We all worry about bringing bed bugs into our homes! These little pests have itchy bites and can hide and spread throughout a home.
Do book lovers need to be wary of stow-away bed bugs in books? How can we know if a book has bed bugs? More importantly, how can we get these little pests out of our reading materials?
- Can Bed Bugs Live in Books?
- Can there be Bed Bug Eggs in Books?
- Can You Get Bed Bugs from Books?
- How Long Can Bed Bugs Live in Books?
- Can Bed Bugs Damage Books?
- How Do I Know if My Book Has Bed Bugs?
- How to Remove Bed Bugs from Books
Can Bed Bugs Live in Books?
Bed bugs are great at hiding just about anywhere. They can make themselves at home in all kinds of spaces, including books. They are much more likely to be found in hardcover books than paperback books. The spine of a hardback book offers a much better hiding place.
When bed bugs are not full from a meal, they are fairly flat. It is easy for them to tuck themselves into the tiny spaces in a book’s spine, or even between the pages. A book that is stored near a bed and is not opened very often makes an ideal home for bed bugs.
Can there be Bed Bug Eggs in Books?
Bed bugs can lay eggs in books. Once the bed bugs have settled into a book, they will lay eggs.
Can You Get Bed Bugs from Books?
Bed bugs have the ability to move quickly and migrate from clothes, handbags, and even books! If a book came from a home with bed bugs, there is a chance that it could contain bed bugs.
Books are often kept near couches, beds, or other bed bug-friendly furniture. A book with bed bugs can easily make its way into a used book store or second-hand store.
Many libraries in multiple cities, including Los Angeles, Cincinnati, New York, and San Francisco have experienced bed bug outbreaks. Books leave the library and can come back contaminated.
A person with bed bugs in their clothing, may sit on a chair in the library, and leave a few bed bugs behind. These bugs can then travel to other library patrons, or find their way into the books.
Some libraries train their librarians to look for books with signs of bed bug contamination. These books are then placed in decontamination bags so they won’t have contact with the rest of the books.
If you have a library book with bed bugs in it or have a bed bug infestation in your home while you have library books, make sure to notify the librarians immediately. Return any books to the library sealed in a bag.
How Long Can Bed Bugs Live in Books?
Unfortunately, bed bugs can live in books for a long, long time. A bed bug can go dormant, and live for up to one year without feeding if it doesn’t have a host. The ability to go dormant in unfavorable conditions is called diapase.
Can Bed Bugs Damage Books?
Bed bugs are not interested in snacking on books. That doesn’t mean books are safe from damage, however! They leave fecal matter behind, which will stain the pages, and could also cause water damage.
How Do I Know if My Book Has Bed Bugs?
If you have a book that you suspect may be infested with bed bugs, inspect it over a sheet or piece of plastic to contain any run-away bugs. Carefully open the book and be prepared to seal it in a bag.
Bed Bug Skins
Open the book, and shake it out. Watch for light brown, bug-shaped skins. Young bed bugs shed their skin after a meal.
You may also use this method to check books while you are at the library. Hold the book upside down and shake it gently to see if any bed bug skins fall out.
Bed Bug Eggs
A well-fed, female bed bug will lay an average of 3-8 eggs per week. The eggs hatch after about 5-16 days. If there are multiple bugs, those eggs, and young bed bugs will add up fast!
Bed bugs eggs are about 1 mm across and look like small white dots. Since they are so small, it can be difficult to see them without a magnifying glass or microscope. The eggs are sticky and will cling to wherever they are laid.
Bed Bug Fecal Matter
Bed bug fecal matter is dark brown or black and looks like tiny dots from the tip of a felt-tip marker. It is often in clusters.
Since the fecal matter is made up of digested blood, you can test any unknown marks on a book. Lightly dab the suspected spot with a damp cloth. If it turns red and looks like blood, it is most likely a product of bed bugs.
Actual Bed Bugs
Did any bugs scatter from the book when you opened it? Bed bugs are about the size of an apple seed. They are reddish-brown in color. They are typically flat, except for right after they’ve had a meal.
How to Remove Bed Bugs from Books
If you do find bed bugs in your books, immediately seal the books in a bag so that the bugs don’t travel to any other part of your home.
Bed bugs are tough, little things! They have been known to survive temperatures as low as -13 degrees Fahrenheit for a short while. In order to kill bed bugs in the freezer, they need to be exposed to a temperature of 3 degrees Fahrenheit, or colder temperature for at least 80 hours. This will destroy the bed bugs and the eggs.
Make sure the books are thoroughly sealed in plastic bags like this before they are placed in the freezer. This will protect your food from bed bug corpses, and protect the books from water damage.
In order to kill bed bugs, they must be exposed to temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 20 minutes. Bed bug eggs are more heat resistant than their parents. The eggs have to remain in a 120-degrees Fahrenheit environment for at least 90 minutes before they reach 100% mortality.
Microwaves and Bed Bugs
The microwave may seem like a good way to kill off bed bugs. However, it is not a good idea to place books in the microwave. The book could be damaged, and, if there is any metal in the book, it could damage your microwave, as well.
Ovens and Bed Bugs
The oven may be a better way to use heat to kill bed bugs. Be careful, though! Paper ignites at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even if you place your oven on the lowest heat setting, it could still damage the book. Books also contain glue in the binding, which could melt. String in the book could ignite. If there is any plastic in the book, it could melt as well. The cover could become discolored.
Also, it is unsanitary to place an item that is contaminated with bed bugs in an area where you prepare food. I would recommend placing the books in an oven-proof bag and sealing the end with a wire tie.
Whole House Heat Treatment and Bed Bugs
Some pest control specialists offer heat treatment for bed bug infestations. They will bring in portable heaters, then seal up any potential exits. The home is then heated to 150-160 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature is maintained for several hours.
There are several downsides to whole-house heat treatment for bed bugs. First, it can be costly. Second, it is time-consuming to set up and execute. If you are interested in this method of pest control, contact pest control companies in your area to see if this service is offered.
Pesticides are the most common solution to a bed bug problem. This is true even for books! Treat your books with a bed bug killer spray. Follow the instructions on the bottle for the best results. Avoid soaking the books with the spray as this may damage the paper.
Diatomaceous earth is made from crushed diatoms or fossilized sea creatures. This non-toxic powder feels soft to the touch but has microscopic jagged points that pierce the bed bug’s exoskeleton. This leads to dehydration and death.
Use a powder duster to put a fine mist of diatomaceous earth on and around your books. Also apply it to the base of the shelves, and anywhere else you think the bed bugs may travel. Diatomaceous earth will not kill bed bug eggs.
Check out my previously written article on this titled: How to Use Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Bed Bugs for a complete guide.
Books are well-traveled! They can go from home to home via the public library or used book stores. Unfortunately, sometimes they carry unwanted passengers along for the ride. Bed bugs can stow away in books and make it into your home.
Now that you know how bed bugs can hide in books, what to look for, and how to get them out, you should be able to enjoy your book in peace! Happy reading!