Rocky Mountain College had an outbreak of bedbugs in one of its residence halls last semester and is continuing to treat two vacant rooms to make sure the pests don't return.
Brad Nason, Rocky's vice president for student life, said Wednesday that the infestation started late last August or early September, in a room in Widenhouse Hall, the biggest dorm on campus, with 175 students.
Bedbugs were found in four rooms, he said, but the whole building had to be treated. One company was brought in early last semester, but the bugs weren't eradicated, so Action Pest Control was contracted to begin a second round of treatments around Thanksgiving.
Over the Christmas break, Nason said, Action Pest Control went in and intensively treated the residence hall, getting into every crack and cranny. Rocky has spent $24,000 so far and will spend another $4,000 to $6,000 before the treatments are over, he said.
Some students had to be relocated to other residence halls, and three occupants of one affected suite were temporarily put up in a hotel until on-campus housing was available.
Nason said school officials have reason to believe that the bedbugs arrived on campus in the luggage of a person he referred to as "student zero." Bedbugs don't transmit diseases, Nason said, but they can cause welts on people exposed to them.
Because bedbugs can lie dormant for nine to 12 months, the two rooms where the bugs were first reported remain vacant and are still being treated. The dormant bugs emerge only if there's a heat source and carbon dioxide present, so Action Pest Control has been trying to lure them out with heating pads and dry ice, which gives off CO2 as it melts.
At Montana State University Billings, bedbugs were reported last spring in one of the 390 rooms on campus, said Jeff Rosenberry, assistant director of housing and student life. He said the problem was treated within 48 hours and there have been no reports of bedbugs since then.
He said MSUB contracts with a pest control company that treats dorm rooms twice a year, during the summer and winter breaks. Those visits include inspections and spraying each room with a non-toxic spray "to ensure that that stuff stays out of the halls," he said.
Barbara Schneeman, director of RiverStone Health, the public health agency for Yellowstone County, said the agency's environmental health division hasn't reported anything out of the ordinary in the past few months in regard to bedbugs.
She said the agency typically gets a couple of reports of bedbugs every month.