Ants march in a line across the page. Pepperdine has faced an influx of ants due to the heat wave, said said Marilyn Koziatek, director of Department of Facilities Services. Art by Denae Pitts
Pepperdine is located near the Santa Monica Mountains and often has an influx of various pests during the year, said Marilyn Koziatek, director of Department of Facilities Services. But community members said these pests become especially pesky during the heat waves.
In addition to Pepperdine’s proximity to the Santa Monica Mountains’ natural environment, there are a variety of pests the campus has encountered, Koziatek said. DFS has not identified an exact trend in differences between academic spaces or residential spaces.
“We have a professional response to our pest control management that is quite in-depth, and it is our priority that our students, in their home away from home, are comfortable, and that everybody is able to enjoy this basis,” Koziatek said. “We have a very deliberate professional approach to our pest management strategies that we employ.”
There is also an internal staff in the custodial department, Koziatek said, who are trained in all the professional techniques for pest control measures and applications.
“When a student calls to report a pest, then we are committed to responding within 24 hours with a trained assessment and the appropriate application for that particular incident,” Koziatek said. “That’s it in a nutshell.”
Sophomore George Page resident Geneva Sovinec said the response to her call was not immediate after filing for maintenance.
“We have to wait a couple of hours or a day until maintenance arrives,” Sovinec said. “This left us with hundreds of ants infesting the food we purchased.”
First-year Delfy Balderrama-Carrillo said she had trouble breathing and difficulties with allergies at night in the first-year dorms. After going to her allergist, Balderrama-Carillo learned it was from dust mites.
Balderrama-Carrillo said she reached out to her resident advisor and Pepperdine Office of Student Accessibility and within two weeks, she moved into one of the newer dorm buildings where there were little to no dust mites.
“It was difficult to sleep all those nights and I wish the process was faster for me to move, but compared to other universities, especially public ones, Pepperdine was very accommodating and I think the process was actually quick,” Balderrama-Carrillo said.
Junior George Page resident and assistant reporter fro Newswaves, Peyton Nebens, said she has had difficulties with pests since move-in day. Nebens said her dorm room was not fully cleaned before she moved in.
“In the kitchen, there was a corner next to the stove with food, and this is graphic, but you would literally need a stick to reach it to get it out, and it was just left there uncleaned,” Nebens said.
Her RA said they could not do anything about the situation, Nebens said, which she thinks contributed to the large amount of ants during the heat wave.
“I think we’ve all had a shared experience about the sustained heat wave with ants, and that was a record-breaking event,” Koziatek said. “Ants do tend to come indoors during sustained heat waves like that.”
Koziatek said DFS asks for students to be active in helping with preventative measures. In addition to the professional response, she said keeping food sealed inside is key. One of the most important things is throwing food waste outside of rooms, and this includes in the academic space and even when disposing of food, Koziatek said.
“Prior to students arriving on campus, there is a full exterior assessment of the ground and conducted test control measures for various pests,” Koziatek said. “Weekly professional pest management companies also complete assessment and additional pest treatments.”
Koziatek also said to keep an eye on common household products such as bathroom products, which have sucrose in them and can attract ants.
Sustainability and eco-friendly steps are crucial to Pepperdine, Koziatek said.
“We are very careful about what compounds we select, and they have been approved by the EPA, and we select those that have the lowest toxicity, but the highest efficacy, and the ones that we use, we just make sure,” Koziatek said.
Sovinec said she has gone through seven bottles of Raid due to ants, spiders and beetles invading her living space. She said she wonders what more can be done in the context of her safety from the toxins, but also financially.
“It is not ideal,” Sovinec said. “I would rather not spend money on Raid and ant traps when it could go to other expenses.”
Nebens said during the heat wave, she encountered large numbers of ants in her shower and reported the issue to maintenance, who came and sprayed.
She asked about the toxicity of the sprays and the workers told her they were not toxic for humans. Nebens said this spray has helped and it would last for 90 days. In addition, the Department of Facilities Services said the spray is then spread to the ants that enter the space, brought back to the “queen ant” and thus kills all the ants in the colony, Nebens said.
Sovinec said when she opened one of her cabinets, there were hundreds of ants crawling around. They infested her pots and pans, snacks and spices and went through two bottles of Raid and four paper towel rolls to try and combat the situation.
“I will quite literally never forget that day because of how mad I was,” Sovinec said. “It was just a waste of our personal money and time.”
Nebens said the pest problem is much better when there is not a heat wave.
There is more that Pepperdine can do “cleaning-wise” for the next person that moves into a dorm at the beginning of the school year, Nebens said.
DFS chose a compound that would last up to three months in one scenario, which is three times [longer] than some other compounds, Koziatek said.
“Not only is it effective, it’s effective for a long time, so that we can continue making sure that we serve our population with a high level of excellence,” Koziatek said. “So we’re very careful with our selections.”
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