Bed bugs are most often associated with the bedroom, and rightly so. These nocturnal, biting insects are usually found infesting mattresses, sheets, and bedding, where they snooze through the day and feast on your sleeping body at night.
However, they can gain access to your bedroom via a thousand different routes. Most of the time, they hitchhike their way in on luggage brought back from less-than-clean hotels, though they can also ride in on laundry, mailed packages, second-hand purchases, and even library books.
That’s right; your latest night-time read may have bed bugs nestling between the pages. Taking that book to bed with you, or even just leaving it on your nightstand, can quickly lead to a full-blown infestation that’s almost impossible to get rid of.
The thought of books full of bed bugs may make your skin crawl but, the good news is, infestations are totally preventable. There are several things you can do to deal with a bed bug-riddled library book so they don’t find their way into your bedroom – or anyone else’s!
How common are bed bugs in library books?
Unfortunately, no. It’s a disquieting thought, but finding bed bugs in library bugs is more common than you might think.
This is because reading in bed is a pastime that lots of people enjoy. Therefore, lots of people take their library books to bed with them, and some of those people will have bed bug infestations.
Bedtime books are often in close proximity to your sleeping quarters for weeks, which is plenty of time for bed bugs to make the journey from pillow to page (or page to pillow).
Once the book is returned to the library, it is placed back on the shelf where it nestles in with hundreds of other books, allowing infestations to spread rapidly.
Infested bugs are checked out by unsuspecting readers and taken home, where the bed bugs crawl out at night to bite you and infest your home.
OK, not every book you borrow will be bristling with bugs, but there’s no way to guarantee that your new read isn’t infested. So, what should you do if you find bed bugs in your library books?
What to do if you find bed bugs in your library books
Of course, the only guaranteed way to make sure you don’t bring home bed bugs in your library books is to stop visiting the library, but that would be a shame.
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of introducing an infestation.
Check your books
The first thing you should do upon bringing any new books home is to check them thoroughly for signs of infestation. Check the spine of the book and between the [ages for the following telltale signs:
- Live or dead bugs. You are looking for tiny, brown insects with flattened, oval-shaped bodies.
- Rusty, reddish or brown stains. Bed bugs feed on blood so they leave rust-colored, brown or reddish stains behind when they get squished.
- Bed bug droppings. These will look like little black dots. (Read more about them in this article)
- Skin casks. Bed bugs shed their skins as they grow. These look identical to live or dead bugs, but they will be translucent instead of brown.
If you find any sign of bed bugs in your library book, wrap it up immediately in a sealed plastic bag and do not take it up to your room until you have killed the insects.
Notify your library
If you find bed bugs in your library books it’s a good idea to let them know. It could be an isolated incident, or it could indicate a more serious infestation that has to be managed at their end.
Treating books for bed bugs
Kill bed bugs with heat
Heat is the best way to kill bed bugs in books. The insects and their eggs can be killed by temperatures of 122 °F (50 °C), while paper books will be undamaged by these temperatures.
Place your book on a rack in the middle of your oven with a pan of water underneath (this will maintain humidity in the oven and stop the pages from drying out). Cook your book for around an hour to make sure it has heated through completely and all the bugs are dead.
Another reliable way to kill bed bugs is to freeze them. Freezers set at 0°F (-15°C) will do the job nicely – just make sure to wrap your books securely in a plastic bag first to prevent moisture damage! The only drawback of using the freezing method over the heat method is time.
Whereas it only takes an hour to kill bed bugs in the oven, you will need to leave your books in the freezer for 4 days to guarantee complete bed bug death.
How to prevent a bed bug infestation at home
Bed bugs can find their way into your home in a thousand different ways, and the only way to prevent them is with caution. You can avoid an infestation by:
- Checking library books for infestations before putting them among your possessions, and heat-treating any infested copies.
- Leaving suitcases at the door until you’ve laundered everything inside.
- Opening packages outside and disposing of boxes in the outdoor trash or recycling.
- Inspecting items bought from second-hand shops carefully before bringing them into your home (and washing all fabrics at a high temperature to kill hidden insects).
- Being cautious at public laundromats – try not to let your clothes mingle with those from other households!
Bed bugs are skilled hitchhikers and can get into your home inside laundry, suitcases, post, and even library books. The last one is more common than you may think and, if you’re a bedtime reader, it’s a big risk factor for infestations.
Make sure to check books carefully for signs of bugs and treat any infested copies in the oven or freezer before taking them up to your room. It’s also a good idea to notify your library so they can take steps to deal with the infestation on their end!