Once bedbugs are in your home, they’re extremely difficult to eradicate. In the meantime, the small insects — adults are about the size of an apple seed — usually bite sleeping people and animals and drink their blood. The initially painless bites can then become itchy welts.
Having them doesn’t mean your home is dirty, and no matter how careful you are, bedbugs have many ways to get into your house, including from hotel rooms, used clothing and furniture, and on the possessions or clothing of other people.
Apparently, another way they can enter your home is by hitching a ride on the insides of library books.
From a Nov. 10 report in USA Today, from The (Wilmington, Delaware) News Journal:
Six to eight months ago, librarians at downtown Wilmington’s main branch started noticing the bugs in books that were returned to the library, said the director of the city’s library system, Larry Manuel. The bugs went away for a few months, but returned in the past week. It has been, “one here, one there – we’re not talking about hundreds,” Manuel said.
After a book is flagged for hosting a bedbug, it is put aside in a bag and inspected, he said. If it does have the bugs, it is treated by the library’s pest control contractor, J.C. Ehlich, then the book is disposed of, he said.
In the last week, the library threw away three or four books after they were treated for bedbugs, Manuel said.
This is not news to other libraries across America. From a Dec. 2012 report in the New York Times:
Each month, Angelica McAdoo, jewelry designer, and her children used to bring home a stack of books from the Los Angeles Central Library — until Mrs. McAdoo heard that the library had a bedbug scare in September. She had already battled bedbugs in her two-bedroom apartment in East Hollywood and hired an exterminator, who sprayed the perimeter of her bookshelves with pesticides, among other precautions.
For now, she is buying books at Target and is ambivalent about borrowing library books again. “I will not step foot in a library ever again — right now,” she said.
But libraries are fighting back, training employees to look for signs of bedbugs, and sometimes treating books before re-shelving them. Some libraries are switching out fabric for leather or faux leather on upholstered furniture to make it less friendly to bedbugs.
One library has turned to man’s best friend. From the same Times story:
Forty-eight hours after a patron complained of being bitten by a bedbug in a lounge chair at a library in Wichita, Kansas, Cynthia Berger Harris, the library’s director, brought in a bedbug-sniffing dog to pinpoint problem areas.
Bedbugs like anything that has a dark crevice they can hide in, and that’s not only books and furniture, but keyboards, laptops and CD cases. And since adult bedbugs can live over a year without feeding, time is not always on your side in determining if you’ve brought home an unwanted roommate.
In June 2014, tech magazine Wired reported on a new product, derived from the neem tree. A smelly solution made from neem oil is sprayed on a washcloth, then the rag is put into a plastic bag containing the infested items. Supposedly, after a week, the bugs are dead.
But, there’s a catch. Research from entomologist Dr. Dini Miller showed:
The results of Miller’s tests were spectacular; 100% mortality for eggs, nymphs, and adults after 7 days in bags containing shoes, purses, electronics, toys, and paperback books. The only exception to that perfect control record was hard-cover books. Bindings of books apparently provided a good enough hiding space that only 70% of bed bug adults were killed after one week. That’s still pretty good, and additional tests are being done to see if leaving hard-cover books in the bag for an additional week can finish off the stragglers.
And, by the way, if you discover that a relatively small thing in your house has bedbugs, you can wrap it in … pantyhose.
Pantyhose is a critical tool in the entomological research armamentarium. It’s cheap, it’s flexible, it’s resistant to puncture, and most insects are too big to crawl through the pores of the fabric.
Here are some further tips: