New Technology Cuts Costs of Killing Bedbugs

"Dorms could easily spend $30,000 in a heartbeat," said Jeff Eisenberg, president of Pest Away pest management company in New York City. "We have a lot of colleges where they get rid of it, then the students come back, and they're infested again."

If repeat infestations occur, Eisenberg said costs can quickly climb, sometimes resulting in six-figure extermination bills.

And these days, many companies are not taking chances -- calling in an exterminator even when an intern finds a bedbug on him.

"Just today I was in a nice office, and they said an intern found a bedbug on his sweater," Eisenberg said. "When they found two, that's suspect. We had to go down deeper. Interns are very often coming from dormitories, which are often problems."

Bedbugs on Campus: Read All About It

College towns and campus dorms and buildings, home to large numbers of transient students keen on cheap furniture and shared living spaces, have been especially fertile breeding grounds for the bloodsuckers.

"We've gotten a number of calls from students from off campus who really need some assistance," Koehler said.

With the beginning of the fall semester, college newspapers across the country -- and even The New York Times -- have bumped up the bedbug on their list of newsworthy issues in higher education.

Toward the beginning of the semester, the University of Richmond's independent student newspaper, the Collegian, ran this headline on its bedbug story: "The Next College Pandemic?"

The Daily Free Press, Boston University's independent school newspaper, reported last Tuesday that school officials had identified "the bedbug infestation in dormitories such as Student Village and Myles-Standish Hall as a serious concern" within the past year. So far this year, the student newspaper reported, housing officials are "currently unaware of any active cases on campus."

Bedbugs Invade College Campuses

Several other school newspapers, from New York University's Washington Square News to Northern Kentucky University's Northerner have run similar stories in recent weeks.

Though none have made such a skin-crawling splash as the bedbug scare at the John Jay College in late September. The college was forced to reschedule all classes in an infested building until an extermination could be completed.

After school officials carried out a campus-wide sweep and held community forums, school officials warned students and faculty not to let their guard down. The pests could come back.

"The treatments we have applied have a 100 percent effectiveness track record, but we are still vulnerable to the transportation of bedbugs from the outside," said college president Jeremy Travis in a statement Monday.

While many schools have experienced the bedbug itch in recent years, this year's spike appears to be more virulent than in the past.

According to the National Pest Management Association, bedbug infestations have increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009. In perhaps another indication of public concern about bedbugs, Google search engine queries, show that people are now Googling "bedbugs" twice as often as the average rate over the past five years.

Preventing Bedbugs

Old couches put out on sidewalks might seem like a nice addition to a dorm common area, but they are also potential bedbug strongholds.

Pereira said the current bedbug trouble in the U.S. is likely the result of travelers from overseas bringing the parasites with them.

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