Ryerson University investigates possible bedbug infestation in classroom

Ryerson University says it is investigating reports of possible bedbugs in one of its classrooms.

Student newspaper says students have reported bedbug sightings in 1 classroom since December

Ryerson University says it is investigating reports of bedbugs in one of its classrooms. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)

Ryerson University is looking into student reports of possible bedbugs in one of its classrooms. 

The investigation comes after a student newspaper published a story describing insects being found inside tables in the room. 

Stephanie Phillips, who works for Ryerson student paper the Eyeopener, told CBC Toronto that she encountered several bedbugs in a lecture last month. 

"I felt an itch on my hand. When I looked down, I saw this small reddish-brown beetle-looking bug. I immediately flicked it off my hand," she said. "I didn't think at the time that it was a bedbug because I had seen bedbugs before but they weren't that big."

Phillips also said she saw several more of the bugs, which she says were almost the size of ladybugs but flatter, in a large crack in the desk. 

School paper finds bedbugs in classroom tables

She reported the incident to Facilities Management and Development, the university's department responsible for pest control, which told her that they conducted two searches for bedbugs but didn't find any in the room.

Jacob Dube, a student who worked on the piece published in the Eyeopener, told The Canadian Press that students have been reporting possible bedbug sightings in this specific classroom since December.

On Monday evening, Dube says he and several other student reporters decided to investigate for themselves and found several insects inside holes in large tables in the classroom.

The insects weren't initially obvious to the naked eye, but Dube said they found several bugs after shining flashlights into the holes and using paper clips to dig them out.

He was startled that he and his friends found what pest control could not, he said.

"I was very surprised when they said teams that were trained to do this didn't end up finding anything, but a bunch of journalists just came in and managed to do it pretty easily."

But Dube said the university has been receptive to their reporting, with officials asking the students to show them exactly where the bugs were spotted in order to independently verify their information.

"There's been so much documentation from students about this happening, and not much follow through," he said. "Hopefully that will change this time."

8 companies confirm bedbug sighting

Phillips says the newspaper approached eight exterminating companies with photos of the bugs, all of whom said the insects were bedbugs.

She now says the university has closed down the room and has put a sign on the door saying classes have been moved.

"For obvious reasons, this is very concerning," said Phillips of the presence of the bugs. 

"Students can bring these bugs back home to their apartments and to other areas of the university," she went on. "Bug infestations can cause a lot of stress for people especially around this time of the semester when essays are due and exams are coming up."

Student reporter Stephanie Phillips says she encountered several bedbugs during a lecture last month. (CBC)

Bedbugs are difficult to deal with because of how hard they can be to spot and how quickly they can spread, said Neetu Gogna, office manager at Pestend Pest Control, one of the companies that identified the insects to Dube as bedbugs.

"They can easily migrate from one place to another place on the human body, clothes, shoes, purses," she said. "Even one or two bedbugs ... can spread very easily."

Bedbugs can be hard to find because they can easily hide in very small cracks, Gogna said. Adults are usually dark brown or red, while newborns who haven't fed yet are almost transparent.

Heat can kill bedbugs, which is why Gogna said anyone who fears they may have come into contact with the insects should wash and dry their clothes or other belongings in high heat.

Whether or not the insects at Ryerson turn out to be bedbugs, Gogna said everyone should be careful, and regularly do visual checks on their beds and clothing.

"They are very common, especially in downtown Toronto."

With files from The Canadian Press, Derick Deonarain and Madeleine Villa