Rodents and Insects and Mold! Oh my!

By Dianne McGinness ’13

Photo by Jonny Helgren

Pacific Lutheran University is not only the home of students. Critters including bats, rats, ants, silverfish, and bedbugs also make on-campus buildings their home.

Campus Facilities and Management work closely with a service Eden Advanced Pest Technologies in an attempt to rid PLU of the critters that no student wants to share their home with.


Silverfish have made Harstad Residence Hall their permanent on-campus home.

Measuring about a half inch in diameter, silverfish are named for their covering of tiny silver scales according to the sixth edition of the Columbia Encyclopedia. They also have three tail bristles and two long antennae.

Senior Katie Wehmann has lived in the same room in Harstad Residence Hall for three years and each year she has seen silverfish both around the building and in her own room.

“I was cool with it until this year when I found one in my bed a week and a half ago,” Wehmann said. “The fifth floor was recently remodeled so I thought problem had been taken care of but I have killed seven already.”

Though silverfish are harmless insects they like to eat the bindings off of books, wallpaper, and even clothing on some occasions. Silverfish prefer a mild-temperature, dark climate.

Senior Stephanie Hatch said that when she lived in Harstad she would occasionally see silverfish in the shower and sometimes in her room.

“They were pretty noticeable because the tiling used to be a funky brown color so a silver thing was pretty noticeable,” Hatch said. “Normally they hide under your stuff. I play the violin and I usually keep my instrument on the ground so sometimes I would find a few there.”

Harstad residents were told not to squish the insects because that attracts more of them to the area. When dealing with silverfish, PLU Facilities Management workers typically use an environmental friendly insect repellant

“I constantly have to vacuum and I take my trash out all the time,” Wehmann said. “My water bottle even has a seal on it.”

Director of Facilities Management David Koehler said that there is a protocol for dealing with insects on campus, including silverfish.

“We accept anyone’s call. We don’t decide not to do anything,” Koehler said. “We are going to look at the area. We have to find out what the cause is, food, moisture, etc. It even might help us find something. We always do something.”


Rats eat berries off the bushes between Kriedler Hall and the Mary Baker Russell Music Center. Photo by Jonny Helgren

            Rats do not only run along the ground, they have the ability to ascend second story windows by climbing up trees or the buildings themselves.

Anywhere a rat can fit their head, such as under a closed door, they can get inside of.

There have been several reports of rats in the University Center, such as last December during Dead week.

“I was in the UC doing homework when out of the corner of my eye I saw something fall,” junior Suzy Olsen sa

id. “The rat was huge. I went to tell the lady in the market but she didn’t seem to think it was a big deal.”

Junior Nataly Meyer was completely disgusted when she heard about a rat in the dining area.

            “My first thought was the sanitary conditions because that’s where I ate all of my food,” Meyer said, “so I wanted it to be taken care of as soon as possible.”

To deal with the problem, Campus Facilities has set up bait stations around the edges of buildings.

“Around buildings there are clear zones,” Koehler said. “We have been pulling a lot of material away from buildings because rats don’t like to be out in the open.”


            Bats find their way into campus buildings when windows are left open at night. When screens are missing off residence hall windows, large brown bats or small brown bats, fly into resident halls and other campus buildings.

In Harstad, “When it happened we had to shut our doors and not open them,” Wehmann said. “If you have to go to the bathroom: run.”

When bats get into a building, Campus Facilities Management or Campus Safety sends people in to fix the problem.

“We had a couple of incidents in Harstad where four or five were removed and also four or five in Ramstad that we removed,” Campus Safety Director Greg Premo said. “The only protocol we know of is to catch them with a net and remove them outside.”

Hatch was in the building during one of the instances when a bat was found.

“When the elevator opened a girl came running out and said there was a bat in the hallway and that Campus safety said not to go up there,” Hatch said. “It was definitely the talk of building for a while.”   


Halloween brought something more than just trick-or-treaters to junior Josh Kinne’s South Hall apartment.  Black mold was found in one of the walls meaning Kinne had to leave his apartment.

“They sent us an email so we knew it was a possibility but I never expected them to be like you need to leave tonight,” Kinne said. “They told us to bring provisions for a few days basically like clothes, toiletries. But I couldn’t take any of my electronics.”

Josh Kinne's South Hall Apartment blocked off because of the mold found in the wall. Kinne had to move out of his apartment on Halloween. Photo by Josh Kinne.

Any place with a high amount of moisture is susceptible to black mold. The black mold in South Hall was the result of a leaking pipe.

“A screw had been put into a drain pipe and it rusted and started leaking,” Koehler said.  “The moment we found about it we got involved and got the students moved out of the area.”

One of Kinne’s roommates has cystic fibrosis. Mold can trigger a reaction which the reason they contacted Residential Life.  Campus Facilities and Residential Life work closely together.

As of now, Kinne and his roommates do not know when they are going to be allowed back into their apartment.

“We might be able to move back in the first of December,” Kinne said. “I am commuting at this point so I’m not on campus as much. My desk chair is still in my room along with all of my books, aside from the textbooks I need for the semester, and they are possibly infested with mold.”

 Other insects

            Other insects that make the PLU campus their home include: ants, spiders, and bedbugs.

Compared to last year, the number of bedbug cases has significantly declined.

“We haven’t had that many cases of bed bugs this year. We have had only two,” Koehler said. “Students are more aware of what they are bringing with them. Last year we had a bed bug sniffing dog to help us identify if there were any more potential hot spots.”

If you have a problem:

Campus Facilities accepts any student’s call. Depending on the severity of the situation, workers at Campus Facilities will decide whether to act now or later.

            “The faster you let us know something is wrong, no matter how small, the sooner we can take care of it,” Koehler said. “This is your house. Critters are everywhere and we want to try to keep it under control.”

Students can call PLU Campus Facilities at 253-535-7380

Categories: Other, Student Life

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