Orkin’s Top 10 Back to School Checklist

Proper precautions can help ensure pest-free living quarters

Back to school season is upon us, and if you are not careful, you may unknowingly invite pests into your new home, or transport pests from your parents’ or friends’ homes. Anything from bed bugs to rodents can reside where you do, because they are all looking for the basic necessities—food, water and shelter. Dr. Ron Harrison, entomologist and technical services director at Orkin, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rollins Inc. (NYSE: ROL), has the top 10 things to remember when heading off to college.

  1. Inspect your room/apartment/house thoroughly.
    Before you move in, inspect every inch of your dorm room or apartment. Bed bugs, cockroaches, ants or other pests could have established themselves during summer camp activities. Also, be sure to check around windows and doors for cracks and crevices where spiders could find their way in. Mice can fit into an opening the size of a dime, so also be sure to look for gaps under doors.
  2. Do not take pests with you.
    It is very easy to transport bed bugs, cockroaches or even clothes moths. When packing belongings to take back to school, make sure you do not unknowingly take an infestation with you. Also, when packing food, look for stored product pests like cigarette or flour beetles that can make their way into your new home.
  3. Roommates, friends and even acquaintances can introduce pests to your living space.
    It is also very easy to unknowingly bring bed bugs with you to a friend’s home, the library or even a classroom. They are great hitchhikers, but knowing what to look for can help prevent future challenges.
  4. Be cautious of where you get furniture.
    Take great precautions when buying or accepting used furniture. Bed bugs can live up to a year without a blood meal, especially on soft furniture like mattresses and couches, so be careful when buying one of these items secondhand.
  5. Beware of friends’ hygiene and grooming habits.
    Watch for bed bugs, lice and scabies when having people over or staying at a friend’s place. Bed bugs do not like hair, but they can find their way into a purse or overnight bag and make their way back to your home. Head and pubic lice, on the other hand, require some hair to live, while body lice make their homes on the person. Scabies can live on the person or in a bed.
  6. Locker rooms at gyms or physical education centers can be a great place to pick up pests.
    Lice, bed bugs or cockroaches in only one person’s gym bag can wreak havoc on you or your home. Lice and bed bugs are great hitchhikers and can easily make their way through lockers, into your bag and eventually to your home. Be careful where you leave your towel, clothing and other gym equipment.
  7. People from different backgrounds and cultures may have a different tolerance for pests.
    Diverse backgrounds could mean your roommates and/or friends were subjected to a variety of pests before going to college, so their tolerance could be higher than yours. Also, in some cultures, pests like spiders are considered good luck.
  8. Watch out for summer pests during the day and at dusk.
    Some late-summer outdoor college activities are held at dusk, and mosquitoes may still be active in the early fall months. Flying, stinging insects like bees, wasps and yellow jackets can pose health threats, too, if you are sunbathing, eating outside or playing sports in grassy areas.
  9. Keep your living space clean.
    Keep garbage cans emptied, and throw away used cups, cans and bottles. Empty the trash often, especially during warmer months because rats, cockroaches, flies and other disease-carrying pests are drawn to filth. It is also important that you and your roommate(s) do not leave clothing in piles, since some pests like spiders, scorpions and cockroaches thrive in that environment. Natural fibers like wool, cashmere and silk can also be a food source for carpet beetles and clothes moths, so it is best to leave these hanging in a closet and not on the floor or in a drawer.
  10. Educate yourself on pests found where you are moving.
    For example, if you are moving from the north to the south, you may have never seen or encountered fire ants before; and if you are heading northward, ticks are more prevalent.

“Be cautious of what you do,” said Harrison. “Think about all of these things and the challenges each one presents. Do not attempt to treat yourself or an infestation with over-the-counter products. Talk to your landlord or housing director if you think you have an infestation. We recommend they call a pest control professional.”