Of all the places you'd think to check for bed bugs, I doubt that library books would be at the top of your list. As odd as it sounds, though, libraries and library books are some of the most common places for bed bug infestations. Libraries all over the country have reported bed bug problems this summer, and some have even had to temporarily close to take care of the problem.
But before you vow to never set foot inside a library again, here's a little primer on how to check your books for bed bugs, and what to do if you find the nasty little creatures lurking inside.
If you've never seen one before (consider yourself lucky), bed bugs are flat, oval shaped parasites about the size of an apple seed. Their color depends on how recently they've eaten; a well-fed bug will be a dark, reddish-brown, but one that hasn't had any food recently will be a light, translucent brown. The nymphs (young) are much smaller, but still visible to the human eye.
Signs that they may be lurking in your books include dark spots or stains on the pages where they may have gotten crushed, and tiny specs of bug poop. Sometimes you may also find corpses, eggs, or shells that the nymphs shed on their way to adulthood.
Since they're flat, it's really easy for bed bugs to hide, so you'll want to check your books pretty thoroughly to be sure. They'll be easy to spot if they're on the pages, but they can also easily fit into the binding. Hard cover books are more likely to be housing them (near the spine), but they can hide just about anywhere, so check your paperbacks, too.
If you do find them, bed bugs can be eradicated in a few different ways. There are plenty of sprays and powders that will kill them, but if you don't want chemicals in your house, there are some more natural options. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is actually a good (and safe) bet, though it will leave everything a little powdery while it works its magic. You can usually find it at home and garden shops, as well as some pet stores (it's good for fleas, too).
Temperatures above 115° F or below -26° F will kill them, but since most freezers don't get that cold, cooking them to death is your best bet. Paper can withstand pretty high temperatures (Fahrenheit 451 got its name for a reason), so you can put them in the oven for an hour or two, or even just leave them in the back of a really hot car for a while.
As a precaution, if you do find them in your books, you should probably check the rest of your house and your car for bed bugs. You can use a steam cleaner on your bed or the washing machine (with hot water) to get them out of your clothes. And if all else fails, you can always call the exterminator.
Now, does anyone else suddenly feel itchy, or is it just me?