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By Amanda-Marie Quintino

Arts and Entertainment Editor

They bite, they bleed, they itch, they spread. And now, they’ve crept their way back onto rez couches.

Students living in Pitman Hall’s suite 831 have been getting an itch lately – complete with little pimply, bumpy bites and a red rash.

“It’s like a mosquito bite except it doesn’t stop itching once you scratch it,” explains first-year journalism student, Angela Kovacs. “It bleeds. It’s like a really bad rash.”

Three weeks ago, Kovacs and her roommate started getting “random itchy bites” all over their upper bodies – hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and chest.

“We thought about how we could all have the same thing, and figured out the only place we’d ever been in contact with each other together was on our living room couches,” explained Kovacs. “I was worried.”

And the concern is legitimate. This isn’t the first time bugs have set down roots in Ryerson’s residences. Last spring, a similar attack happened a few floors up, when residents on the twelfth floor found ants on their furniture and in their fridges. In 2004, several rooms in Neill-Wycik were invaded, an infestation that took months and countless fumigations to control.

Immediately after identifying their couches as the pest problem, Kovacs’ roommate filed a report with the housing department, she said.

But Kovacs, frustrated with the never-ending itch, wasn’t willing to wait for the paperwork to process. “I went down and spoke to them in person about my concern,” she said. “I wasn’t about to live in an apartment that was infected with bugs.”

Less than two hours later, maintenance went up to the suite, inspected the couches, and came back with spray to disinfect the entire area. Twenty-four hours later, the crew returned to ensure the pests were gone.

But they weren’t. The bugs came back.

“My roommate got bitten even after the exterminators came in with the treatment,” she said.

But Glen Weppler, student housing services manager, still doesn’t seem worried.

“Ryerson residences have not received the same level of bed bug reports as other buildings around Toronto,” he said. “Our building is safe. We do whatever we can as soon as possible to fix a problem once it is brought to our attention.”

Students have been finding themselves rooming with these pests more and more in the past five years, said Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann, a pest control specialist for Toronto Public Health. Since 2001, Toronto has seen a rise in the bed bug population.

“Bed bugs require humans to live, and in an urban centre like Toronto, their sustenance is readily available,” explained Gangloff-Kauffman.

One of their favourite breeding grounds: between the cushions of couches. And since the bed bugs still seem to be biting, Kovacs has been avoiding lounging in her living room.

“I’m afraid to sit on my couches,” said Kovacs. “I plan on filing another report. I can’t even live in my living room anymore.”

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