What You Should Know About Bed Bugs

It is a Worldwide Problem

Bedbugs are a growing, worldwide problem brought about by increased travel and decreased use of pesticides. Bedbugs have been found in five-star hotels, college residence halls, hospitals, and virtually all other types of housing throughout the United States. Given the nearly 30,000 students and summer visitors from around the world who live in Student Housing each year, we are fortunate to have had very few cases since bedbugs resurfaced on a large scale in the United States a few years ago. Our peer Ivy League and University of California schools have also reported cases of bedbugs.

What are Bedbugs? 

Bedbugs are small, flat, oval, wingless insects (about one-fifth of an inch) that are visible to the naked eye. They crawl at a steady rate. Like mosquitoes, they bite humans to feed on blood, but unlike mosquitoes, they do not transmit disease. They are hardy creatures that can live for up to 18 months without feeding and are able to withstand extreme temperature changes. They are nocturnal. During the day, they hide in crevices, bed frames, mattresses and box springs, behind electrical outlet covers and picture frames, inside drawers of furniture, within pleats of curtains, in clothes discarded on the floor, and in other spaces where they are not easily detected. They are called bedbugs because they thrive best in beds where people sleep. The first sign of a bedbug is often a rash or bite mark and blood spots on linens.

How are Bedbugs Brought onto Campus? 

Bedbugs are generally not carried on your person, but they can be carried in personal possessions such as bedding, suitcases, backpacks, boxes, and furniture.

What Does R&DE Student Housing Do When Bedbugs are Discovered? 

R&DE Student Housing takes the issue of bedbugs very seriously and has an integrated pest management program in place to deal with cases as soon as they are discovered. We employ Crane Pest Control, a licensed, experienced pest control management company, whose employees are trained to identify and eradicate bedbugs. When a case is confirmed, we determine the appropriate course of action based on the severity of the outbreak. In some cases, it is necessary to relocate the affected students while a room is treated. Crane inspects all personal items in the room and bags them for transport. Clothes need to be laundered or dry cleaned. Except in very unusual cases, all personal items are returned to students as quickly as possible. Carpeting and furniture will be removed if infested. The entire room is generally treated and then restored before students return. The room will be inspected at regular intervals after treatment to ensure that all pests have been eliminated. Our aggressive pest management program allows us to eradicate bedbugs so we do not have repeat incidents in the same rooms.

We understand the stress and burden this problem can create for affected students, and we try to respond sensitively, to assist students with academic issues, to restore their personal possessions as quickly as possible, and to move students back to their rooms as soon as we are confident that the problem has been resolved.

What is R&DE Student Housing Doing to Prevent Bedbugs? 

In addition to our response protocol to individual cases, Student Housing is engaged in ongoing proactive measures to prevent and contain future cases. These include educational materials for students, staff training, partnership with Vaden Health Services and Stanford’s Environmental Health and Safety office, sharing best practices with peer institutions in the Ivy League and University of California system, and investigation of effective preventative treatments. We have also begun new inspection procedures to identify bedbugs after residents move out and before new residents move in.

What Can I Do to Help? 

Though bedbugs are very rare at Stanford, and we have had only a few isolated cases in recent years, we need your assistance to avert and contain future cases. As bedbugs are brought into buildings in the belongings of people, here is what you can do to help:

  • Learn to identify bedbugs. Review the section of this fact sheet that describes bedbugs and consult other resources listed below so you can identify bedbugs. Also be on the lookout for signs of their presence such as blood spots on sheets or an unexplained “rash” on your body.
  • If you discover or suspect bedbugs, immediately contact Student Housing. Do not attempt to eradicate them yourself. Successful treatment must be carried out by a trained professional. Contact your local Housing Building Manager or Front Desk Supervisor. After hours, please call our maintenance emergency line at 5-1602.
  • Seek assistance at Vaden Health Center without delay if you find a rash or marks on your body or blood spots on your sheets. Vaden has protocols in place to identify bedbug bites and is directing students to notify their Student Housing staff of possible cases.
  • Inspect your bed periodically. 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.
  • Inspect your backpack periodically. Bedbugs can hide in backpacks. Check seams and pouches throughout your backpack for bugs or eggs. Do not place your backpack on or under your bed.
  • Clean and reduce the clutter in your room to eliminate places for bedbugs to hide during the day.
  • Wash clothes and linens frequently in hot water and dryer to kill any possible bugs.
  • Don't bring second-hand furniture items onto campus. They can be common breeding grounds for bedbugs.
  • When traveling, take precautions to help prevent bringing bedbugs back to campus with you. Inspect the bed you will be using as described above. 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.
  • After returning to campus, recheck all traveling gear and items within when you unpack. Don’t put your suitcase or backpack on or under your bed.

Other Resources

There are many good resources on bedbugs. Check the web sites listed below or do a keyword search in your favorite internet search portal such as Google or Yahoo.

Further questions

If you have further questions, contact your local Housing Building Manager or Front Desk Supervisor.

Our commitment to you

We hope that the information in this fact sheet provides you a better understanding of this problem, the actions R&DE Student Housing is taking to address it, and what you can do to help. Providing a safe living environment for our students and residential visitors is our highest priority. Please know that everyone in Residential and Dining Enterprises is committed to doing everything practicable to manage the impact of this worldwide problem on our campus.