Bed Bug Policies and Procedures

Williams Policy and Procedures Regarding Bed Bugs in Campus Buildings

Bed bugs are essentially wingless mosquitos—a nuisance but not a major health hazard. Human parasites for thousands of years, bed bugs have become more prevalent recently for a range of reasons, from pesticide resistance to international travel. The following guidelines were developed in collaboration between Williams and a professional pest control company. student Life and Facilities offices consistently observe these guideline and partner closely with students in detection and remediation.

The most important role you, as a student, can play is in preventing bed bug infestation in the first place, and the principal means of prevention is to leave your own mattress at home. The mattresses that Williams provides are bed-bug free: most of them are made of tightly woven material that has no exposed standing seams and therefore no place for beg bugs to hide, and all of them will be similarly covered shortly. They do not contain any chemicals or pesticides. Mattresses from home carry no such guarantees and therefore are no longer allowed in campus residences.

  • Detection
    If you suspect you may have bed bugs, immediately contact Student Life at 413-597-2555. (All Williams staff members who may learn of a potential bed bug issue should also first call Student Life.) After 4:30 pm or on weekends, contact Campus Safety and Security (413-597-4444), who will then notify Student Life, and Student Life will notify Facilities.

    Once your call is reported, a Facilities pest control employee will be dispatched to your room to perform a thorough inspection. Only a Facilities employee can confirm or deny the presence of bed bugs.

    The Facilities employee will examine your mattress, bedding, pillows, mattress pads, and bed frame. They’ll also inspect the area surrounding the bed as well as the walls, molding, carpet molding, behind any posters and wall hangings, and furniture. If there are cobwebs or dust bunnies behind the bed or furniture, those are inspected as well, as they can be a great place to find castings (molted exoskeletons). They’ll also inspect your closet, desk, clothing, and any luggage. Finally, they’ll inspect for droppings, which are typically visible right outside bed bug hiding places. During inspection, you’ll be given a copy of this policy and procedures document.


  • If bed bugs are found...

    1. A professional pest control company will be called in to confirm the findings and develop a treatment plan. Before your room is treated, you’ll be given an information detailing the process and and some steps required of you to protect from further exposure and potentially spreading the infestation. See “Helping Rid Your Room of Bed Bugs” below.
    2. Inspection and potential treatment may include rooms immediately surrounding (including above, below, left, right and across from) your room. This is a precautionary measure: students in these rooms are not required to follow the laundry recommendations unless they, too, have signs of bed bugs.
    3. Your bed will be turned into an “island”: It will be pulled away from the wall and “trap” cups will be placed under each leg of the bed. (Bed bugs cannot fly or jump; they need to walk up the legs of a bed. Trap cups prevent them from doing so.)
    4. Your mattress will be encapsulated with a locking bed cover to seal it off from exposure.
    5. Treatment of infested areas may take more than one application. Follow up inspections will be necessary.
    6. Because these responses are proven to be effective, you’ll not be given an immediate temporary housing room change nor will you be issued a new mattress.
  • If no bed bugs are found...
    1. A bed bug monitoring system will be placed in your room as a precaution. A follow-up inspection will occur after one week of monitoring.
    2. Your room may be treated for other pest problems that may be identified. As with any health issue, if a you continue to experience a skin outbreak you should make an appointment with Health Services
  • Helping Rid Your Room of Bed Bugs
    • Pre-treatment—your floor must be clean and all your personal items bagged in preparation of treatment.
    • Post-treatment—you must launder all your clothing and bedding. Bag all your laundry first to avoid dropping any bed bugs. Place items from the bag directly into washer; if possible, dump all items directly from bag into washer. Tie the emptied bag inside another clean bag sealed and dispose of both bags. After washing place items into hot dryer for at least 30 minutes. After cleaning ALL LAUNDRY should be placed in NEW plastic bags before returning them to your room.
    • Follow-up inspections will be performed as necessary to ensure complete eradication.
    • Any new infestation should be reported to Student Life immediately.
  • Bed Bug Don’ts
    1. Don’t Panic! Although bed bugs can be annoying, they can be eradicated safely and successfully if you follow these guidelines.
    2. Don’t wait to notify Student Life. Please try to notify someone before 4:30 pm on a Friday, after-hours and weekend response may be delayed.
    3. Don’t apply pesticides on your own. This job should be handled by professionals.
    4. Don’t move your mattress or any furniture out into the hallway. Infested furniture can be cleaned and treated. Placing infested furniture (particularly mattresses) into common areas or on the street may simply help to spread bed bugs to the rooms of other students.
    5. Don’t make plans to sleep in a friend’s room or at an off-campus residence. This will only spread the infestation to others.
  • Bed Bug Facts

    What are bed bugs?
    They are small insects that feed on the blood of mammals and birds. Adult bed bugs are oval, wingless and rusty red colored, and have flat bodies, antennae and small eyes. They are visible to the naked eye but often hide in cracks and crevices. When bed bugs feed, their bodies swell and become a brighter red. In homes, bed bugs feed primarily on the blood of humans, usually at night when people are sleeping.

    What does a bed bug bite feel and look like?
    Typically, the bite is painless and rarely awakens a sleeping person. However, it can produce large, itchy welts on the skin. Welts from bed bug bites do not have a red spot in the center—those welts are more characteristic of flea bites.

    Are bed bugs dangerous?
    Although bed bugs may be a nuisance to people, they are not known to spread disease. They are known to cause allergic reactions from their saliva in sensitive people.

    How long do bed bugs live?
    The typical lifespan of a bed bug is about 10 months. They can survive for weeks to months without feeding.

    How does a home become infested with bed bugs?
    In most cases, bed bugs are transported from infested areas to non-infested areas when they cling onto someone’s clothing, or crawl into luggage, furniture or bedding that is then brought into homes.

Williams College, January 2017
Credits: This policy developed using information from Barnard College, Columbia University, Northern Illinois University and the University of Tennessee