Who knew that bed bugs are really book worms that love libraries?  We did.  Bell Environmental has worked with many libraries in our region to detect and treat bed bug issues.

There have been a number of individual news articles about bed bugs appearing in libraries nationwide including those in New York City; Danbury, Conn.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; Mesa, Ariz.; Norman, Okla.; Tulsa, Okla.; and many others. These bed bug encounters vary in their source of infestation, locations within the building, and degree of the infestation:

  • In Taylor, Mich., 200 bed bugs were found in the computer area, leading the library to close for treatment.
  • In Longmont, Colo., bed bugs were found on a number of chairs throughout the library.
  • A Pottsville, Penn. library discovered bed bugs hiding in chairs in its reference department.
  • A Middleton, Conn. library traced a bed bug issue to an infested DVD case that was being returned.
  • In a Wichita, Kan library branch, bed bugs were found on the undersides of chairs in two separate rooms.
  • A Hamden, Conn., library also traced bed bugs to books that were returned in August.
  • The St. Clair County Library in Michigan received a package of returned items that included bed bugs.

Considering the number of sightings in libraries in recent months, it’s not a matter of if a facility will get bed bugs, it’s a matter of when. Those that take lightly the challenge bed bugs represent and the issues they cause will have bigger problems when bed bugs strike.

Rarely is it a library’s fault that bed bugs were introduced into a building.  These insects are brought in by patrons or staff in their bags, borrowed books, or personal items.  Unless bed bugs are caught soon after hitching a ride into a library, it is quite possible that these bugs will make the facility their new home.

The New York Times recently rounded up and reported on the news of bed bugs in libraries. It discussed a number of occurrences nationwide and the varying approaches libraries are taking to solve these problems.

The article points out that bed bugs like to live in the spines of books and the bugs will crawl into the bestselling books that are left on the nightstands of bed bug victims, or from these same books into others’ homes. The piece struck a nerve and was widely circulated via email and on Twitter and brought a lot of (unwanted) attention to libraries. We saw more news coverage on the topic from the AP, such as the University of Washington’s encounters with and approach to bed bug issues.

A blogger complained that the article was fearmongering by suggesting that the problem for libraries and patrons is much greater than the reality of the problem.   His post was picked up by newspapers, including The NY Daily News, a rival of the Times. Again, in our experience the problem of bed bugs in libraries is fairly widespread, with these public buildings at risk for introduction and reinfestations, just as it is for other buildings such as schools and offices open to a large community of people.  The many people coming in and out of libraries on a daily basis represent opportunities for bed bugs to both eat and migrate.  The fact that many people settle in for long periods of time at library reading tables provides these wingless insects significant opportunities to feed.  In addition to bed bugs making themselves at home in these libraries, everyone who enters the facility – including staff and visitors – runs the risk of bed bugs hitchhiking home with them.

There are proactive steps that libraries can and should take to assess their risks of infestation and prevent large bed bug issues from occurring and recurring.

We’ll cover those topics in an upcoming blog entry.

UPDATE: These bed bugs in library stories keep hitting the news.  See this story “Bedbugs found in Toronto Public Library books” published on Wednesday, December 19, 2012.  The article notes, ”Over the past year the library has had 24 confirmed bedbug incidents out of 38 reported. The calls are split evenly between finding the bugs in furniture at various branches and finding them in books.”  Toronto has a population of 2.6 million, equivalent to Chicago.  If this urban library there had a confirmed problem 24 times in a  year, or once every 15 days, isn’t it clear (or at least highly likely) that New York City and its metro-region libraries also have issues?