Bed Bugs: Frequently Asked Questions

What are bed bugs?

Bed bugs are tiny parasitic insects that, like fleas or mosquitoes, live on the blood of animals or humans. While they do not spread disease, the presence of bed bugs and their resulting bites are becoming more of a nuisance in community housing buildings such as hotels, dormitories, and hostels where travelers unknowingly spread them around.

About the size of a grain of rice or smaller, and ranging in color from translucent to dark brown, bed bugs may enter a room undetected on clothing, luggage, or used furniture. For example, a traveler may pick up bed bugs in a hotel and transport them home in their luggage.

Bed bugs do not fly, but can travel across floors or through wall openings (e.g. outlets), are nocturnal, and like to hide in mattresses, box springs, and bedframes.

Did I attract them by leaving food in my room?

No, bed bugs feed only on blood. The presence of bedbugs is not related to food or the dirtiness of a room.

What do their bites look like and what are the related symptoms?

A rash or trail of small red bites may be a sign of bed bugs. Whereas flea bites usually occur on the lower legs, bed bug bites may occur on any area of skin exposed during the night. Many people experience red bumps or bites, but there are some who exhibit no symptoms. Other signs of their presence include small dark brown spots on linens and mattresses.

What should I do if I suspect there are bed bugs in my room?

Immediately tell the Unit Manager or send a work order request to maintenance.housing.berkeley.edu. You should also take immediate precautions not to spread them beyond your living space. This means you should inspect your clothing and personal belongings closely. They can hide in pants cuffs, in USB ports on laptops, and in the seams of backpacks. Reducing their hiding spots will help improve eradication efforts. Talk with your roommate and let them know of your concern.

My roommate has bites, but I don't. Does my stuff have to go through treatment, too?

Yes, if your room is confirmed to have bed bugs. Bed bugs travel quickly, especially around food sources, and won’t stay on one side of the room. In order to eliminate them, all treatment steps must be followed by all residents.

How did bed bugs end up in my room?

There's no simple answer to that. In the past few years, bed bugs have become an international issue. Across the US, five-star hotels, universities and many multi-unit buildings have had to deal with bed bugs. Because they are so small, they're hard to spot unless you're looking for them. When you travel, they can latch on to your belongings and by the time symptoms develop, you've moved to another location.

How does Cal Housing treat bed bugs?

Cal Housing takes bed bugs seriously. When you alert our staff to the possibility of their presence, we send out campus Pest Control to do an analysis during business hours, Monday through Friday. The professionals will ask to have access to your room, and they will perform various tests to confirm possible infestation. They work with contracted Pest Control companies who bring specialized equipment on site to treat your room.

Treatment will vary depending on the specifics of your location, but may include heat treatment, freezing, and chemical applications.

The chemicals are laid down after a heat treatment to reduce the likelihood of re-infestation. They are typically applied along the baseboards of the room and, while harmful if ingested, are safe once applied. They will always be applied by professionals, when there is no occupant present.

How do I prevent re-infestation and spreading them to other rooms?

One of the most important things you can do is to follow all instructions provided by Pest Control. They will give you a list of tasks to prepare for their visit. Even if you're not personally experiencing bites, it is vital to follow all instructions to the letter.

Inspect the 'cracks and crevices' of your belongings before you leave your room. When you do your laundry, be conscious of where and how you leave your belongings. Bags should not be left on the floor. All clothing must be washed and dried at high temperatures.

Let your neighbors know what to look for, so we can readily identify the extent of treatment.

Do I need to stay away from my friends?

No, you do not need to stay away from them, but be conscious of your belongings. Be considerate of their space and let them know that you are being treated. Help educate them on what to look for, and let them know that it's a common problem occurring across the country. It has nothing to do with your cleanliness habits.

Do I need to avoid public places?

No, you do not need to avoid public places, but again: check your clothes and belongings before leaving your room to minimize the possibility of spreading an infestation. Bed bugs, while they can live up to 18 months without feeding, do not like bright light, heat or extreme cold. Typically, public spaces do not provide the optimal environment for them.

My neighbor has bed bugs. Why is my room being treated?

Bed bugs will seek out optimal territory and because of their small size, they can easily travel in minute cracks between walls. Studies show that they are much more likely to spread from one room to connecting rooms if the environment is favorable. Cal Housing's aggressive eradication program depends on containing and eliminating all bed bugs at once. Otherwise, the potential for re-infestation grows to near certainty.

Do I need to get rid of my belongings?

Not usually. In most cases heat treatment will be sufficient. However, it is advised that you do not bring delicate or valuable items with you if it's avoidable. The full answer on this question will vary depending on the circumstance.

How long will it take to get rid of the bed bugs?

Depending on the nature of your location and the extent of the infestation, Pest Control will be able to initiate treatment of the affected area within two weeks.

Common misconceptions about the presence of bed bugs

Some people still believe that bed bugs are the result of negligent housekeeping. This is simply untrue. Bed bugs have become resistant to many chemicals traditionally used to treat them, and over the last few years a more mobile population, unprepared for them, have unknowingly spread them across the country.

Having bed bugs is not a shameful thing. Due to the nature of their feeding patterns, it's nearly impossible to pinpoint the origin of an infestation, particularly in large residential structures with high population turnover. While it's unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of the pest, it is through no one's fault. In the race between pest and chemical treatment, it is a challenge to find new methods of eradication.

Bed bugs do not transmit disease. Although they bite much like mosquitoes, no test has ever shown a link between bed bugs and disease.

Treatment

Because bed bugs have built up a resistance to traditional chemicals, most professional Pest Control companies use a combination of treatment types. High heat, freezing cold, certain desiccating chemicals, and pheromone traps are all used, in concert with vigilance and education, to eradicate the pests.

What won't work

Some companies advertise an off-the-shelf spray that will kill bed bugs along with many other pests. These will not work because bed bugs have built up a tolerance to the chemicals. To truly ensure eradication, professional Pest Management must be involved.

Can I change rooms? Can I stay in a hotel at the University's expense?

Our policy is not to move affected students. While we acknowledge that co-existing with the pests, however temporarily, can be unpleasant, transferring affected students would mean spreading the infestation.