Conifer seed bugs strike Dodd Quad

Western Conifer Seed Bug
Western Conifer Seed Bug

Students around the Dodd Quad recently have been facing a sudden appearance of western conifer seed bugs in their dorms and houses. While Facilities Director Bea Miles refrained from characterizing the situation as an infestation, many students have been vocal in their displeasure with the influx of the insects. The bugs range in size from 16 to 20 millimeters – approximately the size of a cashew.

According to Miles, Facilities has responded to several complaints from students on the Dodd Quad regarding the presence of insects in their rooms over the past few weeks. Miles herself visited the buildings last week. “I walked around and checked it out and was expecting to see a lot from everything I heard, but it wasn’t that bad,” she said.
Facilities had Berkshire Pest Control come in to assess the western conifer seed bug proliferation, which has been a nuisance throughout the Northeast. The Audubon Society – an environmental awareness group – has released information about the bugs in this part of New England; according to Miles, the Society does not recommend spraying, so Facilities has no plans to spray buildings on campus at this time. She suggested that the recent spate of warmer weather might have encouraged the bugs to come out, and that the old age of most of the buildings in Dodd neighborhood made them logical sites of refuge as temperatures dropped.

“We’ve never had a conifer seed bug problem before,” Miles said, adding that caulking windows is the main way Facilities works to address the issue of bugs in students’ dorm rooms. “We are always as proactive as we can possibly be, but it is impossible to keep up with every building,” she said, adding that students also should be proactive in dealing with the problem.

Several students, particularly residents of Hubbell, Dodd and Lehman, aired complaints concerning the conifer seed bugs in a WSO discussion started late last week. “Someone somewhere in the Williams staff has the job of making the house inhabitable, and this job has not been carried out,” Jenni Ewing ’10, a Hubbell resident, said in the thread. “The situation is more than ‘uncomfortable’; waking up in the middle of the night to an insect crawling on your foot . . . is downright terrifying.” She said that in response to one of her complaints, Facilities recommended that she buy bug spray and a fly swatter.

“It’s not the end of the world at least in terms of the seed bugs,” Dodd resident Liza Elliotte ’12 wrote. “People should, however, feel comfortable in their rooms on a basic level . . . When more than a couple of almost any insect are ending up in students’ rooms repeatedly, some general home/dorm maintenance needs to be done.” She initially described the conifer bugs as congregating around her window. “My windows have been and will remain shut, but I’m terrified that they will get in,” she said but a few days later reported seeing the bugs in her shower.

Aditi Chaturvedi ’10, a Hubbell resident, said she could feel cold drafts in her room and suggested that her room was improperly sealed. “Given that our windows aren’t properly sealed, and that the insects always appear around the window, I think inference to the best explanation tells us that that’s how they get in,” she said.

“This literally affects the happiness of our lives and the comfort we feel in our rooms,” wrote Gershwin Penn ’11, who lives in Dodd. “I think students have a right to be comfortable in their rooms and to not have to deal with bugs all over the place.”

Western conifer seed bugs are native to the Pacific Coast of North America but have gradually migrated east and are now an invasive pest in Europe. Their primary defense mechanism is a bitter smell, but they are also known to stab with their probosces when handled roughly.

In conjunction with the conifer seed bug complaints, students have also reported quantities of ladybugs in dorms. Schools like Wesleyan and Swarthmore and communities throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic region have reported similar situations, although Miles said the phenomenon occurs every fall.

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