Junior Brandon Scarberry was met with an unpleasant surprise when he sat on a couch on the second floor of Perkins Library and encountered what he believed to be a bedbug infestation.
Scarberry contacted library administrators, who responded promptly but said that professional exterminators did not find evidence of bedbugs.
Shortly after seeing the small black bugs in Perkins, Scarberry noticed insect bites on his leg that he believes were a direct result of physical contact with the fabric chairs. In an attempt to caution other students, Scarberry uploaded a photo to Reddit. The post quickly attracted the attention of members of the Duke community.
“This is a big liability for Duke,” Scarberry wrote in a comment on his original Reddit post. “These things are CRAZY transmissible and can cost thousands to get rid of.”
Several commenters thanked Scarberry for the warning and provided advice on getting rid of the pests, which are notoriously difficult to exterminate. Bedbugs are highly transmissible and can cling to luggage, clothing and other fabrics.
Scarberry took action by taking photos of the bedbugs and contacting Housing and Residence Life, but he was redirected to the Perkins Library Research Services contact page.
Though staff responded quickly and had library furniture treated by professionals, they denied finding any evidence of a bedbug infestation.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we quickly had the furniture in question professionally treated with insecticidal dust and cordoned off the area for a week,” wrote Ann Wolfe, the associate university librarian for administrative services, in an email to Scarberry.
However, Wolfe said, the professional exterminators were “unable to find any evidence of an infestation.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
“We never did find any evidence of actual bedbugs (dead bugs, droppings, eggs, etc.). The only reference and identification of a bug as a “bedbug” was by the student,” wrote Aaron Welborn, director of communications for Duke Libraries, in an email to The Chronicle.