No cases of bedbugs have been reported on campus this semester, after an infestation in a graduate student dorm resulted in the University updating its protocol on combating the insects.
Between October 2015 and April 2016, at least six cases of bedbugs were reported in ES Harkness Hall, a residential building that houses up to 172 of Yale’s graduate and medical students. The incident came to a head in April, when the University was forced to relocate students visiting campus for the medical school’s admitted students weekend to a local hotel. The same month, Yale revised its bedbug policy with information on how to prevent future infestations and measures that dormitory occupants and Office of Facilities representatives must take in the event of an infestation.
But Gale Ridge, an epidemiologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station’s Department of Entomology who helped develop the University’s new bedbug policy after last year’s infestations, said the University may not have had an actual policy on bedbugs prior to the Harkness infestations.
“I think it was generally putting out brush fires and not really talking about it,” she said. “I think a new policy of more open conversation, making people aware that this is something we live with now, ensures that people report quickly, which makes it much more difficult for these populations to establish in a dorm situation.”
Before the new policy, George Longyear, director of graduate and professional student housing, sent buildingwide emails regarding insect sightings to Harkness residents. Many of these emails, however, went unnoticed. On one occasion, printed copies of Longyear’s email were slipped under residents’ doors.
Ridge said she believes that early reporting by residents could be key to fighting future infestations.
“If you’re quick, the insects don’t establish a population, and you’ll never have a problem,” she said. “[The issue] is the social stigma and anxiety toward the insects. It’s a psychological problem.”
In addition to increased student-administration communication, Ridge advised residents to keep their living spaces tidy. Bedbugs are building insects and prefer to find hiding places in small crevices and cracks, Ridge said. As a result, they thrive in cluttered areas.
Maintaining a clean room also expedites inspections, Ridge added.
Bedbugs are fairly temperature sensitive and are usually more active in the fall and spring, although the development of central heating has allowed the insects to maintain activity in the winter.
Students interviewed said the hasty reorganization of nearly 30 admitted students may have been the final straw for administration to take action in fighting bedbugs.
“There was a range of reactions,” said Kayla Isaacs MED ’19, who lived in Harkness at the time. “Some people sort of thought the whole thing got blown out of proportion, but people were concerned.”
“The fact that the administration had to do that really put pressure on the Office of Facilities to make sure that they were taking care of this,” Isaacs said. “[They were] slow to react, but ultimately, they reacted in the best way possible.”
Isaacs recalled that during last year’s infestations, students had to pick up traps themselves.
ES Harkness Hall was built in 1955.