “but the bed itself was kind of dirty, so I couldn’t really tell if it was the actual eggs or just crumbs.” When she could not find the nest, Residential Life decided to bring in Plunkett’s bed bug-detecting dogs as a cautionary measure. The presence of bed bugs was confirmed on Jan. 23. Treatment was scheduled for the 27th and Sigel continued to live in her room and had to heat her clothes for 15 minutes in the dryer every time she left her room to make sure the bed bugs would not spread. “[Residential Life] was really nice about it,” she said. “They kept e-mailing me and telling me how I could deal with bed bug situation.” Olson explained that Macalester does not charge students for the treatment and works to compensate costs associated with treatment like using the dryer. In preparation for Plunkett’s heat treatment, Sigel had to remove all items, like wax and food, that could not be heated and place them in a bin, remove all items hanging from the walls and overall remove clutter. A Plunkett’s brochure explains that rooms are heated to a minimum of 120° F for approximately six to eight hours during treatment. Olson indicated that students have handled the protocol for managing bed bugs and the treatment process very well. “[The students] were really open, they were really understanding, and they were really flexible,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for better students to be able to work with, because it is time-consuming … they were just amazingly cooperative.” Sigel said that she did not feel any animosity on her floor from fellow students when she explained that she was the affected individual in Dupre. “I was talking to a group of people on my floor and they were talking about how they all received e-mails saying there was going to be a check-up and I said, ‘Oh yeah, that might be my room that might have them, sorry,'” she said. Sigel said that the group understood and the experience has not ruined her first semester at Macalester. “Luckily it was just my room and they didn’t detect any elsewhere,” she said. Residential Life is working to contract and hire out Plunkett’s to do a sweep of campus and eliminate any cases they might find while most students are off-campus at some point this summer. “[This] will help us out a lot,” Olson said. “I don’t suspect we’re going to have zero bed bugs next year, just it’s not the nature of bed bugs right now, but that will help us.” Additionally, Residential Life, Facilities Services and Health and Wellness are collaborating on an effort to put information on the Health & Wellness website and other class pages to raise awareness of symptoms and treatment for bed bugs. “[It will have] preventative things that people can do,” Olson said. “You know, if they get back from traveling: inspecting all their bags outside the room before they go in and put it on their bed.” She hopes that gathering the information into one easily accessible location will promote preventative measures among students, especially after study abroad or other long travel, as that is a key way to pick up bed bugs. Olson confirmed that 6 other colleges in the Associated Twin Cities College Housing Administrators (ATCCHA) have reported cases of bed bugs in the last month. ATCCHA members discuss and share ideas for preventative measures and actions to curb the spread of bed bugs on campus. “Bed bugs are really on the rise, and it’s all a matter of how you pick them up,” she said, “And it’s nobody’s fault. They like clean stuff, they like dirty stuff, they are non-discriminant, they go for whatever they can hop a ride on.” refresh –>