How to Take Care of Dorm Bugs

What to do when you’re too old to run and hide, but too smart to take care of it yourself.

By Olivia W. McCoy, University of Georgia


Let me begin by saying that I am not squeamish with bugs normally.

Typically I have no problem with just picking them up bare-handed and releasing them into the wild. With one exception: centipedes.

I have very few memories of my preschool days—a soccer ball to the face, torturing boys with cheek kisses, being way to proud of knowing all the words to the cleanup song—but one stands out above them all.

At three years old, finally, I could enter the big kid room. All it took was knowledge of the toilet, who knew?! At recess, while all the other kids and teachers were outside exhausting themselves on the jungle gym, I went inside to finalize the transition and use the big girl bathroom.

Proud that I was past my diaper days, I skipped my usual tradition of scoping the place out, and it was because of this arrogant foolishness that my doom was sealed. Pants around my ankles, I flopped down onto the porcelain throne and saw him.

No, not him. It. It was a fifty-legged monstrosity with a shell the color of brimstone and antennas like whips roving over the patterned tile. Had I stayed calm, I might have made it out unscathed—they can sense fear you know—but my toddler mind couldn’t comprehend anything but panic in that moment.

I screamed for help, unable to get away as I was incapacitated, but it was no use—everyone was still outside, oblivious to my struggle. My position was compromised, and the thing started zipping across the floor in my direction. As it neared me, the panic took over and that’s the last moment of the incident that I can remember.

Fast-forward seventeen years. I am rewarding my procrastination with Netflix in the cocoon of my dorm bed.

I’m drifting off to an undeserved slumber when I hear a thud, like a hammer on hardwood, and open my eyes to see a beast with infinite legs the size of my goddamned thumb (not an exaggeration) resting on my keyboard.

Smelling fear, it starts at me with unparalleled speed (maybe an exaggeration), and instead of honing my bug jousting skills, I became just as feeble as the average college girl when facing their natural nemesis, the dorm bug.

For all of you that understand my strife, here is how to handle—as an independent college student whose brother is busy—a disgusting insect/centipede.

Capture the Beast

Before you do ANYTHING ELSE, and that includes screaming like an extra in a cheap horror film, nab the thing!

Grab the crusty bowl from your bedside that you’ve been intending to wash and throw it over the creep. Seize it where it stands with your “I Hate Mornings” coffee mug and throw some books over it for good measure. You can’t risk that bastard getting out.

Take a Picture or Two

How, without photographic evidence, is anyone supposed to believe your tale of the monster from the pits of hell and how your narrow avoidance of death? That miscreant tried to assassinate you in your sleep—get its mugshot!

Here’s how you snap the perfect centi-pic:

Get your phone camera ready. Position it at a cattycorner to the prison. Quickly lift up the dish and click the button on your camera a few hundred times with the flash ON in a desperate attempt to both get the perfect shot and keep the vermin stunned. Slam the container back down over the fiend.

Recover from the Previous Step

You successfully just faced your worst fear. Give yourself a second to catch your breath before you move on.

Get Reinforcements

Send the evidence to quite literally everyone you know: your mom, dad, siblings, cousins, nephews, grandparents, neighbors, childhood friends, exes, your tutor from sophomore year of high school, veterinarian, the exorcist you keep on hand—actually, go ahead and give him a call, he might come in handy.

While you wait for a general consensus on what the intruder is, wake up your roommate. If they’re not there then find someone else. Convince your friend to rush over.

Do whatever it takes. Don’t be a hero. You need help. This demon won’t be easy to slay.

Conduct Research 

Use Wikipedia, your friends’ knowledge, everything you can gather on how to be rid of the trespasser. Discover its weaknesses and faults. Then flush it down the toilet anyway.

It’s the only way to send it back to the hell from which it came. And you don’t want to have to bother with figuring out how to get the bug guts stain out of your discount Walmart sheets.

Pack Your Things

If there’s one, then there’s a million more waiting for you to lower your defenses. Obviously, they want it more than you do. If it’s me, I’m happy to let them have the place. It’s not worth the fight.

Conduct a Cleansing Ritual

I find that flame is the most effective way to cleanse the infected building. Consider it a sacrifice to the bug gods so that your name will be cleared and you can live in peace.

But deep in your soul, know that you will never be safe again. That feeling of insects crawling under your skin, tangled in your hair and nesting in your clothes? Yeah, that never goes away.

It’s hard to live on your own. It’s even harder when you’re constantly being harassed by the creepier species. Remember to sleep with bug poison under your pillow and sweet dreams, my friends.