Ryerson University officials say they have relocated students from a classroom after several students spotted insects believed to be bedbugs roaming its desks.
Stefanie Phillips said she was taking notes at a lecture in classroom 205 in the Victoria building, located on the east side of Victoria Street, north of Dundas Street, on Feb. 22 when she felt something strange on her hand.
“I felt an itch on my hand, so I looked down and saw this tiny reddish brown beetle-type of bug. I flicked it off and looked around for more.”
She said she looked on the side of her desk and found a large crack, with several more of the same bugs perched inside.
She immediately got up, moved to the other side of the class and notified the school’s facilities department when her lecture was done.
Over the next four days, she said the bites led to swelling that spread across half of her hand.
“It was extremely irritating, definitely more irritating than any other bites I’ve had before,” Phillips said.
While the swelling eventually went away, Phillips said she was concerned about the bugs moving out of the classroom.
“I was concerned that I was going to bring these bugs back to my apartment. It was going to cause me a lot of stress at that point in the semester.”
She said that she is scheduled to return to the same classroom this Thursday, but school spokesperson Johanna VanderMaas said all classes have been relocated from that classroom and “the university is currently assessing the room in question.”
She said a dog trained to sniff out bed bugs will brought to the classroom to examine the desks. After that, the classroom will be sealed off and steamed to kill the bugs.
The trained dog will then be brought in for a second time to ensure there are no more insects alive in the room.
On Tuesday, CP24 reached out to Mike Cardaci of Just Bugs, a Toronto-based pest control operator, with images of the bugs found in classroom 205.
He called them “well-fed bedbugs,” and said the insects in the images were “easily identifiable.”
Brent Smyth was in the same classroom last December when he was bit by a bug.
“I killed one that bit me. Then I put it in a plastic bag gave it to my professor, who told me he was going to turn it over to the facilities department.”
He said students who attended class in that room would openly joke about finding the bugs on a regular basis.
Smyth said students would not sit in the back six rows of desks in the classroom, which holds approximately 60 students, to avoid getting bitten or unwittingly carrying them back to their homes.
Later, Smyth said his professor told him the problem had been taken care of, and he also heard that the school conducted a “spot-check” of the classroom on Mar. 9 and couldn’t find anything.
“We found them in two minutes of searching last night.”
Justin Chandler and Jacob Dubé, news editors with the student newspaper The Eyeopener, told CP24 that they collected a number of the tiny bugs from classroom 205 on Monday night.
“After we found these, we sent images of (the bugs) to exterminators and they all sent us back messages almost immediately saying yes, these are indeed bedbugs you have here,” Dubé told CP24. “We managed to get five separate exterminating firms to confirm with us that these were bedbugs.”
Ryerson University public affairs manager Johanna VanderMaas said the school is “in the process of confirming” whether the insects found in Victoria building are bedbugs.
Toronto Public Health spokesperson Tracy Leach said the city received an anonymous complaint about bedbugs in a Ryerson University classroom.
“We conducted a follow-up on March 12th with the Facility Manager of the property to ensure their awareness and response to the matter,” Leach said in an email.
She said the city investigates complaints about bedbugs in rental residential units to see if they represent a public health hazard.
“While Toronto Public Health does not typically investigate complaints related to private residences and buildings, we may provide general advice and guidance on pest control if requested or investigate further if a health hazard is identified.”
Bedbugs feed on the blood of most mammals in order to survive. They are often found in the cracks of mattresses but can also make their way into items of furniture that humans regular sit or lean on, such as a chair, couch or a desk.
They are usually no larger than 4.5 millimetres across when fully fed and can become as thin as a piece of paper.