Bed bugs and captain’s beds

25 years ago I stayed in a dormitory while attending a college. Way back then the beds of choice were captain’s beds with drawers underneath for clothing. At the time I thought that was an excellent use of space for a small room and I certainly made use of those handy drawers. I had an opportunity to tour a dormatory yesterday that was having some difficulties with bed bugs. And those drawers I considered so handy 25 years ago suddenly filled me with great apprehension.

The difficulty with bed bugs is that bed bug infestations start with all or most of the activity being centered on the bed. As the infestation grows the bugs move out from the bed in concentric circles. Bed bugs also have very specific likes and dislikes for harbourage substrates with rough/raw wood and cloth being favoured materials. Now if you take a captain’s bed, even with a small infestation, the likelihood of infesting the clothing in those drawers is very high as it contains a check list of everything the bed bug is looking for – very close to the host, hidden and dark, nice folds in the cloth that make ideal crevices in which to hide, and nice cloth substrates.

Sooooo, what happens when that student gets bed bugs and starts wearing the clothes so conveniently stored under the bed? The student will, without question or debate, inadvertently start infesting all the places he/she normally attends. That means classrooms, lunchrooms, libraries, friends in other areas of the dorm, mom and dad’s house, etc will all be at high risk of infestation. And if mattress encasements are used the risks are even higher because even more bugs will be pushed to the clothing. A single small case of bed bugs could cause a tremendous amount of damage in a short time.

An Integrated Pest Management plan should include altering the environment so that less harm transpires when an infestation does inevitably occur. The captains beds should be replaced with a system that keeps clothing separate from the immediate sleeping areas. This may not be as handy for the students but getting bed bugs unnecessarily is even worse. And the massive cost to the college/university will inevitably be passed down to the students with higher tuition fees, lower education standards, or both. Those captain’s beds just aren’t worth the risk.

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