They’re creepy; they’re crawly, and they suck human blood. Tiny bedbugs are a big nuisance. The insects can inflict health issues ranging from rashes to allergies . . . plus emotional problems. Now librarians in Lincoln, Nebraska, want to ban bedbugs from their books.
At nighttime, bedbugs wriggle from their hiding places in mattresses, cracks in wood trim, and even picture frames. They are drawn by body heat toward unsuspecting sleepers. The victim awakes with a tell-tale sign: three itchy, red bumps in a row. This triple-bite phenomenon is commonly called “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” Bedbugs crawl from place to place or hitch rides in tight spots like clothing seams, suitcase crevices, or book bindings. Librarians are right to be wary of bedbugs, since some can survive longer than a year without blood.
God made all creatures, even “creeping things” (Genesis 1:24) like cockroaches and bedbugs. Each of God’s creatures had a purpose upon creation, even if humans don’t understand what that is.
Lincoln’s library system first discovered bedbugs in some books in 2014. The ghastly finding happened during a national rash of bedbug reports from theaters, thrift stores, college dorms, apartment buildings, and hotel rooms.
The Bennett Martin Library Bedbug Committee (put that on a job résumé!) worked with experts to develop detection procedures. Certified bedbug dogs sniff the aisles of each branch library every three months. Librarians inspect every item returned to their library system’s eight branches.
Bennett Martin runs a training program for its bug checkers. Since bedbugs like tight spaces, checkers flip through pages and inspect book spines. Sometimes they discover food stains; occasionally money, including a $100 bill. One of the most unusual finds was a strip of bacon being used as a bookmark. And once or twice a month, staffers find bedbugs.
“We’ve had everything from one dead bug or a few smears, to opening things up and seeing three bugs run across the page,” says librarian Scott Clark.
The solution? Books and other items get shut in a freezer at zero degrees for four days. That’s long enough to kill the bugs and any eggs they might have laid. Other treatments can include heating the book in an oven or commercial clothes dryer or spraying with a chemical pesticide. Any patrons who return an infested book must return all other library items in plastic bags.
So next time you want to sleep tight, make sure your bedtime book doesn’t harbor bugs that bite.