Pest Control in the Dorms

After three years living in the oldest women's dorm built west of the Mississippi, I've seen my share of rodents and other unwanted critters find their way into the dorms through the nooks and crannies that seem to be all too abundant in old buildings. Sophomore year, some mice visited over Christmas break, leaving a terrible mess when we returned to campus, and-- most memorably-- junior year, I found a bat stretching its wings inside a first floor toilet. While these encounters may make great stories after the fact, no one wants too many visits from these unhygienic uninvited guests. Luckily, you don't have to depend entirely on the maintenance staff to secure your student domicile. There are plenty of steps you can take on your own to supplement your maintenance staff's pest control efforts.

Keep Clean!

Perhaps it should go without saying, but mice, bugs, and other pests will gravitate towards messy dorm rooms, or anywhere that they can access food and shelter. Keep food and drinks sealed and off the floor to avoid attracting vermin, and if you suspect you've been visited by any wandering rodents, take the next step by storing snacks in hard plastic containers, since mice can easily chew through most wrappers, bags, and cardboard boxes. Take care also to keep clothing neatly stored and off the floor. Mice will be only too happy to nest in whatever soft, warm things they find easily accessible. Finally, if you use your wastebasket for anything edible, make sure it has a tight fitting lid and that you take out the trash regularly.

For Mice

1) Search for Openings

Mice can fit through any opening that they can get their heads through. Any holes or cracks the size of a dime or larger are possible entry points. To keep out mice and bats, try plugging up any areas they might be crawling through. Steel wool should do the trick. It's unpleasant for mice to chew through and can be removed when you leave the dorms for the summer, so the school won't fine you for making any changes to the room. Another possible entry way for small intruders is your air vent, particularly if there are large open spaces on the screen. To keep pests out without obstructing the air flow, try attaching a sheet of wire mesh. Twist ties do a nice job of holding it in place.

2) Set Traps

You may choose to set traps to catch the mice plaguing your room. However, if you do, be sure to inform your roommate and be very careful not to set them off yourself, as conventional snap traps can lead to human injury. Also, be aware that snap traps are not your only option. No kill traps, which trap mice in small boxes to be released later are available in many stores. Another option is a sticky trap, which essentially glues the mouse into place. However, next to the instant death caused by snap traps, glue traps are very inhumane. If the animal does not suffocate itself in the glue, it will slowly starve or dehydrate and is also likely to chew off limbs trying to escape. Therefore, the best options in terms of traps are snap traps and no kill traps, each of which can be easily baited with cheese, chocolate, butter, or peanut butter. Such traps may be provided by your school's maintenance service.

For Bugs

1) Ant Baits

A common dorm room pest problem is ant infestation. If you find them marching one by one to your sink or your snacks, try placing ant baits in corners and/or along paths commonly tread by ants. Essentially filled with poisoned ant food, these small plastic squares should solve your ant problem. Raid makes a few different versions, which promise to clear up infestations for up to three months.

2) Cedar

If you find moths or other pests are feasting on your clothes, you might want to try adding some cedar to your closet and/or drawers. While moth balls may seem like the obvious solution to your bug problems, they smell terrible, and they can cause respiratory irritation. Better by far is cedar, a pleasant-smelling wood that also repels cloth-eating insects. It comes in blocks and chips that can conveniently fit wherever they need to go. The cedar is effective as long as you can smell it, and when it loses its send, you can simply sand it a bit, and its aroma will once again both please your senses and protect your closet.

For Bats

Call Campus Safety!

While bats are important to many ecosystems, they are highly dangerous because they are the #1 transmitter of rabies to humans. Although most bats do not carry rabies, there is no cure for the disease. So, if you see a bat in your dorm or in any building on campus, keep away from the animal and call campus safety. They should be able to remove the bat safely or contact a service that can. If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, wash the wound with soap and water and contact a health care provider immediately. Since bites and scratches can be minimal, it is also possible to be bitten in your sleep without noticing, so if you wake up to the sight of a bat, it is also important to contact a health care provider. While the rabies shots sometimes required in such situations are unpleasant, they could save your life. To prevent future bat problems, you can also trying sealing possible entry points as described in the section on mice.

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