If you're a school or public librarian, you're used to having to contend with people hogging the computer desks and not returning books on time—but now you have another issue that you need to address: bed bugs. Since the bugs are as thin as a credit card, book pages and binders make excellent hiding places—and many of the books you've loaned out over the last few months could be returning with bed bugs hitching a ride. This is what you should know.
Bed Bugs Are On The Rise
Since nearly being wiped out a half-century or more ago, the bed bugs are starting to evolve and make a resurgence, thanks mostly to the ban on DDT. Experts are seeing a resistance to pyrethrins and pyrethroids, which are the main ingredients in the most commonly used toxic chemicals used to keep bed bugs under control.
They Can Survive For A Long Time Without Food
Unlike lice and other parasitic bugs, bed bugs don't have to continuously feed in order to stay alive—adult bed bugs can go without feeding for anywhere between 20 to 400 days, depending on the temperature and humidity of their chosen hiding spot. This makes it easy for the bugs to be spread anywhere that people are constantly bringing things back and forth from home, like schools and libraries. Worse, since they're so small, a visual inspection of the books won't necessarily tell you that there's a problem. Even if you check each page, they can still be hiding in a crack in the binding. If you loan out multi-media devices like CDs or DVDs, they can even ride along in the cases without being seen.
You Can Treat Your Library And Stop The Bed Bugs From Spreading
Preventative measures are your best ally in the fight against bed bugs. If you have old couches or other soft furniture in which the bugs can hide, it may be time to remove them in favor or metal tables and chairs instead. While less cozy, they're also less problematic.
In addition, a few other steps can help prevent a bed bug infestation:
Remove any paper from multimedia cartridges, like CDs and DVDs, and store the discs only in clear cases. That way, you only have to remove the discs in order to check underneath them for bugs before reshelving.
Consider purchasing hot boxes or another form of enclosed heat-treatment device. Bed bugs can't survive temperatures over 122 degrees Fahrenheit, so heat treatment is an effective method of eradication that doesn't require chemicals. Books can be treated as soon as they are returned to the library to keep the bugs away.
Make sure that all new employees, including volunteers and part-time workers, have training on how to spot bed bugs. While looking through books and other materials isn't always effective, you don't want someone to overlook obvious signs of a serious infestation, like brownish-red stains on pages and empty casings from bugs that have shed.
Finally, make sure that you have a preventative plan in place with a local bed bug control or pest control company. Pest control companies are staying on top of the bed bug evolution and are coming up with new ways to combat the pests—which will keep you and your patrons happier.