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Two thirds of the way through the school year, the last thing on many students’ minds is their living situation. Between midterms, final exams and group meetings, students, especially those in residence, begin to see their rooms as a place to get a few hours of sleep before racing through another day. Unfortunately, some residence rooms are dealing with new, unwanted roommates.

For the past few months, Whidden Hall, a residence in the North Quad of campus, has been contending with an outbreak of bedbugs. Once associated with squalor, bedbugs have become a common pest in recent years, with discoveries of their presence in hotels, movie theatres and on public transit.

For this reason, Kevin Beatty, McMaster’s Director of Housing and Conference Services, is reluctant to call the recent outbreak a problem. “We typically see bedbugs over the course of the year. It’s not uncommon to see them. But what is uncommon in this situation is that there seems to be a bit of a flare-up,” he said. He added that while the current bout has been present in Whidden for a few months, the treatment plan was put in place fairly soon after. “We have a comprehensive bedbug response plan in residence,” he said.

According to Beatty, all Community Advisors in residence are trained in how to deal with the reporting of bedbugs. Within 24 hours of a report being issued, pest control is brought in. “If the pest control company has something called proof of pests, so an actual bedbug or some trace that it exists, then they would take the next steps which would be working with the students to execute the treatment plan.”

This treatment plan involves students washing their bed sheets, clothing and other personal effects in biodegradable plastic bags, which help heat the objects in the washing machine, a process that kills the bedbugs. Pest control also treats the room in question, and comes in 14 days later to re-treat it.

While the initial reaction to the discovery of bugs may be to move to a different location, Beatty explained that this is not an ideal procedure. He said that if students are not present in their environment, the bugs will remain inactive. “The other reason is that you don’t want people to move because one of the challenging aspects of bedbugs is that they’re distributed in social networks … that’s why we advise students not to go home and why we don’t move them.”

At the time that spoke with Beatty, the flare-up was isolated in Whidden. Since then, reports suggest the issue has spread to Bates Residence in the University’s West Quad, but Beatty could not be reached for further comment.

“We typically see bedbugs over the course of the year … But what is uncommon in this situation is that there seems to be a bit of a flare-up.”

For his part, Beatty remains optimistic about the “flare-up” being taken care of quickly and without fanfare. “We’re lucky that residence students are quick to identify which allows us to be quick to respond,” he said.

Photo Credit: Jon White/ Photo Editor

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