How to kill bed bugs that are in your books is a problem that a lot of people dealing with infestations have probably had to address. I mean, we keep books around because we enjoy them and the last thing that we want to do is toss them because they have become hiding places for the bugs.
I know that in our bedroom we have a couple of book cases filled with some of my favorite books that I have collected over the years along with photo albums containing pictures of family and friends. At different times we have also had a couple apartments infested a few times with bedbugs.
Each time I had to figure out how to kill them without damaging my books and I’ve come up with a couple of different options.
The problem with killing these bugs in books is that they are really small and can get into places that are extremely tight. Including inside books and their covers. Each night they can crawl up to 20 feet each way for their blood feeding. While they are hiding in the books they will leave stains from fecal matter and the shells from moltings. So the longer they stay in the books the worse the damage that happens.
Books will also get stained if they are sprayed with the chemicals that are commonly used to kill the bugs. But I have discovered is that there are still several ways to deal with this. The fact is that the bugs aren’t going to stay in the books forever, they are just using them as a safe hiding place to avoid detection until they can come out and feed again.
So there are actually three tactics that I have used successfully.
First: I know that there are numerous studies that argue foggers are ineffective at killing the bugs. But I always use them as part of my arsenal when I have to deal with any infestation. My experience is that while the foggers don’t kill all the bugs and can’t touch the eggs, they do kill some of the bugs and help to drive them out of the books.
Second: Another, and probably the best tool is diatomaceous earth. This has always been one of my go to tools and when it is used right can be very effective. If you use one of the puffers that you can purchase to spread a fine mist of powder around your books it will eventually kill off all the bugs.
Diatomaceous earth is a finely ground powder made of shells. This powder, even though it is harmless to us and our pets, will poke holes through the legs and shell of any bug that crawls across it. This causes them to dry out and die. Use it by puffing a fine mist on and around your books and any bugs that are in them will eventually die out.
This method doesn’t work as fast as contact killers that kill the bugs on contact but it is deadly to the bugs and works extremely well without any damage to the books.
Third: Another tool that I have used with books is heat. If you are in a hurry or dealing with a large infestation you can simply put the books in a black trash bag and leave it the sun for a couple of hours which will kill the bugs. You can boost the heat by putting the black trash bag in a car sitting in the sun. Always make sure that you tightly seal the bag.
This method will kill the bugs and their eggs. I usually try to avoid this though because the high heat can cause bindings to melt or in some cases make the pages brittle.
Fourth: My fourth method is cold. . To use cold you need to lower the temperature of the books below freezing for a couple of days. Bed bugs are very hardy and can survive short periods of both heat and cold so you need to make sure that you keep your books cold for at least a couple of days.
If it is during the winter I just put the books in a trash bag to protect them and set them outside on the porch for a few days. Remember though, the temperature has to be below freezing for at least a couple of days to work. Make sure that you spread the books out a bit so there isn’t on single large mass that makes it harder for the cold to get into.
If it’s summer or you live in an area where the temperatures don’t get low enough there is an alternative. Put the books in a sealed bag to protect them and put a few of them at a time into the freezer for a few days.
Remember that the cold needs to penetrate completely through the entire book to work so separate the books so they aren’t in a big pile. I’ve used freezer bags with up to a dozen books at a time and successfully killed the bugs and eggs. Also make sure to handle the books cautiously until they warm because the cold can make them a little brittle till they warm back up.
Conclusion: If you are treating an active infestation just remember to keep your books sealed in the bags until the bugs and eggs are all killed. If you are in a situation where you have neighbors that aren’t treating the bed bugs and you are in danger of a re-infestation keep a fine mist of the diatomaceous earth on and around your book shelves to keep them protected.
Learning how to kill bed bugs that are in your books can be a tough task if you have a lot of books but I think that it is worth the effort to avoid throwing the books away!