The University of Colorado has handled an onset of bed bug infestations in its campus housing units over the past year, with most of the critters concentrated in family housing apartments.
CU officials this year have treated 37 family housing and Bear Creek apartment units for bed bugs and another five of its 2,900 dorm rooms. There was also an episode in the Engineering Building.
"Right now, the problem is more centered in our family housing than anywhere else on campus," said CU spokesman Bronson Hilliard.
CU officials suspect the bed bugs are more prevalent in family housing partly because residents there tend to engage in more international travel.
The university -- to address the infestations -- has purchased "Thermal Remediation" equipment, spending about $45,000 on the technology. The equipment heats up rooms to at least 120 degrees, drawing out the hard-to-see, mostly nocturnal, bugs and incinerates them.
Representatives from the company brought bed bug-sniffing dogs to treated CU apartments to attest for their equipment, and to prove to campus officials that the pests have been entirely removed following the heat treatment, said Craig Schuck, manager for maintenance and grounds with CU's Housing and Dining Services.
Researchers at the University of Florida have found that well-trained dogs can detect a live bug or egg with more than 95 percent accuracy.
Schuck said the cutting-edge treatment is highly effective.
On Tuesday morning, crews treated two units for bed bugs in Newton Court -- a family housing complex that is on the corner of Folsom Street and Arapahoe Avenue.
Lakshmi Nimishakavi, who lives in a Newton Court apartment with her husband and 8-month-old daughter, said she’s never had a problem with the insects in the two years they’ve lived there. But now that she’s learned some of her neighbors have found bed bugs in their apartments, she’ll be checking hers vigilantly.
"We are very happy here,” said her husband, Aravind Vasanth. “We wouldn’t want to have to move.”
Bed bugs -- parasitic insects that were nearly eradicated in the United States because of the use of DDT, a chemical that's since been banned in the U.S. -- have made a resurgence in the recent years. The apple-seed-sized insects are showing up in hotels, homeless shelters, dorm rooms, and, most recently, infesting stores in a New York City mall.
"There has been a slow, gradual reappearance of this particular pest," Schuck said.
The National Pest Management Association last month reported that it has seen a 71 percent increase in bed bug infestations since 2001, mainly due to international travel.
The problem at CU mirrors a national trend in university housing, according to experts, and college campuses are particularly susceptible because the hitch-hiking pests can travel with students and their suitcases during move-in, when they study abroad, or travel during school breaks.
James Baumann, a spokesman for the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, said over the past two years the topic of bed bugs in the residence halls has emerged at conferences and webinars.
"It's not restricted to residence halls," Baumann said. "The hotel industry has been dealing with it, too. Our members have been discussing the best means for prevention and for ridding bed bugs."
While bed bugs do not transmit diseases, their bites can become red, itchy welts.
Curt Huetson, the university's director of facilities planning and operations, said CU inspects dorm rooms for pests before students move into them in August. But housing officials rely on students to report bed bug problems throughout the year.
Huetson said that on some occasions, school officials have learned about bed bugs in a room, and had to negotiate with student-residents to allow them to come in and treat the area.
"They've said 'I'm fine, leave me alone,'" Huetson said. "But they had bites. Varying people react differently."
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