Surviving Residence Hall Infestations

blue bag that says "infested with bedbugs"
If you suspect your clothes or other items have been infested with bedbugs, quarantine them in plastic bags before laundering or treating them. Want to learn more? Check out these pictures of insects.

Dorm life can have its ups and downs. Socializing, proximity to classes and the convenience of only having to pay one bill for housing are some of the ups. Bad dining hall food, lines for the showers and infestations represent some of the downside. By infestations, I mean pests like rats, mice, roaches and a scourge that's been on the rise: bedbugs. The presence of any of these vermin doesn't necessarily mean that your residence hall is dirty. The custodial staff is likely doing their best to keep everything clean, but residents have to do their part, too. You might be a neat freak, but that doesn't mean everybody on your hall is.

One ant or bug probably isn't too much to worry about. If your dorm is on the older side or you're located in a particularly woody or rural area, bugs are going to appear no matter how clean the place is. But an infestation is another story.


You could buy traps and try to take care of the problem yourself, but chances are your room isn't the only one affected. Call your RA (resident advisor or assistant) or directly contact the Office of Residence Life to request exterminator services. You may need to make more than one request, but be persistent. Keep in mind that depending on the type of infestation, you may be required to remove everything from your room so the exterminator can do his job. Or you might just need to clear out for a few hours. It may also take more than one treatment to be rid of the pests. Some dorms in the U.S. have experienced particularly severe infestations, especially of bedbugs, that required residents to temporarily relocate.

The best way to deal with infestations is to prevent them from happening in the first place. You can keep most of them at bay by cleaning up food spills immediately and storing all your food in airtight containers. Bedbugs are trickier because they're very small and hard to spot. When you stay in hotels, check for these flat, little bugs in the mattress seams and look for tiny spots of blood on the mattress pad. Check your suitcase, too, before you leave. If you have any suspicions, launder everything in hot water and run it through the dryer (and of course alert the hotel staff if you find anything in your room). Bedbugs are most often spread by people bringing them home or, in your case, back to their dorms, often after a vacation.

Reporting an infestation as soon as you notice it can help keep it from getting any worse.


Author's Note

No dorms for me, but I did live in an on-campus apartment for families. And yes, we did have roaches on occasion. The buildings were very old, and we had lots of people moving in and out all of the time. Sound familiar? The apartments were exterminated on a monthly basis, so I rarely had to deal with more than one bug, thankfully. But I've seen how messy some people can be when it comes to food, and maybe a particularly immature college student hasn't yet learned how to clean up after himself. I'd imagine that finding bugs around might help him clean up his act!

Related Articles


  • Cress, Rebecca. "Several residence halls infested with rodents, ants." The Dartmouth Staff. Feb. 7. 2008. (July 18, 2012)
  • Lloyd, Jennifer. "Bedbugs found in UTSA residence halls." San Antonio Express News. March 22, 2012. (July 18, 2012)
  • Madden, Stephanie, et al. "BED BUGS: Back and Biting Series." Resident Life. 2012. (July 18, 2012)
  • Marush, Gabrielle. "Bed bugs found in five residence halls." The GW Hatchet. Nov. 18, 2010. (July 18, 2012)
  • Telson, Danielle. "Rodents scurry into residence halls." The GW Hatchet. Sept. 8, 2011. (July 18, 2012)
  • University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education. "Bed Bugs!" Sept. 24, 2009. (July 18, 2012)