With college students back on campus this school year, insect extermination company Terminix ranked the most bedbug-infested cities in the United States.
Bedbugs spread by hitching rides on luggage, backpacks and clothing, and can crawl through cracks in the walls, making common spaces of dorm living extremely vulnerable to infestations.
"Bedbugs go where people go, so they can be virtually anywhere," said Rick Cooper, senior director of bedbug services at Terminix.
"Bedbugs move from infested structures, whether that be hotels, airports, schools or college campuses," he said. "They can tag along on someone's clothes or backpack."
Terminix based its rankings on the number of requests received from each city in 2021. The top 10 U.S. cities for bedbug infestations, according to the company, are:
— Los Angeles, California
— Cleveland, Ohio
— Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
— Detroit, Michigan
— New York, New York
— Chicago, Illinois
— Dallas, Texas
— Indianapolis, Indiana
— Cincinnati, Ohio
— Atlanta, Georgia
The top 10 states in the U.S. where international students attend college or university, according to the Institute of International Education, are:
— New York
Evidence of bedbugs includes small blood smears on sheets, a musty odor, reddish-brown blood spots on a mattress, and bedbugs themselves.
In dorm rooms, they tend to live in dressers, clothes, floorboards, couches and mattresses. When fully grown, bedbugs resemble the size, shape and color of an apple seed, but students should also be on the lookout for recently hatched, cream-colored bedbugs (nymphs) hiding in their fitted sheets, Terminix advised.
To deal with bedbugs, the company recommends a thorough search of the dorm room or apartment on move-in day. Lift mattresses, move furniture and peek behind headboards for any signs of infestation, including discarded shells (molted exoskeletons); live or dead bugs at mattress seams or furniture joints; a sweet, musty odor; or small bloodstains from previous bite victims.
Put the mattress, pillows and box spring in protective cases.
“Resist the temptation to pick up discarded furniture. Although a free futon might be appealing, a lurking bedbug infestation is not,” the Memphis, Tennessee-based company reported in a press release.
“Never leave backpacks or clothing on, under or near your bed, chairs or upholstered furniture in your room or rooms you are visiting — it's an easy way to unknowingly transfer hitchhiker bedbugs. Don't let your backpack come into contact with others — brief contact with an infested backpack can be an unwanted pest's invitation to tag along,” Terminix said.
Bedbugs are usually treated with chemicals, but they are showing resistance to traditional types. Researchers from Purdue University in Indiana have found some essential oils can help to thwart bedbugs that have become resistant to other measures. High-heat treatments are becoming more widely employed, but students are advised to let extermination professionals conduct them.
"This is not a turn-up-the-heater and goes-out-to-lunch solution, but it can be accomplished in one appointment,” Georgia-based NextGen Pest Solutions said on its website.
“Licensed professionals with specialized equipment will heat your room to between 57.2 degrees Celsius (135°F) and 62.7 degrees Celsius (145°F). Thermometers are placed around the room and watched closely to ensure the air is heated enough to kill bedbugs but not hot enough to cause damage,” such as destroying computer and music equipment, NextGen said on its website.
VOA Student Union contributed to this report.