Increase in bed bug causes a stir for U of I students

Along with midterms, another nuisance has invaded campus: bed bugs.

Local complaints about Cimex lectularius, the formal name for bed bugs, have almost tripled this year compared to years past, said Awais Vaid, epidemiologist for the Champaign Urbana Public Health District, or CUPHD. Vaid said the complaints have been especially at large in the latter half of this year, and officials are unsure of the cause.

“We don’t know if people are just more aware of it now, but we have seen a lot more calls coming in the last six months,” Vaid said.

Phil Nixon, extension entomologist for the University, said cross resistance to insecticides may be the cause of a rise in bed bugs. This type of resistance occurs when the bug slowly adapts to the chemicals of an insecticide that has been repeatedly used, which causes the organism to dodge its effects.

While bed bugs do not carry a specific disease, Vaid said they are considered a nuisance by many because of the bites they leave on human skin.

Nixon said the bites cause skin to look like it has been touched by poison ivy.

Although the insects are only sized at about two to three millimeters, Vaid said the bugs are identifiable by traces they leave behind.

When the bugs bite, they may cause skin to slightly bleed, which will leave minuscule blood spots on a bed sheet. Dead bugs or outer shells can also be found at the site of the bites.

TLC Pest Control Inc., an agency in Champaign, has seen a large increase in campus-related bed bug complaints.

“In the last two years, it’s gone up at least 70 percent,” Milt Nicholas, manager at TLC, said. “I’ve done more jobs in the last two years than in the previous five years.”

Dan Donlon, graduate student, said he has a friend whose room was invaded by bed bugs.

“They got a new mattress from the realtor, and I think the place had to get fumigated,” he said.

Nicholas said people will try to eliminate the insects with home remedies, but he has noticed from experience that this fails. He added that pest control agencies have the proper pesticides and equipment to help rid homes of bed bugs, which may make it better to have the problem fixed by a professional.

But preventative measures can be taken to primarily avoid the entry of bed bugs into a home. Because these insects feed on human blood, they will congregate in places humans usually gather, including couches and futons.

A common way to introduce these areas to bed bugs is through travel, Nixon said. He said it is smart to check hotel mattresses for the bugs when traveling and to avoid leaving suitcases on beds. But above everything, Nixon said it is best to get rid of any clutter where bed bugs can hide.

Vaid said the bugs don’t thrive in a specific season but tend to diminish during cold weather.