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Haverford College
Health Services

News: Bed Bugs

Bed Bug Basics

Bed bug, Cimex lectularius

Bed bug, Cimex lectularius.

It is a worldwide problem

  • Over the last five years bed bugs have re-emerged as a pest throughout the country. See NY Times: Bedbugs Bad for Business? Depends on the Business >
  • Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers and are spread unknowingly by travelers – not because people are unclean or live in certain environments. They are generally brought to into these locations in/on personal belongings such as backpacks, bedding, luggage, and used furniture. Once bed bugs get into a location, they can move through holes, cracks, and crevices in walls to adjoining rooms.

What are Bed Bugs? (Cimex lectularius)

  • Bed bugs are small wingless insects that are visible to the naked eye. There are three main life stages: the whitish egg (about 1 mm in length), five pale juvenile (nymph) stages that range from 1mm to 4.5 mm (1/4 inch), and the adult which can be as long as 7 or 8 mm (3/8 inch). The adult is about the size and shape of an apple seed, and dark red to brown in color and as flat as a credit card before feeding.
  • They feed on the blood of humans and animals. They do not spread disease but their bites are irritating and can produce itching and welts. Most bed bug bites are initially painless, but later turn into large, itchy skin welts. These welts do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites. However, it is important to note that some people do not have any reaction to these bites.
  • Named "bed bugs" because they thrive where people sleep. They are attracted to warmth and carbon dioxide from human breath and are often active just before dawn though they may feed at other times. They can live up to 18 months without feeding.

Are Bed Bugs Dangerous?

  • Although bed bugs are a nuisance, they are not known to spread disease. If a student is concerned about bites or rashes they can call the Student Health Center at 610-898-1089 to make an appointment to be seen. Please do not just walk in. When in doubt, seek advice and get it checked out.

How are Bed Bugs detected?

  • It can be difficult to know for certain if you have bed bugs. Often people notice itchy skin welts, see the bed bugs themselves, notice small bloodstains from crushed insects, or see dark spots associated with their presence. However, it is often hard to see them because they hide in or near beds, other furniture, and in cracks. Favored hiding spots include bed frames, mattresses and box springs; for that reason, we rely on licensed pest control specialists to make a determination, and one is dispatched whenever a report is made of possible case of bed bugs. When in doubt, seek advice and get it checked out.

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How can I prevent Bed Bugs in the first place?

  • Learn to identify bed bugs and be on the lookout for signs of their presence such as blood spots on sheets or an unexplained "rash" on your body.
  • When traveling, take precautions to help prevent bringing bed bugs back with you.
    • Inspect the bed you will be using. Check for blood spots on your sheets. Lift bedding and mattress. Check in seams, between bedposts and slats, and behind headboards. Use a flashlight at night.
    • Check the room, including behind wall hangings.
    • Don't put your suitcase or backpack directly on your bed; whenever possible, elevate them on a luggage rack.
      • Before returning to campus, inspect your clothes and other items before packing.
        • Check crevices in suitcases and backpacks. Check seams and pouches throughout your backpack for bugs or eggs.
        • Do not place your backpack on or under your bed.
        • Clean your luggage and clothing immediately after travel (wash with hot water and use a dryer on the hottest setting). You can also use a steam cleaner on your belongings; bed bugs are killed by heat, not by cold or drugstore insecticides.
      • After returning to campus, re-check all traveling gear and items within when you unpack.
        • Don't put your suitcase or backpack on or under your bed.
  • Other things to do
    • Periodically inspect your bed and your backpack
    • Clean and reduce the clutter in your room to eliminate places for bed bugs to hide during the day.
    • Wash clothes and linens frequently in hot water and dryer to kill any possible bugs. The items should be washed in water 120 degrees or greater, as it is the extreme heat that will actually kill the bed bugs, not the water itself. The same rule applies to drying items. They should also be dried at 120 degrees or greater.
    • Don't bring second-hand furniture items onto campus. They can be common breeding grounds for bed bugs since bed bugs can hide in the tiniest of crevices.
    • You can also purchase a mattress cover to help keep the bugs off your bed.

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What to do -- and not to do -- if you suspect the presence of Bed Bugs

What to do if you suspect the presence of Bed Bugs

  • First, don't panic. Many bites look similar; the large majority of reports turn out to be some other kind of nuisance. Moreover, although bed bugs can be annoying, they can be battled safely and successfully if you adopt a well-considered strategy.
  • Do not delay. Seek advice and help quickly. If you suspect the presence of bed bugs please immediately contact the Office of Residential Life (610-896-1298 or Monday – Friday 9:00am-5:00pm. Arrangements will be made for inspection and detection by a professional management team to gain control in an efficient manner. Outside of these hours, please call Safety & Security at 610-896-1111. They will contact the appropriate on call people.
  • If you have bites or a rash, please call the Student Health Services, Morris Hall, 610-896-1089 to set up an appointment to be seen. Please do not just walk in. While the bites cannot be definitively confirmed as "bed bug bites," and there is no blood test to confirm if bites are from a bed bug, it is important to rule out any other skin conditions.
  • If you see bugs, and are able, please try to capture them on a piece of clear sticky tape or on a tissue (uncrushed) it will assist the exterminator in determining what pest is in your room. Insects found where you live could be one of many things.

What NOT to do if you suspect the presence of Bed Bugs

  • Do not remove any items from your room. If items are removed they could possibly spread bed bugs to other areas of the building. Mattresses or other items suspected of being infested should NOT be out in hallway or other common areas as this may spread infestation.
  • Do not attempt to control the bed bugs on your own. Notify the Housing Office. A detailed protocol is in place which includes an assessment by a contracted pest control vendor.
  • Do not relocate yourself to another room you could possibly spread bed bugs to other areas of the building.
  • Do not wait to let us know. Bed bugs do not go away on their own and delays make it harder to get the problem under control.

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What happens after you report a suspicion of Bed Bugs?

Haverford College takes this problem very seriously and has an integrated pest management program in place to deal with it. Immediately upon receiving any report of a suspicion of bed bugs, a formal inspection will be made of the room. The College employs a licensed, experienced pest control management company whose employees are trained to identify and eradicate bed bugs.

If you have questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact the Office of Residential Life via telephone 610-896-1298 or email If you have medical questions or concerns or need to make an appointment to be seen, please call Haverford College Student Health Services at 610-896-1089.

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