Found a bedbug in a library book - what now?
September 3, 2012 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I was reading a library book when a bug crawled out. It was paper thin, and was moving incredibly slowly. My partner captured it and killed it, and then put it between two pieces of tape. We've looked online and, yep, probably a bedbug. What do we do now? Watchful vigilance? Fumigate our entire apartment (which may not be affordable at this time)? Somewhere in between? Details inside, if you want more...

More details: got the library book out on Saturday. The bedbug crawled out on Monday, about an hour after I started reading it. Hardback book (Charlaine Harris' "Dead Reckoning," not that it matters.) I'd been keeping it on the table beside the bed (yikes), but I was reading it in the living room when I saw the bug. It crawled out during daylight hours, which I understand is abnormal for the critters. I've put the book in a Ziploc bag and slipped a note in with it explaining the situation.

We also had about ten people over Saturday night, so in theory it could have come from one of them and crawled into the book from the coffee table, but that seems unlikely.

Neither of us have had any signs of bedbug bites.

I have tried reading Bedbugger's forums, but the message I've taken away is "Don't ride public transit, don't go to libraries, don't go to restaurants, don't go to movies, don't go to other people's houses. Strip naked the moment you enter your house from outside and wash everything you own in hot water, and anything that can't be washed, super-heat in a Pactite for 8 hours." Is that excessive or should we be at that level of decontamination at this point?
posted by rednikki to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Take some preliminary steps to suss out whether you have an issue. Surround your bed and couch (or anywhere you think they might be lurking) with double-sided tape. Make a perimeter on the floor, and cover any surfaces that they might use as a "highway" (like table legs, bed stand, etc.). If you see bodies, you'll know you have a problem.

Otherwise, I am a major proponent of caulking the bleep out of everything - seal every baseboard and crack so that they don't have any place to take cover if the exterminator comes.
posted by Mrs. Rattery at 6:44 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will be curious to read the responses, because I think different people have different levels of risk-taking with something like this. Ultimately it's going to be your decision whether you want to take the nuclear option or be more cautious.

Personally - and this is speaking as someone who dealt with a bedbug problem for a couple months - I would not go all out and treat your apartment at this point. If you do end up with an infestation, a treatment will cost the same amount after you start getting bites as it would now, and while bites are uncomfortable, they're liveable for a little bit.

I would consider isolating your bed so that if another bedbug escaped from the book, it can't get in to your bed. Move your bed away from the wall, so it's only touching the floor. Place each leg of the bed into a dish filled with water or diatomaceous earth. Don't let the bedsheets or comforter touch the floor. Then, if there is a bedbug in your apartment, it will be unable to get in to your bed.

If you're nervous, you can also wash/dry your sheets, comforter, and pillows in hot water. An alternative to washing is to put them in a black plastic bag in a car in the sun for a couple hours - it needs to get to around 115 degrees if I remember correctly, which it will easily do if it's a warm day.
posted by insectosaurus at 6:45 PM on September 3, 2012

I've had bedbugs. They totally suck. Before you go total decontamination and sequestering yourself from the world, I would wait to see if you have an actual infestation, or if this was just a hopeful hitchhiker (libraries are common vector-points, apparently).

I would suggest changing your bedding right now - choose a colour of sheets that is light-coloured, if possible ,so you can check for signes of bedbugs. For the next week, every day, check under your bedsheets, in the corners of the mattress (in the seams is where they love the most), in the corners of the bedside tables. They like dark, crack-like spaces. Little brown-black dots in these places is also a symptom (that's their poop).

If you don't find any after a week you're probably fine. It would probably be most polite not to have you or your partner(s) sleep in anyone else's bed or home until you're sure.
posted by robot-hugs at 6:45 PM on September 3, 2012

Response by poster: And we have photos, for anyone with an entomological bent who can stomach a look:
posted by rednikki at 6:50 PM on September 3, 2012

Best answer: Honestly? I don't think you need to panic just yet, but there are some precautions you should take. I've dealt with a horrendous months long ordeal with bedbugs after a person carrying bedbugs on their person or in their bags slept on my bed. The infestation turned into an infestation because I had no clue what was biting the crap out of me for a good week or two after the initial exposure. Chances are that the bedbug you caught and killed was the only one in the book, however if I were you, I'd do the following:

1. Take all linens and pillows off your bed, seal in plastic, and heat treat. If possible, treat all textiles within close proximity to the book in this manner. This is relatively easy, and worth the trouble.
2. Quarantine any other books that may have been nearby in plastic bags.
3. Check corners of walls, base molding, crevices in mattress for bedbugs or bedbug droppings during the daytime.
4. Be suspicious of any and all bug bites that happen in the next few months (yes, months. These asshole fuckhead bugs and their eggs can survive just long enough for you to think they're gone, then rear their ugly little bodies to cover you in bites again. They must enjoy the taste of paranoia in your blood.)
5. If you get any suspicious bugbites (mine were a bulls eye pattern, clustered in groups), call an exterminator.
6. Pray to the bedbug gods that you don't already have them, and do everything that you consider non-crazy to mitigate their spread in case you do.

Exterminators are expensive. Don't hire one until you know the bugs are in your home.

I had 50+ bites on my body at one point in time. From one overnight guest, once. Damn grungy bartender fling. Don't let it get to that point if you can avoid it. Do DIY heat treatments of your linens and keep your eyes peeled.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 6:54 PM on September 3, 2012 [3 favorites]

I also got bedbugs from a library (see previous Askme for the gory pictures!). According to the Googles, Libraries are bedbug vectors; they have no legal obligation to remove bedbugs, and will only do so at the threat of public relations disasters. Needless to say, I have no idea where my library membership card is anymore; I'm finished with them.

Anyways, after viciously killing the most obvious offenders, religious cleaning and storage for months of any potentially contaminated goods, using double sided tape for detection, I'm sort of, kind of confident they're all gone. Support the relegalization of DDT in the Western world if you hate these little fuckers as much as me.
posted by Yowser at 6:55 PM on September 3, 2012

And ya, definitely a bedbug. Poor you :(
posted by Yowser at 6:56 PM on September 3, 2012

It seems that the realistic spectrum of options you are looking at is:

1. Do nothing. Maybe it was only one bug and no eggs. Or maybe it was two bugs, but you killed one of them, so the other one won't reproduce.

2. Do a minimum of decontamination. Maybe vacuum the floor/baseboards/furniture within six feet of each table the book spent time on, paying particular attention to crevices, and throwing away the vacuum cleaner bag when done. Then use alcohol to wipe down each surface the book sat on. If you read the book in bed, wash bedclothes (drying on "hot" setting until bone dry). It's not a particularly effective treatment, but if there were eggs on the book, you might get rid of most of them, and you might get even recapture a stray bedbug or two. In a scenario where there were bedbug eggs in the book, and/or there were several bedbugs in the book, this might bring the number of eggs/bugs down below the level where an infestation could take hold. Maybe.

3. Go nuclear by pre-emptively bringing in a pest-control specialist to treat your place. The pesticide treatment doesn't kill eggs, and can't be applied to clothing, so you'll also need to run any potentially contaminated clothing/bedlinens through a hot dryer (or otherwise bring them to a sustained temperature of 120 F) and go through the vacuum routine to get rid of as many eggs as possible before they hatch. After a few weeks (the eggs take 2 weeks to hatch), another pesticide treatment (and clothing/bedding washing) should kill any recently hatched bugs before they themselves can reach egg-laying maturity.

If it were me, I'd probably go with option 2, escalating to option 3 if there's any further sign of bedbugs whatsoever.
posted by Dimpy at 7:10 PM on September 3, 2012

Yep, that's a bedbug alright. I dealt with an infestation that went on for over a year (apartment building where they kept moving around until the whole building was treated).

I too think you can wait a bit before going all nuclear.

As others have said, wash what you can in the hottest water possible. Heat treat everything else. I purchased allergy covers for my mattress and box spring so they couldn't take up residence (if it keeps out a dust mite, it will keep out a bedbug).

The other steps you can take are frequent vacuuming. You must throw out the bag right away and I removed the filters and put them in the freezer in between vacuuming.

I would also look into getting some drione dust. It's the most non-toxic thing you can use against bedbugs. It's basically a silica like product that cuts their exoskeletons. You can sprinkle that in and around furniture and baseboards. One application is good for six months. Again it's not a chemical solution, which is nice.
posted by brookeb at 7:11 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! This is really helpful. I see a lot of laundry and double sided tape in our immediate future.

This may be the only time where I've said, "Yay! I'm so happy I live in a place where my car becomes an intolerable temperature without heat shields in the windows!"
posted by rednikki at 7:17 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You did a really good thing alerting the library -- I know that some libraries do take this very seriously!
posted by bluedaisy at 7:38 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can supposedly create trap/detector for bedbugs with dry ice, they are attracted to the carbon dioxide. Google for some plans.
posted by LarryC at 7:53 PM on September 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

According to the exterminators who have been working on my bedbug infestation, half an hour in a hot dryer is enough to kill the things. Make sure to do that with your sheets, your blankets, and your pillows.

Bedbugs are nocturnal. You won't see them, even if you have an infestation. If that happens, there will be two hints: first, you'll start getting bites on your hands and feet.

Second, you'll start finding little black blotches on your sheets. Looks like someone was dropping black ink all over the place. That's their poop, and it's the unmistakeable sign.

If that starts happening, then you need an exterminator.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:09 PM on September 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

As somebody who works in a library that had bedbugs its not that libraries refuse to get rid of them , its that a lot of libraries do not know they have them. Most patrons will not tel lthem they found them there.

The op should tell the library they found them in a book.

Also you sure its a bedbug and not a book mite(they are also common in libraries)?

When we found them we had our exterminator come in and we had to close the library for 1 day and they did a total fumigation and now come in once a month to check.

The problem UNLIKE what most people think its next to impossible to really fumigate for them . A lot of chemicals do not kill bedbugs .

Also keep in mind libraries in richer areas are more likely to have them then ones in poorer areas because rich people have the money to travel while poorer people do not.
posted by majortom1981 at 5:26 AM on September 4, 2012

A guy I know who is the facilities manager at a "Home" told me the most effective way to deal with bedbugs is to get a guy to come into your place, seal it up and then bring the heat up to 140 degrees. It works instantly, and there is no poison do deal with.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:08 AM on September 4, 2012

Response by poster: Just an update, for anyone who is coming across this thread later...

I brought the book, still in a Ziploc, back to the Los Angeles Public Library Central Branch today. I started with the checkout clerk. I told her I had found a bedbug in the book, and she shrugged and said, "So?"

I then asked to speak to her manager.

The manager sighed and looked squeamish. She told me they have had multiple reports for weeks. "We've been spraying when we get reports," she said, "but we didn't know they'd gotten to the Literature section yet." She told me she would work to educate the front desk staff.

It sounds like they're in denial about the need for a fumigation, and they certainly seem to be trying to keep it quiet. I think in the future, any library loans I get will be strictly digital.
posted by rednikki at 6:43 PM on September 6, 2012

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