Insect infestations plague R-MC students

During the 2013-2014 school year, several students at Randolph-Macon have encountered insect infestations in their places of residency.

The bugs, including bed bugs, cockroaches, and termites, have forced students out of their rooms and caused major health hazards.

Three weeks into the school year, junior Chris Hamilton noticed several spots on his arm resembling insect bites. He went to the campus health center and was told that he might be experiencing an allergic reaction. Soon, basketball teammates began to notice similar bites. The health center told him that it could be chicken pox.
Hamilton and his teammate were then quarantined in their dorm room for a week.

“In this time of solidarity, I see a little critter on my desk. Before ending his life, I took a picture and showed it to the health center, which instantly told me I had bed bugs.”

Hamilton’s room was heat treated for the bugs and he and his roommate were told that the infestation was taken care of. Within a week, two more rooms on Hamilton’s hall noticed bugs and had their rooms treated.

“No bugs were ever found in my teammates room who was quarantined, until they rearranged their furniture one day and un lofted their beds to discover bugs living in the wood,” Hamilton says. “The quarantine part was obviously atrocious, because I was stuck in there, but once they knew what it was they treated it swiftly.”

Each room that experienced problems was treated at least twice, and the bed bug infestation on the first floor of Conrad ended.

Thomas Dwyer, who works with Randolph-Macon’s Physical Plant, says that bed bug infestations have occurred in at least 6 dorms at R-MC other than Conrad, which had far more bed bugs than any other dorm.

“We suspect that the bed bug infestations started in Conrad early in the fall semester and weren’t brought to our attention before the bed bugs had multiplied and transported to rooms in Conrad and several other dorms,” Dwyer says.

The way bed bugs spread is by attaching themselves to luggage or other personal items that are then brought to new locations. They then lay eggs in the new location and the process begins again.

Randoph-Macon sees up to 5 isolated cases of bed bugs per school year, which Dwyer says is on par with other colleges and universities.

“Bed bugs are the only pests that seemed to show increased activity this year,” Dwyer says. “I’m hoping this year was just unusual.”

Randolph-Macon utilizes a contractor that uses a heat process that raises the temperature in the infested space to above 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Bed bugs are drawn to the heat and their eggs are destroyed.

Jordan McConnell, a junior, lives in the Conrad apartment located on the first floor of Conrad Hall with roommates Bailey Troia and Rachel Leigh. The apartment underwent bedbug treatment with the rest of the floor, but concerns remained about other insects and maintenance issues. McConnell and her roommates filed three work orders with Physical Plant but did not receive assistance until April 23, when their apartment flooded.

McConnell says that throughout the year, she and her roommates noticed small bugs living in their kitchen, which she says “probably is from the 1960’s.”

McConnell spotted insects living inside their refrigerator and had filed complaints with R-MC. The bugs were noticed in April when help arrived for their flooding apartment.

“A school affiliated bug expert came and looked around the APT,” McConnell says. “They moved the fridge and suddenly hundreds of bugs fell out.”

The bugs were identified as German cockroaches, which had been breeding in cardboard boxes and in the coils of the refrigerator. According to Pennsylvania State University’s Entomology website, German cockroaches often carry disease-producing organisms that can cause various forms of gastroenteritis and allergens.

“They blamed it on us,” McConnell says. “They said we probably brought them in through beer boxes or something, but we never used the fridge and couldn’t move it ourselves.”

McConnell says that Wade Felty, who works in the office of Residence Life and Housing, was the most helpful to work with while other members of college administration turned a blind eye.

“Dean Azell told us, ‘this happens, I’m from Florida and I’m used to cockroaches’,” says McConnell.

McConnell says that because of their schedules, no one from Randolph-Macon assisted her and her roommates when they were required to move out of the apartment after washing everything in it. McConnell, Troia, and Leigh are currently being reimbursed by the college for the laundry detergent, but had to get rid of their Keurig coffee maker, couch, and microwave.

The three ladies are now living in Freshman Village.

Wade Felty says that his role in aiding students that have been affected by pests is to help students find accommodations during treatment and assist in preparing their room for treatment. Most items must be left in rooms while treatment takes place, as bed bugs cling to items. Students are given an instruction sheet and a 24/7 contact person from the office of Residence Life and Housing.

Felty says that if students suspect bed bugs they must notify Residence Life and Housing immediately and attempt to contain a bug in a zip lock bag or bottle without picking it up. If the situation occurs after hours, the student should call Campus Safety and an on-call professional with Residence Life will assist them.

-May McNeil ’16, Junior Features Editor

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