Housing faces constant battle with pests

Feb 24th, 2012 | By | Category: 2012, Campus News, Feb. 23

To Glen Schumann, the bedbug is another pest on a long list.

“In my 42 years in UNL’s residence halls, the biggest problem has been dealing with cockroaches,” said Schumann, associate director of housing facilities operations. “We also do battle with spiders, crickets, termites, ants, box elder bugs, mice — including the occasional prankster’s white mouse — and now bedbugs.”

He said those battles are similar to those waged in homes around Lincoln — just on a larger scale.

“We work with students and staff to keep our buildings as clean and sanitary as we can,” Schumann said. “We clean every day. We vacuum every day. And we take the trash out all the time. Our goal is to try not to provide a domicile for creatures.

“Unfortunately, the thing that attracts bedbugs is humans. And we can’t go getting rid of them.”

Schumann remembers his parents telling him how they had to get up every morning and take bedding outside to shake out bedbugs. After the development of the pesticide DDT during World War II, bedbugs were nearly wiped out.

“When I was growing up, bedbugs were just a joke, ‘don’t let the bedbugs bite, blah, blah, blah,’” Schumann said. “I guess I first became aware that there might be a problem coming when we started talking about bedbugs at a conference at Texas A&M quite a few years ago.”

Today, some of the southern universities at those conferences have staff and equipment dedicated fulltime to eliminating bedbugs, Schumann said.

UNL is also moving in that direction, having purchased a variety of heating systems — from bags designed for small items like backpacks to the full-sized room units — that eliminate the bugs. Schumann said Housing also plans to purchase a trailer to store and transport the bedbug elimination equipment.

“The trailer is going to serve two functions. First as transportation and storage. And second as a cooker itself,” said Schumann. “It will be insulated and be big enough for us to heat couches, futons and other big items inside of it. It will basically be a cook box on wheels.”

As housing nears the end of the sweep through UNL’s 3,200 residence hall rooms, Schumann said plans are taking shape to prevent future bedbug outbreaks. And, he’s also keeping a close eye on those other pests — including the pigeons.

“They’ve started to sit across the peak and down the roof on the west wing of the Village,” said Schumann. “I counted 60 of them up there one day. Their waste could develop into another real problem that we’ll have to deal with soon.”

— Troy Fedderson, University Communications

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