Can you get bed bugs from books?
Silverfish, a pest that eats the surface of paper book pages, have long been a concern for public libraries. Bedbugs were not typically a primary concern – until a relatively recent bedbug resurgence.
Bedbugs typically live in places where people sleep – namely, apartments, homes, hotels, and motels. This is because it is an easy place to get a blood meal. (They are most active at night, when you are at your most vulnerable). However, we do often hear about people picking up bedbugs from places such as movie theaters, taxis, and even public libraries.
”Tiny bedbugs and their eggs can hide in the spines of hardcover books.”
Bedbugs hitch a ride on library books – New York Times
This leaves a lot of people to wonder whether they could have brought bedbugs or bedbug eggs home on a library book? This is particularly concerning for folks who read in bed or leave a borrowed book on a bedside table, giving them easy access.
Can bed bugs live in libary books?
A library book may not be the first place you think of when you think about bedbugs, but it is plausible. Bedbugs can be transported in any number of ways, including on used furniture, clothing, luggage, or book bags. All it takes is a single bedbug or egg that hatches on a library book to make it’s way home with you. Bedbugs and bedbug eggs hatch in 10-21 days, and 3-6 days after that, they are capable of biting.
While bedbugs can theoretically live on bookshelves or in book stacks, bedbugs probably don’t usually get on the books in the library. The most likely way that bedbugs or bedbug eggs could be on library books is if some books had been returned with bedbugs on them from a home that had an infestation. Since 30% of people have no reaction to bed bug bites at all,it is entirely possible that people are inadvertently tracking bedbugs into public libraries, completely unaware. (Source: entomologist Kenneth Haynes at the University of Kentucky)
Some libraries, such as the Los Angeles Central Library, are providing training for circulation staff members to identify signs of bedbugs. Since bedbugs can even live inside library books, some books are kept quarantined in crates until they can be inspected by a pest control professional. Other libraries in bedbug “hot spots” get regular inspections from bedbug-sniffing dogs. However, this is not necessarily a widespread practice, so it is important to stay vigilant. Many libraries tend to have a reactive, rather than proactive approach to bedbugs – so by the time they know about a problem, it is too late, and hundreds of library patrons may have brought bedbugs home.
How to protect yourself from bringing bedbugs home from the library
Prior to bringing any new library books home, thoroughly inspect them for any signs of infestation. Check the pages and spine of the book for:
- Be on the lookout for tiny, brown insects with flattened, oval-shaped bodies. You may also see discarded shell casings (Bed bugs discard their skins as they progress to a new nymph stage). Read more about how to identify bed bugs.
- Bedbugs may leave behind rusty, reddish or brown stains when they are crushed.
- Bed bug feces may appear as little black dots or streaks on a page.
Additionally, anyone who suspects that they may have picked up bed bugs from a library should invest in inexpensive bed post interceptors to isolate their bed from the ground, and a bedbug-proof mattress cover. This is a good way to give yourself some peace of mind, and will end up being way cheaper in the long run than letting an infestation get out of hand and having to call an exterminator.
Do I have to throw away my books after bedbugs?
Since the general advice given is that you should treat your whole house after a bed bug infestation, many folks wonder how to treat their books for bed bugs.
If you are concerned about bringing a bed bug in books, you can put the book into an airtight ziplock back and either put it in the freezer for a few days or puff a desiccant powder into the bag and let it sit. Overall, the best protection for library books is for library patrons, library staff, and book processing staff to know about bedbugs, and for library patrons and staff to report possible bedbug activity. The safest thing for library patrons to do is to treat all library books, furniture, bags, etc. as if they have bedbugs or bedbug eggs on them.
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