The worst kind of roommate
by Devin Ayotte
When Mount Royal University journalism student Nichole McKenzie moved into her new apartment this past summer, she had no idea how many roommates she would be shar- ing it with. McKenzie is one of a growing number of students feeling the pinch as bedbugs run rampant throughout rental properties and university residences. At first, McKenzie said, she had no idea she had bedbugs. “I first noticed about a month after I moved into my apartment. It was summer so I thought it might be mosquito bites.
“But when it started to get cold out and I was still getting bites I knew it had to be bedbugs. So I contacted my building manager and they had to come spray it.” According to Keith Petrie at Cal-Rid, a local exterminator often contracted by Mount Royal and Residence Services to deal with pests, McKenzie’s experience is typical of first-time sufferers. “A lot of people let it get too far because they didn’t know what was happening,” he said.
And once you’ve got them, Petrie said, it can be extremely difficult to lose them — a bedbug can live from 12 to 18 months on a single bite of blood, and newly hatched bedbugs are capable of feeding on the human blood from their parents. Different people will react in different ways to the saliva in the bug bites, varying from an unnoticeable mark to some- thing resembling a mosquito bite. “(It) doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, dirty (or) clean,” Petrie said, adding there’s not much you can do to avoid a bedbug infestation. The pesky insects can hide anywhere. Petrie has found bedbugs in closets, mattresses, pillows, books, even crawling around inside a prosthetic leg.
“(To) most people I would just say, if you’re going to someone’s house, don’t lay your coat on their chesterfield.” Infestations are on the rise. Cal-Rid has been seeing a steady increase in bedbug-related cases over the last decade, and now Petrie said they often treat as many as 50 units in a single day. Studies suggest that the reason North America in general is seeing a resurgence in bedbug infestations is because the pest has developed a resistance to traditionally used pesticides.
Although no one from Residence Services was available for comment on whether the pests have infiltrated Mount Royal, a recent Macleans article quoted Chris Rogerson, associate director of Residence Life at Simon Fraser University, saying that “no multi-unit housing provider” is immune from the problem. The same article cites cases at both the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta, the latter of which was forced to evacuate and treat an entire 20-storey residence complex in 2008.
McKenzie’s building manager was not so thorough — although her apartment was sprayed, she was still forced to move at the beginning of the school year to escape the pests. “It was right at the beginning of school. It was kind of a pain, but you manage.” The trouble, she said, was cutting off the bedbugs’ means of it. following her. “The worst part is that you have to go through all of your stuff and get rid of “When I move into a new apartment, I (will) have to buy all new furniture and everything.”
The psychological impact of the bugs can also be trying. “I had a hard time sleeping at night and stuff. And I still don’t like to sleep without a light on,” McKenzie said. According to Petrie, workers at Cal-Rid often begin their day listening to an answering machine full of late-night calls from people desperate to have their homes treated. Some of them, he says, are past clients who continue to feel the bugs long after they have been thoroughlyexterminated. “Those bugs are very ingenious.”