Columbia Housing and its operational partners are committed to an effective and efficient response to students who suspect they may have bedbugs. 

Bedbug Procedure

Bedbugs are a serious community issue, and all students are expected to comply with all instructions given to them within 24 hours once bedbugs have been confirmed within their living space.

Initial Suspicion

  • Students who suspect bedbugs must immediately contact the Hospitality Desk at (212) 854-2779 or place a Maintenance Request. Students should contact Housing or place a Maintenance Request as early on a regular business day as possible. The exterminator cannot be dispatched on weekends or holidays.

Response Procedure

  • Facilities and Operations will dispatch an exterminator who will perform a thorough inspection of the room/suite. Only the exterminator can confirm or deny the presence of bedbugs. Columbia Health or another outside person cannot confirm bedbugs.
  • Students may not deny the exterminator or Facilities and Operations staff access to their living space (including their bedroom, suite common space, kitchen, bathroom, etc.)

Actions Taken If Exterminator Doesn’t Find Bed Bugs

  • No further action will be taken.
  • Students will be asked to continue monitoring his/her living space, and to notify Housing immediately if there are further problems.

Actions Taken If Exterminator Finds Bed Bugs In The Room/Suite

  • Housing will give students a detailed list of instructions for the removal and laundering of their personal items. Students will be required to clean and bag all clothing, bedding, books and personal items prior to the treatment.
  • Facilities and Operations’ Exterminator will apply pesticide to locations within the resident’s room that may harbor the bugs.
  • Dry cleaning is the responsibility of the student.

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Bedbug FAQ

How do residents get bedbugs?

Bedbugs thrive in places with high occupancy, such as hotels. Anyone can pick bedbugs up from a location where they presently exist – someone’s apartment, other dorm rooms, movie theatres, etc. Bedbugs are equal opportunity pests – they will infest anyone, anywhere. They are not a sign of poor hygiene or cleanliness.

Bedbugs are not always obvious. They are small nocturnal insects that live by feeding on blood of humans/other warm-blooded hosts and are generally active only at dawn, with a peak feeding period about an hour before sunrise.

What do bedbug bites look like?

Although they appear indistinguishable from mosquito bites, bedbug bites tend to last for longer periods. Bites may not become immediately visible, and can take up to 9 days to appear. The bites consist of a raised red bump or flat welt, often accompanied by intense itching and are usually aligned three in a row. The red bump or welts are the result of an allergic reaction to the anesthetic contained in the bedbug's saliva, which is inserted into the blood of the host.

Do bedbugs cause diseases?

There have been no known cases of bedbugs passing disease from host to host. Extensive testing has been done in laboratory settings that also conclude that bedbugs are unlikely to pass disease from one person to another.

What happens when the exterminator comes to a resident’s room?

If a resident’s room or suite is confirmed to have bedbugs, Facilities and Operations' exterminator will come to treat their room. Residents will be required to clean and bag all clothing, bedding, books and personal items prior to the treatment. The pesticide DDT is no longer used to kill bedbugs. The treatment will likely consist of a few different approaches:

  • A pesticide will be applied to locations within the resident’s room that may harbor the bugs.
  • The exterminator may place glue boards in the resident’s room. These boards can be good detectives and show the degree of success of the treatment. If the glue board collects bedbugs after its placement, then another treatment may be warranted. If this is the case, residents should contact Housing as soon as possible.

What SHOULD residents do if they believe they have bed bugs?

  • Notify Columbia Housing ASAP.
  • Be prepared to follow the written instructions to the letter and in a timely manner (within 24 hours).

What SHOULDN’T residents do if they believe they have bed bugs?

  • Don’t panic! Although bedbugs can be annoying, they can be battled safely and successfully if residents follow all guidelines given to them by Housing and Facilities and Operations.
  • If a resident believes they have bedbugs, they should not wait until after 5 p.m. on Friday to notify someone. It is not possible to get service from the exterminator after hours or on weekends.
  • Residents should not apply pesticides on their own. Facilities and Operations uses a licensed pest control operator to confirm the infestation and to develop an integrated pest management plan.
  • Residents should not move their mattress or any furniture out into the hallway. Infested furniture can be cleaned and treated. Placing infested furniture (particularly mattresses) into common areas or on the street may simply help spread bedbugs to the rooms and suites of other students.
  • Residents should not go sleep in a friend’s room or in places off-campus. If a resident actually has bedbugs, they will only spread them to others.

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Traveling Tips

  • Look at the room to seek potential hiding places for bedbugs (carpet edges, mattress seams, pillowcase linings, head boards, wall trim or other tiny crack-like places).
  • Look at mattress seams for signs of bed bug activity: droppings, eggs, bloodstains or even bedbugs themselves.
  • Never leave clothing laying on the bed, or any location of possible infestation. Use hangers or hooks capable of keeping all cloth distant from the floor or bed.
  • Keep any suitcases or travel bags closed.
  • Elevate luggage off the floor to tables or chairs.
  • Residents should keep any bedbug they find (intact if possible) to show Housing and the exterminator.
  • When returning from any travel (especially abroad) take suitcases that have been used to the Laundromat and wash ALL items in hot water and dry it.

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