One of the main reasons as to why bed bugs are such challenging pests to deal with is their expertise at hide and seek. It doesn’t help that these parasites are the size of an apple seed while fully grown and only need to feed occasionally with unsuspecting humans.
They like to call home cool and dry corners and can also live an unimaginably long time without feeding. These traits are the reason why it is no longer safe or reasonable to expect that bed bugs can only be confined to the bed.
They are good at hide and seek but are equally experienced when it comes to hitchhiking which can turn libraries into potential bed bug breeding places.
Can bed bugs live in books? Bed bugs can live in books because the living conditions in books are almost ideal for them. Bed bugs may not be able to live in between the book pages because of the lack of space, but they most certainly will live in the spine of the book, especially if the book is in hardcover.
A book will provide cool temperatures, dry and hidden corners, and the high possibilities of being tucked next to a sleeping host, etc. So yes, bed bugs can live in books and even cause a severe infestation at the home of unsuspecting book owners/readers.
With the recent bed bug population resurgence, picking up a bed bug from your favorite fictional corner at the local library isn’t a foreign concept. There have been reports of bed bugs infesting libraries in various states. These unfortunate incidents have caused a panic among library-goers because no one wants to risk the possibility of ferrying a bed bug back to their home.
Library personnel, on the other hand, have resulted to proactively treating their libraries in an effort to protect their clients and businesses. This article covers the possibility of bed bugs living in books and what can be done to eliminate them so please read with care!
Do Bed Bugs Hide in Books?
Yes, bed bugs do hide in books because they provide an ideal harborage for bed bugs. Some of them come with loose covers which in turn provide the perfect location for bed bugs to hide.
Remember that all a bed bug needs to feel comfortable is a tiny space, any size that can fit an apple seed or a credit card, cool atmosphere and an out of sight location.
Books are quite popular with bed bugs because they provide the perfect means of transport for the bugs and some readers will even get into bed to read their books, a situation that is more than ideal for the bed bug. So, yes bed bugs will definitely hide in books.
Can Bed Bugs Lay Eggs in Books?
Bed bugs laying eggs in books is very possible especially if the books are not used regularly. Their seclusion and possibly their close proximity to the host, be it a bed or a couch makes books a great place for bed bugs to lay eggs.
Once a bed bug finds a nice undisturbed corner to call home, its next step is to start its own population. This place can be anywhere that meets the ideal conditions that allow the bed bugs to comfortably lay its eggs.
Can Bed Bugs Live in Paperback Books?
Once they have found the safe conditions of a book and decided to lay their eggs, they are then free to continue living in their newfound space. The best environment for this is the spine of a hardcover book since those tend to have some more space in them when compared to paperback books.
Bed bugs can be found living in paperback books but they are more like to find a home in hardcover books. It isn’t likely to find bed bugs between the pages of any type of book due to lack of space.
Can Bed Bugs Travel in Books?
Yes, bed bugs can travel in books. The biggest percentage of an infestation is as a result of hitchhiking bed bugs. Not only do they cling onto travelers’ clothes, bags, etc, they will also hitch a ride inside a book.
This can range from an infested home to the library and then to the home of the next library user who will be unfortunate enough to borrow the infested book. So be careful when checking out books at your local library, your love for reading could be the reason why your home is infested.
Can You Get Bed Bugs in Used Books?
Much like used furniture, used books can also harbor bed bugs. Books tend to find themselves in close proximity of highly infested areas e.g. beds, couches, etc. Not only that, books are constant companions in the bed a place where they are likely to collect bed bugs and transport them to their next destination or even make a home in the book.
Can You Get Bed Bugs From Library Books?
Yes, you can get bed bugs from library books. Why? Library books can be borrowed by anyone including people whose homes are infested by bed bugs. Once these people return the books to the library, then there is the possibility of these bugs traveling to other books which results in an infestation.
The reason for finding bed bugs in libraries isn’t only because of their ability to hide in books, no bed bugs have more ways of getting into a library. One of those reasons is the most obvious one of hitching a ride on peoples’ clothes.
There are cozy places within a library meant to give you a calm reading experience and once you get settled on the said places, that little bed bugs can hitch a ride in your clothes.
Are Bed Bugs Likely to Stay in Books For Long?
The possibility of bed bugs staying in books for long is really high because bed bugs have the ability to stay alive for a long period without food. This characteristic is known as diapause, which allows insects to go dormant once the environment changes into unfavorable conditions.
An adult bed bug can go for a whole year without food. While its typical instinct is to try and find a host to feed on, it will go dormant and try to out-survive its current unpleasant conditions if needed.
This however only comes into play when the conditions are just above unfavorable but the state of being dormant doesn’t work when the environmental changes become extreme. If the temperature exceeds 118 degrees Fahrenheit or goes below -13 °F, the bed bug will not survive and will die while it still is in its dormant state.
Bed Bugs and Library Books: How Much Damage Can Bed Bugs Cause?
Bed bugs do not feed on anything else other than blood and so they cannot feed on books. However, just because they have a rather weak feeding straw as mouth doesn’t mean that your books are completely safe from getting damaged.
Any bed bug infested area has a giveaway characteristic – blood spots. These blood spots are bed bug excrement. They stain any infested area and so if bed bugs have made a home in the library books, those stains will definitely do some unpleasant damage to the books.
Can You Microwave Books to Kill Bed Bugs?
While a microwave has the ability to hit very high temperatures which would in turn kill bed bugs, it is not the ideal place to treat your books. Why?
- Microwaves can reach really high temperatures and damage the book, their heat is hard to regulate.
- Books are made with more material than just paper and so any other materials in the book may get damaged.
- If the book has some metallic material, it may cause a fire.
All in all, it is wise to stay away from the microwave while trying to kill bed bugs.
Freezing Books to Kill Bed Bugs: Does it Work?
Freezing your books has a higher chance of killing bed bugs and still preserving your books, unlike the microwave method. Bed bugs do not survive in below zero temperatures and so you can put your books in zip lock bags and deep freeze them for a couple of hours.
The zip lock bags will ensure that your books do not come into contact with any water/ice in the freezer and thus retain the quality of the book. After five hours are over, remove the books from the freezer and inspect them for any live bugs.
Retaining those books in the freezer a little longer would be the ideal choice to ensure that those eggs are killed too.
Can You Put Books in an Oven to Kill Bed Bugs?
You can try! But here are the consequences of doing that:
You may damage your books even if you set the heat below 450 degrees Fahrenheit which is the temperature at which the paper ignites. As mentioned earlier, books are made up of more than paper.
- The glue binding the book together may melt.
- The color of the book may change.
- Some books are bound together with a string which could ignite.
- Some books have plastic material on the cover which could melt.
Bottom line is, if you care about your books, do not try to bake them, you may destroy your books alongside the bed bugs.
How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs in Books – 4 Best Methods
The microwave and oven ideas were not all the way misleading, no, in fact, they are the right idea but with the wrong execution. Heat treatment works and it kills bed bugs. It is very effective but it needs to be well utilized.
Some pest control officers use this as their go-to method. They bring a portable heater and raise the temperatures of your house to a degree that is unbearable for the bed bugs. This method is effective but it is also expensive and time-consuming.
Freezing The Bugs
Another very effective method is by taking the opposite route of the heat treatment and deep freezing your books.
Put your book in a zip lock bag and leave them in the deep freezer for a considerable amount of time, preferably overnight to ensure that those eggs have no chance of surviving.
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Bed bugs may prefer cooler temperatures but freezing temperatures are deadly for them.
Another method is by isolating the bed bug population in your books and cutting it from the food chain. This can be done by putting the books in zip lock bags and keeping them in storage.
This isn’t the most ideal way to eliminate the bugs because it takes a very long time for all the bed bugs to die, remember, bed bugs do hibernate.
This is the most common way of dealing with bed bugs anywhere, including in your books. Using a spray can is very effective because then you are able to spray into the book’s spine where bed bugs are most likely hiding.
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The bottom line is that bed bugs will make a home anywhere they deem ideal for their survival. The once safe libraries have now become a potential ground zero for breeding bed bugs.
Should we let these pests dictate how or where we read our books? No, this is why you need to be informed that bed bugs do in fact reside in books and in libraries and that you should take the precautions necessary to ensure that you are not unwittingly spreading them around.
Double-check all your library books before checkout and also before you return them to the library. If you spot a bed bug, take the necessary steps. Being proactive ensures that these bugs do not ruin such a great hobby as reading.
List of Sources
EPA. (May 2010). Controlling Bed Bugs. Pesticides: Controlling Pests. (26 April 2017)
Potter, M. Bed Bugs. Extension Entomologist, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture
Diseases & Conditions – Bedbugs, Mayo Clinic