Richards: Unexpected roommates: winter housing for ants and cockroaches

The day I moved in, I saw the biggest ant I’ve seen in my entire life. I mean, it was huge–a carpenter ant–with little pincers to dig through woodwork and build nests. It was, at most, a harmless creature. I thought nothing of it and squashed it with a tissue and went on unpacking my things.

Little did I know, that one ant was only a teaser of what was to come to my residence at Cutler House on the north side of campus. Thus ensues the story of the great ant infestation of my dorm room.

As the days went by, I would encounter another oversized ant or two skittering across the wall, and the typical process ensued of me grabbing a tissue and squashing my unwanted roommates.

But they began to multiply. They would come in waves of five or six, scattered around the room. On Aug. 28, I sent a maintenance request in for pest control to come and investigate the issue.

Aug. 29 –the day after–I got a notification saying my request was completed. To my dismay, my request had been so-called “completed” with the note, “Sent to pest.” In actuality, it had not been completed. Days passed, and I saw no indication that anything had been done about the increasing waves of ants in my room.

Eventually (there is no indication of the actual date on my maintenance request history), pest control showed up and placed a single glue trap in my room. That trap had completely filled with probably fifty ants by day two of its existence, and I was right back to my starting point.

At this point, the number of ants I saw popping up had steadied and I had become used to eradicating one after the other. I started investigating on my own and realized the ants seemed to be originating from the overhead cabinet.

I opened up the cabinet, where I had placed an orange shoe box earlier in the year, and saw that it was surrounded by wood chippings. I went to move the shoe box to see what had actually happened in the cabinet when the box made a noise. And by the box making a noise, I mean the sound of the hundreds upon hundreds of carpenter ants that had begun making a nest within the empty cardboard shoe box scuttling inside.

My first instinct was to shut the cabinet and submit a maintenance request to pest control once more and hope that their response is slightly more efficient. On Oct. 6, I requested pest control once more. A few hours later, I got the same email from University Housing, confirming my request had apparently been completed, being “Sent to pest” once more.

I had described my issue as best I could in the description box on the request (how do you describe a shoe box full of nesting gigantic ants in your dorm room?). It seemed that this message, unlike the request itself, was not passed on to pest control, because the only thing that resulted from my request was a new glue trap in the same place as the last one.

To finish my story, I had to take the ant infestation into my own hands, grabbing a couple of friends willing to help shove the box into a trash bag to throw outside and douse in half a can of Raid ant killer. I personally think Raid is better alternative to a glue trap when in combat with a colony.

What I got from this experience is that even though I requested a single residence hall room, I got slightly more than the advertised zero roommates. I also learned that the inefficiency of the maintenance requests from University Housing and the bug problem on campus are two coupled issues that I do not believe are localized to Cutler House.

On another note, my RA sent in a maintenance request for a trash can for my residence hall room before I even arrived and I didn’t get one until mid-October, so yes, I was recycling ants for two months.

The bottom line: if University Housing is going to act as a hub to all other housing services like pest control or custodial services, they need to put in a better communication system. There should be a way for students to directly contact them. Students should also have the ability to check the actual statuses of their requests instead of University Housing marking the request as complete.

The current system doesn’t make anyone happy or solve any problems. A better medium for communication can solve this problem before it happens.

The bug issue is probably not as easy to solve. I’m not anything near a professional exterminator (although spraying half a can of Raid onto a load of ants sure did make me feel like one) but there have to be better alternatives to glue traps.

Besides the ant infestation, I have woken up to a cockroach conveniently placed atop the snooze button on my alarm clock and another time to one crawling on my arm. I really don’t think they want me to sleep, which isn’t hard as a Case Western Reserve University student anyway. I’ve spotted some in various buildings on the main quad too, so it’s not just my lack of luck.

Cockroaches are a common occurrence on campus and that makes you wonder what, if anything, has been done about them?

Jason Richards is a first-year computer engineering major. He hates bugs.