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College-bound: pests to look for in your dorm room

The last thing you want to deal with two weeks after settling into your new dorm room is the discovery of an unexpected roommate – one that has more than two legs, anyway. It seems the prospect of going to college is appealing to not only the human race but to certain insects, as well; more and more cases of bug infestations in dorm rooms are being reported in college towns such as Seattle. Bed bugs, silverfish, and flies or gnats are three of the pests dorm room dwellers find most frequently in their cozy bungalows.

When moving on campus for the school year, save yourself some trouble; before you unpack your boxes, take a quick look around your room to see if these pests (or any others) have been camping out in your dorm room during the summer:

Bed bugs

Whether you’re enrolled in New York City or Seattle, bed bugs love cramped spaces where there is a lot of humanity per square foot. These blood-sucking mattress inhabitants can survive up to a year without a dose of O-negative, so do not assume your dorm room is bed bug-free just because it has been vacant all summer.

Inspect the mattress closely before you apply any bedding, and use a flashlight to poke into all the nooks and crannies of your room, including around the baseboards. If you haven’t already purchased a bed bug-proof mattress cover, consider investing in one. Fully grown bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed, but their earlier stages are difficult to see with the naked eye.

Close-up of a woman with magnifying glass detecting bed bug in bedroom

After you move in, be aware of any tiny black spots that appear on your sheets and pillow. Teeny bite marks or an itchy rash on the back of your neck are also good indicators that something else is sleeping in the bed with you. If all the tell-tale signs are there, inform the dormitory hall personnel immediately and begin de-bugging your bedding, clothing and even your shoes by giving them a good dose of a high-heat cycle (over 130 degrees) in the dryer for 20 minutes. Quick action and thorough treatment is advised to rid of every last bed bug. Seattle-bound students would be wise to check any old furniture and luggage, too, as bed bugs also enjoy travel.


No, that’s not an overly hairy centipede you see; it’s most likely a pest known as a silverfish. The scales on these pests range from brown to silver (hence the name). They eat paper and glue and can often be found where books are abundant and infrequently used.

Silverfish feeding on a white piece of paper

Silverfish are attracted to environments that are very moist and very warm – between 70-80 degrees – which is why they find themselves quite at home in dorm rooms during the late spring and early summer months. Pest control for these nuisances involves reducing moisture in the room and cutting off their water sources. To discourage silverfish, it’s a good idea to make it a habit not to leave your used bath towels and wet clothes discarded on the floor. Hang them up to dry before you toss them in the hamper (a damp hamper is like the Hilton to silverfish).

Flies & gnats

These winged annoyances are another common pest problem in dorms – and are perhaps the most frustrating because they are difficult to get rid of once they are present. Flies will swarm around any food or decaying organisms, and even if you think you’re suave by tossing out your trash every night, you’re most likely neglecting the errant crumbs that end up into the smallest corners of your already small abode. Pass a hand-held vacuum over the floor and under furniture often.

Fly on a piece of watermelon and pineapple on a white plate.

Gnats are smaller versions of flies, and they take a more vegetarian approach to consumption, concentrating mostly on anything liquid. That half-full cup of water that’s been sitting on the window sill for the last week is a buffet for gnats; leaky pipes and shower stalls are also common hangout areas for gnats. Keep your room clean and free of trash and dirty dishes. And buy a fly swatter just in case.

You are not alone in this battle against insect enrollment at college. Complaints of pest infestations in dorm rooms have swarmed into maintenance by the hundreds. Pest control for any of these insects is often much easier if you address the problem immediately.

Dorm room

Dorm room occupants can take simple measures to ensure their rooms do not play host to a party of bothersome pests. Dusting, patching holes in screens, securing food in proper containers, and even filling in the space between the door and the floor can help protect your dorm room from pests and keep the roommates strictly limited to human form. And remember, if you notice any of these pests in your dorm room, you should notify your resident assistant immediately – contacting your building’s pest control provider is the best solution to your dorm pest problems.

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