Bed Bugs


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

  • The presence of bed bugs must be confirmed by a Facilities and Operations’ exterminator.
  • Residents must comply with all Housing and Facilities and Operations-issued instructions within 24 hours.  
  • The University is not liable for any financial damages, including, but not limited to the cost of dry cleaning items.

1. Request an Inspection

Students who suspect bed bugs must immediately contact the Hartley Hospitality Desk or place a Service Request. Students should contact Housing or place a Service Request as early on a regular business day as possible as the exterminator cannot be dispatched on weekends or holidays.

2. Exterminator Conducts Inspection

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 bed bugs. Facilities and Operations staff will also check surrounding living units for the presence of bed bugs. 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.).

If the exterminator does not confirm the presence of bed bugs, no further action will be taken. Students will be asked to continue monitoring their living space and to notify Housing immediately if there are further problems.

3. Treatment of Infected Spaces

If bed bugs are confirmed in a resident’s room or suite, a Facilities and Operations' exterminator will treat their room. 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. Dry cleaning is the student’s responsibility.

The exterminator will apply pesticide to locations within the resident’s room that may harbor the bugs. 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. Multiple treatments over several days may be necessary.
  • 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 bed bugs after its placement, then another treatment may be warranted. If this is the case, residents should contact Housing as soon as possible.

The pesticide DDT is no longer used to treat bed bugs.

How do residents get bed bugs?

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

Bed bugs 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 bed bug bites look like?

Bed bug bites consist of a raised red bump or flat welt often accompanied by intense itching. Bites tend to occur on areas exposed during sleeping, such as on the neck, hands, or feet, 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 bed bug's saliva, which is inserted into the blood of the host.

Do bed bugs carry disease?

There have been no known cases of bed bugs passing disease from host to host, and extensive laboratory testing has concluded that host-to-host disease transmission is unlikely to occur through bed bug bites.

What should I do if I think I have bed bugs?

If a resident suspects bed bugs, they should follow the steps listed in the Procedure section above.

What shouldn't I do if I think I have bed bugs?

  • Don’t panic! Although bed bugs can be annoying, they can be safely and successfully exterminated if residents follow all guidelines given to them by Housing and Facilities and Operations.
  • Do not wait until after 5 p.m. on Friday to notify Housing. It is not possible to get service from the exterminator after business hours or on weekends.
  • Do not apply pesticides on your own. Facilities and Operations uses a licensed pest control operator to confirm the infestation and to develop an integrated pest management plan.
  • Do not move mattress or any furniture into the hallway. Infested furniture can be cleaned and treated. Placing infested furniture (particularly mattresses) into common areas or on the street may spread bed bugs to the rooms and suites of other students.
  • Do not sleep in a friend’s room or in places off-campus. If a resident’s space or belongings are infested, they are likely to bring the infestation with them.
  • Look at the room to seek potential hiding places for bed bugs (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 bed bugs themselves.
  • Never leave clothing laying on the bed, or any location of possible infestation. Use hangers or hooks capable of keeping all clothing distant from the floor or bed.
  • Keep any suitcases or travel bags closed.
  • Elevate luggage off of the floor to tables or chairs.
  • When returning from any travel (especially abroad) take suitcases that have been used to the Laundromat and wash ALL items in hot water followed by a hot dry cycle (at least 30 minutes).