Library books and bed bugs

I have noted in my time exterminating bed bugs that bed bugs, or evidence thereof, is periodically found on books. The most likely books to be infested are those close to the bed such as Bibles or other books read in bed. If the suite is self treated with RAID (or similar products) any book in the apartment is likely to be infested. The reasons for this interesting fact is that books offer a substrate that bugs prefer and books are unlikely to be chemically treated making them safe havens. The bugs will abandon treated areas close to the bed and look for the next best harbourage. Books offer a lot of positives for the bed bug.

My family (wife and three kids) use the library on a regular basis. We can bring home up to 30 books a month in summer but less during the school year. As an exterminator I am extremely wary of these books and I insist on inspecting every book before it is allowed in my home. Yesterday my wife brought home a book for the kids and, during inspections, I immediately saw the tell tale spotting of bed bug excrement on the pages. I wet my finger, rubbed the spots for 2 seconds, and the spots smeared – very strong evidence of bed bugs. I inspected the book carefully but could find no live bugs.

We immediately preheated the oven to the lowest setting and baked the book for an hour. The book was in fine condition after heating. I contacted the library to let them know and they stated the book should be returned in a zip lock bag. What they will do with the book I do not know. The book is safe enough now but they must follow their own protocols.

Interestingly enough this is the third time in the last 6 months I have had to heat a library book with suspicious black dots. I have never found live bugs in the books but often the books have hard cover bindings that are difficult to inspect.

The library can not be faulted for this problem. The volume of books that go through the system is immense and every book can not be carefully examined in the manner I examine the books – it would be too costly. The fault lies with the infested library users who take no thought to protecting the global commons.

The library does periodically go through the library with a bed bug sniffing dog to find problem areas but the books are very difficult for the dog. The dog must bring his nose relatively close to each book and give a good sniff. And given that the majority of the books are beyond the dog’s reach the effectiveness of that dog is poor. On the other hand there is no better detection tool available for that public setting. The library is in a tight spot.

Wholesale application of chemicals in the library would almost certainly fail to eliminate the bugs. Firstly the books can not be treated. Secondly the modern resistant bugs can easily walk over a single line of a residual insecticide and survive very nicely. Modern bugs require multiple crossings of a residual to succumb. As such the treatment options are few and of poor quality. Whatever bugs enter the library will most likely leave with another patron.

Personally, as the bed bug problem continues to escalate, I think bed bugs will spell the end of the library’s popularity. Ipads and Kindles will take their place.


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