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Fickle weather sends pests out of control


By Anna Archibald
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fifteen pairs of black and white striped legs scuttle away as the bed sheets fling up into the air and hit the ceiling. Waking up to a house centipede staring down at you can be alarming.

GSP resident Jenna Schwartz said the building been having a problem with centipedes for the last couple weeks.

"One girl found one on her ceiling when she woke up one morning, and we've also been finding them on our clothes," Schwartz, Eden Prairie, Minn. freshman. said.

Deb Smith, associate professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, said that when the weather fluctuates between warm and cold temperatures, as it has in the past few weeks, temperatures aren't cold enough to kill the bugs but are still cool enough for them to look for warmth in residences.

Smith said if the cold weather was more continuous, insects wouldn't be as active. "There have been too many episodes of warming and cooling to keep them away," she said.

Consequently, students often end up with an unwanted, multi-legged roommate.

Although house centipedes are predatory, which means they hunt other insects, Smith said they don't pose a threat to people.

"When you see them around, it usually means there are or there used to be other insects around, as well," she said.

The house centipede is just one of many types of insects creeping and crawling through dark corners of houses this time of year.

Smith said the most common pests are box elder beetles, mouse spiders, grass spiders and the Asian lady beetle, which is usually mistaken for a common ladybug.

"These beetles were originally brought here to control the population of other types of insects, but have now become more of a nuisance themselves," Smith said. "And honey bees generally come out on these warmish days to eat and dump waste, so they're around more, meaning people are more likely to come into contact with them."

Schwartz said there were always five to 10 of the ladybug-like beetles by her windows in her room.

"They've been getting a lot worse," she said. "It's kind of confusing, though, because my window is closed and I don't know how they are getting in."

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Coming to a College Near You! - Bed Bugs Get an Education


Bedbugs Close Building at John Jay College

By Joel Stonington AND Jennifer 8. Lee

Updated, 4:05 p.m. | John Jay College of Criminal Justice is shutting down one of its buildings because of bedbugs. The college hopes to reopen the building, at 445 West 59th Street, by Tuesdaybed bug morning after it is treated by an extermination service. Meanwhile, all the classes in the building, North Hall, are being postponed and rescheduled. On Thursday afternoon, a worker used a bullhorn to inform groups of students approaching the building that classes were canceled. Other classes will continue as scheduled.

Associated Press Cimex lectularius, the common bedbug, was found in a building at John Jay College.

"The college is taking it seriously and moving as quickly as possible to treat the building," said Jim Grossman, a spokesman for John Jay. John Jay is calling it a bedbug "condition." Mr. Grossman said, "Infestation is when you can see them swarming."

At an information session held Thursday afternoon, college officials said that rashes among staff members were first reported in mid-August and grew in numbers as time went on. Most staff affected with skin rashes were from the financial aid and registrar's office. A deep cleaning was ordered on September 14 and one bedbug was found. Soon after a second bedbug was caught. The college brought in an inspection team with bug-sniffing dogs on Tuesday that confirmed the bedbug problem on the first floor of North Hall.

The crowd of about 200 faculty, staff and students let out a gasp when school officials showed a map of affected areas. Bedbugs were found in roughly half of the rooms on the second floor, and the inspection has not been completed on the third or fourth floors of North Hall, though evidence was found on the third floor. Officials said that other buildings would also be inspected.

The president of the college, Jeremy Travis, said no bites had been reported, only skin rashes, a forensic psychology student said she and a co-worker both were bitten during the last two weeks. Deirdra Assey, 24, of Brooklyn, said both she and the co-worker checked their homes and spoke with landlords about bedbugs but said they eventually concluded the bites were happening during the day.

As soon as I figured out that campus had been infected it all made sense," Ms. Assey, a second year master's degree student, said. "I had no idea they could be infecting offices."

Indeed, despite the "bed" descriptor, bedbugs can in fact survive in many locations, such as buses, trains and movie theaters. Last year they were reported at Fox offices.

Bedbugs, once nearly eradicated, have spread all across New York City, in part because of the decline in use of DDT. In March, the city set up a bed bug advisory board.

Meanwhile, students expressed glee at the interruption in classes, giving them a break. Rudy Pamphile, 18, a freshman, walked past the yellow tape blocking the entrance to the building laughing and joking with a friend, saying, "No test today!"

Though Mr. Pamphile said he had stayed up until midnight the night before studying, he was not unhappy to be relieved of the burden, adding he would probably just hang out with friends until his next class.

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