Lestat, Eric Northman, Tohrment and Dracula aren't the only bloodsuckers at the library
September 4, 2012 10:44 PM   Subscribe

Libraries all over the US and Canada are wrestling with bedbug infestations. In fact, the Travel Channel has named libraries the #1 bedbug infestation spot. Some libraries are closing temporarily due to bedbug problems; others have had to destroy valuable historic books due to serious infestations caused by well-meaning patrons (who then contemplate suing to get their library privileges back). The problem has become so common that some libraries are posting their bedbug management policies on their websites, and several have detailed them to the news media. Rest assured, however, the bedbugs are not a terrorist attack.

Exterminators say the bedbugs can crawl into checked-out books at night, perhaps when the reader has fallen asleep with the library book in or under their bed. However, bedbugs have also been found in library DVD cases and in library furniture. The little bloodsuckers can survive for eighteen months without food, so even a book that hasn't been checked out for a year could have a critter lurking inside.

Here's some tips on how to spot them in used or library books and some tips on how to get rid of them (for example, by leaving the books in a hot car). Or you can always switch to an e-reader, so that the only bugs you will confront will be digital.
posted by rednikki (144 comments total) 48 users marked this as a favorite

 
ew
posted by zeoslap at 10:49 PM on September 4, 2012


I've been worrying about this since that AskMe where a bedbug crawled out of a library book.

For the last couple of years I've been putting everything from thrift stores that has nooks and crannies into sealed bags with desiccant for a couple of weeks, but I didn't think about library books, maybe because my partner checks them out and reads them but I never do.
posted by jamjam at 10:59 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


From the 'suing' link, the library was remarkably stupid. You can kill off bedbugs utterly and completely by raising them and their eggs to 118 degrees F for 90 minutes. This is, apparently, the 100% death rate. All the adults die within 20 minutes, but eggs take 90.

And that's it. Just heat up your books, all done. Throwing away ancient volumes because of bedbugs is a freaking crime.
posted by Malor at 11:01 PM on September 4, 2012 [32 favorites]


I lived in NYC for 7 years. I don't buy anything secondhand. From anywhere. Ever. Nor do I borrow things. From anybody. Ever.

My sanity is worth more than money.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:08 PM on September 4, 2012 [14 favorites]


Your "Tohrment" reference led me to the Wikipedia Article for "The Black Dagger Brotherhood". And I have to ask... is this for real? The character names alone are making me retch with laughter.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:14 PM on September 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Are you people trying to get my wife to cut off my library/paperbackswap/used book privileges?
posted by Zed at 11:15 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


And that's it. Just heat up your books, all done. Throwing away ancient volumes because of bedbugs is a freaking crime.

They were too stained with bed-bug droppings, apparently.

Ugh. Do not want.
posted by xdvesper at 11:16 PM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Just a quick look at MeFi, maybe then I'll finally get to sleep." Yea, right. It's been three years and a new apartment, but just the thought is sending me into an all-lights-on visual inspection fit. Maybe I won't renew that library card after all...
posted by gemmy at 11:25 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


Somewhere, Jeff Bezos is receiving reports from his bedbug-egg-placing agents and steepling his fingers, saying "Ex-cell-ent."
posted by Zed at 11:26 PM on September 4, 2012 [13 favorites]


Egg-cell-ent, you mean.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:27 PM on September 4, 2012 [7 favorites]


Apparently the guy with the bedbug problem in Denver that was so bad it caused the rare books to be destroyed was a Project Gutenberg volunteer, involved in scanning books for preservation. Oh, the irony.

It sounds, though, like his is some sort of apocalyptically severe case of bedbugs and there's some level of passive-aggressiveness going on about dealing with it, between him and the apartment's landlord. I'm sure there's a lot going on in that situation besides what's apparent.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:29 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


If bedbugs ever came to my area, I'm not sure I would ever leave the house again.
posted by Malice at 11:38 PM on September 4, 2012


And that's it. Just heat up your books, all done.

For what it's worth, even if the books hadn't been fully stained by droppings, heating the books may have ended up destroying some of them. Every inner part of the book needs to get past 118 degrees, which, depending on the size of the tome, can take hours. Otherwise, the bugs will just seek refuge within the cooler areas of the book.

This means heating the exposed portions of the book to well past 118 degrees, and doing so for extended periods of time. Such heat destroys leather and glue, and would, I imagine, render old paper very, very friable. Sulfuryl fluoride would probably have been a better option, had the books been salvageable.

(In two weeks, I get to move out of the building that gave me a relatively minor, but still crazy-making and expensive bedbug problem. My days are occupied with deciding what to keep: Do I sacrifice all of my remaining books, which have been packed away for over a year? Some? Where's the happy medium between killing it with fire, and getting my things and life back? If that is even an option?)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:39 PM on September 4, 2012 [5 favorites]


from post: “... others have had to destroy valuable historic books due to serious infestations... ”

I am not sure how I feel about that. Bedbugs don't consume materials like paper, and they're almost completely harmless to human beings – they're just slightly creepy and their bites cause welts on some people (but not others). They don't even communicate any known diseases. And they are in fact almost impossible to detect aside from the bites – actually noticeable bedbug infestations are almost unheard of except in incredibly decrepit conditions which seem to be rare these days. I had a bedbug outbreak in an apartment a few years ago, and the most maddening thing about it was that it was almost invisible but not quite.

This is a horrifying thing to suggest to a lot of people, I know, but I think I have a solution to the bedbug problem which would satisfy almost everybody:

Stop research into ways to get rid of bedbugs; it's pointlessly difficult, and the only really effective way is DDT (which is illegal for good reasons.) Instead, research whatever sensitivity it is that makes some people get welts from bedbugs, and other people not. When we had bedbugs, my girlfriend was always covered with the things, and I never had a mark on me even though I'm pretty sure I was getting bitten every night.

If we could come up with a way to prevent the welts, and if we could distribute that to the population and remove the sensitivity, then everybody would be happy. People would pretty much never know that the bedbugs were there – if that faint blackish-red look of the eggs showed up on their mattress, they'd clean it off and be done with it. And bedbugs would be happy, because they could fade into the vast infinity of insects that prey on us humans in our sleep.

And nobody would ever think about it. Bedbugs would fade into the collective social memory of the past, associated with flophouses in the 1920s and all that.
posted by koeselitz at 11:44 PM on September 4, 2012 [16 favorites]


If you had access to an industrial freezer, you could wrap them, deep freeze them, let them defrost, and do it again to make sure you get any more that hatched from eggs that survived the initial freeze.

Yeah, I don't know how an individual gets access to such a freezer either.
posted by Zed at 11:46 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


My building in New York gets very occasional carpet beetles and every time I find one I freak out about possible bed bugs.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:47 PM on September 4, 2012


Stop research into ways to get rid of bedbugs; it's pointlessly difficult, and the only really effective way is DDT (which is illegal for good reasons.) Instead, research whatever sensitivity it is that makes some people get welts from bedbugs, and other people not.

Yeah, also, we should start colonizing Greenland and stop being such worrywarts about global warming already, jeez.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:47 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Huh? But global warming isn't harmless. Bedbugs are harmless. Also, I don't get the Greenland thing, so I think I'm just confused about what you mean.
posted by koeselitz at 11:48 PM on September 4, 2012 [3 favorites]


Also, we should stop worrying so much about air pollution, and instead start manufacturing more fashionable gasmasks. I hear Lady Gaga has a glitter one, and I want it SO BAD.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:51 PM on September 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh UGH UGH UGH

I've been working in libraries for the last four years and I'm super unhappy about this. I live in an area where bedbugs are pretty uncommon, but I order books from interlibrary loan sometimes and this freaks my shit out. I mean, I've been doing it all my life, I should probably cool down. But I think I'm going to start buying my books in the near future. Goddammit, like the one endlessly entertaining thing I could do for free.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:57 PM on September 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you had access to an industrial freezer, you could wrap them, deep freeze them, let them defrost, and do it again to make sure you get any more that hatched from eggs that survived the initial freeze.

Yeah, I don't know how an individual gets access to such a freezer either.
--Zed

For the Canadian libraries, can't they just leave the windows open for a few days?
posted by eye of newt at 11:58 PM on September 4, 2012 [2 favorites]


They suck your blood and shit it everywhere.

They suck your blood and shit it everywhere.

And you counsel appeasement?
posted by dragoon at 11:58 PM on September 4, 2012 [22 favorites]


But global warming isn't harmless. Bedbugs are harmless.

You wouldn't say that if you'd lived through an infestatiion.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:59 PM on September 4, 2012 [18 favorites]


This is what a real terrorist attack on a library looks tastes like.
posted by guiseroom at 12:00 AM on September 5, 2012


Oh god I'm so glad I haven't heard anything about this in my years of working Swedish libraries (and lifetime of hanging out in them). I'm also glad I've been alerted to the need for vigilance by MeFi, and not by horrible traumatic first hand experience!
posted by harujion at 12:01 AM on September 5, 2012


Also, apparently DDT is not a good way to get rid of bedbugs. They are completely resistant to DDT.
posted by eye of newt at 12:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


actually noticeable bedbug infestations are almost unheard of except in incredibly decrepit conditions which seem to be rare these days

It's less rare than you would think, and doesn't always have to do with decrepit conditions. The building I'm in has had a problem for at least three years; it's a fancy co-op in Park Slope with an on-site super. Females lay one to five eggs a day, which can cause even a small population, left to its lonesome, to absolutely explode. And while bedbugs aren't necessarily caused by decrepit conditions, but they sure can cause decrepit conditions (books and furniture being more or less destroyed by droppings, etc.).

As goes the bites, I got them for a while. They didn't blow up as large as my mosquito bites (which get huuuuge, and which science has not yet prevented), but I had them running all the way up my leg. I had to go to sleep at night expecting that bedbugs would be crawling over my face as I slept. Worst of all, I had to avoid friends and family, for fear of giving them the same problem. It's one thing for me to sleep with pants tucked into socks, and have all my clothes in an XXL Ziploc bag, and run everything through the dryer and the Packtite. It would be another thing for my grandmother to have to do the same.

As goes freezing: I think you're supposed to keep them at below 23 degrees F (i.e., lower than many people keep their fridges) for at least five days.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:06 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Somewhere, Jeff Bezos is receiving reports from his bedbug-egg-placing agents and steepling his fingers, saying "Ex-cell-ent."

I bet those agents get great Amazon discounts for their efforts.

The Kindle's name always made me think it had some kind of sinister Fahrenheit 451 undertones. I didn't make the same connection with the more bluntly name Fire, but it makes me wonder now.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 12:09 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


Huh. There's a Roger Goffeney on Facebook, who may or may not be the same guy. Under "favorite quotes" he lists: "Any value which does not serve my growth to wholeness deserves to be transformed or removed. With proper use of time, touch and tenderness will come a blended heart of togetherness. Energy is all and all is energy; what we do with it creates our worlds. I am master of all I survey; so let me be a better surveyor. (All original)"

So, yeah. There's that.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


me: “But global warming isn't harmless. Bedbugs are harmless.”

Chocolate Pickle: “You wouldn't say that if you'd lived through an infestatiion.”

Like I said in my comment, I have. Weeks and weeks of dry-cleaning, of pointless 'fumigation' that does nothing (it really doesn't work on them), of more dry-cleaning, and finally a long round of legal threats that finally drove our landlord to allow us to break our lease in exchange for us not publicizing the whole thing. It was a nightmare.

And all simply because human skin sometimes has a sensitivity to bedbug bites. But there are much more dangerous and weird things out there. Spiders that bite you when you're sleeping are more dangerous. Mosquitoes are vastly more dangerous.

Bedbugs spread no known diseases beyond the most common of human diseases: squeamishness and fear. And I can't pretend I'm immune to those things. But there are much worse things crawling on my skin at this very moment than bedbugs, and that's true of every one of us.

eye of newt: “Also, apparently DDT is not a good way to get rid of bedbugs. They are completely resistant to DDT.”

That's an interesting article, and I'd never heard that. What's most interesting is that DDT resistance in bedbugs seems to be half a century old; before that, it seems to have been effective against them. Or at least I would assume it was – otherwise it would be very difficult to explain the fact that they were virtually eradicated.

evidenceofabsence: “It's less rare than you would think, and doesn't always have to do with decrepit conditions. The building I'm in has had a problem for at least three years; it's a fancy co-op in Park Slope with an on-site super. Females lay one to five eggs a day, which can cause even a small population, left to its lonesome, to absolutely explode. And while bedbugs aren't necessarily caused by decrepit conditions, but they sure can cause decrepit conditions (books and furniture being more or less destroyed by droppings, etc.).”

When I said "noticeable" I only meant "visible to the naked eye." I wonder if I'm right on that, though. I've had a lot of friends who lived through bedbug infestations, and not a single one of them had visible physical evidence of the bugs that they didn't have to search long and hard for; it was always discovered via the bites, and nothing else. But maybe my experience is wrong. Do bedbugs destroy books? It's worth wondering about.
posted by koeselitz at 12:11 AM on September 5, 2012


Could this be a catalyst for libraries to become a lot more electronic?
posted by telstar at 12:14 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Our building us sometimes infested. Sadly, there are people who dumpster dive here, and who are filthy.
I have not been to the local library in ages. Now I am loath to go back.
No more used books and magazines.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 12:14 AM on September 5, 2012


I'm beginning to suspect koeselitz of being an undercover bedbug.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:15 AM on September 5, 2012 [24 favorites]


Or we devise a cocktail that puts so much alcohol (or similar toxin) into our bloodstreams as to kill any bug that dares eat us.
posted by anonymisc at 12:16 AM on September 5, 2012


When I said "noticeable" I only meant "visible to the naked eye."

I saw them before I was bitten, because I keep the same hours they do. We never had many, and never found the source. Oddly, the first one was in the kitchen, and the last live one in the bathroom, presumably because they were coming in from other apartments.

But like I said, I had a relatively mild case. I have known people who had far worse. Left unchecked, they reproduce very, very quickly. I understand what you're saying, but as far as I can tell, if left untreated, it would be less like getting an occasional bug bite, and more like swimming in the bugs and their feces. My ideal solution would be an effective bait trap that could genuinely control the population, as opposed to fumigation. Nobody expects the city to be roach- or rat-free, but a lot of time and effort goes into controlling those populations anyhow.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 12:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm beginning to suspect koeselitz of being an undercover bedbug.

The bedbugs invaders have brainbugs!
posted by anonymisc at 12:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for the book terrorism link, guiseroom.

I especially laughed/wept at this sentence: "Police describe her as a "person of interest" in 10 other cases of condiment-related vandalism at the library."
posted by a humble nudibranch at 12:32 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


What about microwaving? Wouldn't that just heat up the bugs and eggs?
posted by XMLicious at 12:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Could this be a catalyst for libraries to become a lot more electronic?

Or just a lot less willing to loan rare books and a lot more careful about letting rare books anywhere near the dime-a-dozen circulation books.

If everything he's doing is legal (working only with public domain books), people like the gentleman in question should be working within the library (and maybe donating the necessary scanning equipment and software to the library) to put books online while preserving the originals.
posted by pracowity at 12:45 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sad to hear about the library infestation. Yup, bedbugs are everywhere now. People travel.

Survivor of 4 bouts of bedbug infestation in 7 years. Hell's Kitchen, NYC. It's been a whole year since an infestation. What a relief. They're rampant here. Expensive, time consuming, exhausting physically, emotionally, mentally.

NYC slumlords are insanely lackadaisical about treating them thoroughly and plenty of even well educated people do not know how to be thorough enough to really get rid of them and end up doing a half-assed job, enabling the little monsters to spread. Slumlords have illegal hotel-apartments in the residential buildings, with a constant steam of bedbug carriers coming and going.

Handling a bedbug infestation takes full on rational, science-based focus, meticulous dedication to detail. Over about a 2 to 3 month span of time. Endless trips to the laundry.

I put paperwork and books in the freezer and leave them there for months.

Four tools I do not live without now and use regularly for a bedbug free home.

1. An empty soda bottle with a windex spray head. Filled up with 70%-90% Isopropyl alcohol. I use it to routinely spray the floor, spray the bed, spray chairs, on itchy skin, to regularly clean all apartment surfaces instead of Windex. It's much cheaper than Windex, not toxic and works instantly, in my experience, on living bedbugs if it's sprayed directly on the critter. The moment the alcohol evaporates it's not effective.

I take the spray bottle of alcohol with me to the marvelously comfortable AMC Cinema on 42nd Street, spray the seat, floor near the seat and myself, when I get up from the seat on leaving. Although the dread of bedbugs has kept me from going there more than once a year now.

2. Industrial size clear plastic bags. $19 bucks at Home Depot. The kind used for recycling trash in NYC. Almost all clothing and bedding is put into these bags and knotted. Any papers, files, books, photograph albums are stored in these bags.

3. And J.T. Eaton Kills Bed Bugs Powder (diatomaceous earth) from Gracious Homes (212-231-7800) on Broadway and 67th Street. $8 bucks. Sprinkled on floor around bed and computer chair. Must be sprinkled very carefully, patiently, gently, because it's not safe for the lungs to breathe this stuff. Not safe for animals to be around. Use a dentist's surgical mask. Or a typical dust mask with a wet paper towel inside for extra protection.

4. Eureka stick vacuum cleaner. Super cheap, surprisingly effective. $17 - $26 bucks. It uses no vacuum bag. After vacuuming the contents/dust can be dumped into the toilet or into a plastic bag and knotted. The interior of the vacuum can be washed with hot water/alcohol.

Being a New Yorker means being constantly vigilant to prevent re-infestation.
posted by nickyskye at 12:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [61 favorites]


Thrift store clothes, spending the night in a new person's bed, and now library books -- are there any of life's joys that bedbugs won't ruin?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


What's most interesting is that DDT resistance in bedbugs seems to be half a century old; before that, it seems to have been effective against them. Or at least I would assume it was – otherwise it would be very difficult to explain the fact that they were virtually eradicated.
That's basic evolution theory: say you've got 10 bedbugs. 8 of them are vulnerable to DDT while 2 were born with a random genetic mutation that makes them resistant to DDT. Spray them with DDT: you get 8 dead bugs and 2 live ones who go on to reproduce together. Their descendants have a 75% chance to be resistant to DDT. Keep it up for a few generations, and eventually nearly all bedbugs are DDT resistant.

That's exactly the same problem we've got with bacteria vs antibiotics.
posted by snakeling at 12:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Every time I find myself homesick for NYC, I'm going to revisit this thread and rediscover my love for the Bay area.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:59 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


evidenceofabsence: "This means heating the exposed portions of the book to well past 118 degrees, and doing so for extended periods of time."

Not really, you could just heat them up to 118 degrees and keep them there for, say, 24 hours, and they'll be 118 degrees all the way through.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:20 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then it will have to be 119 degrees, 120 degrees, 121, 122, etc., as the bugs evolve to withstand higher temperatures.

I say we fill libraries with centipedes. And chickens.

Also: I am suddenly itchy.
posted by pracowity at 2:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


How many minutes per pound for a properly cooked bedbug? And do I turn it over halfway through or just cover it in foil?
posted by zippy at 3:10 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I don't know how an individual gets access to such a freezer either.

A normal civilian deep freezer should be able to get down to -20°. You can get a small one at Wal Mart buy I'd aim a little higher up the curve, so that I had something with enough insulation that I wasn't working it to death if -20° was truly important to me.

In other news, you're probably a geek if you thing of a refrigerator as "4° storage" and a freezer as "-20° storage".
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:16 AM on September 5, 2012


I say we fill libraries with centipedes. And chickens.
Well, yes, but then you have to put something in to get rid of the chickens, and so on, and we all know how that story goes.

posted by Wolfdog at 3:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


Heat kills bedbugs. People use steam cleaners in their homes.
posted by inkypinky at 4:01 AM on September 5, 2012


Howard Hughes never had bedbugs either. Try wearing tissue boxes as shoes and pee into milk bottles to ward off the bedbugs.
posted by dr_dank at 4:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I take the spray bottle of alcohol with me to the marvelously comfortable AMC Cinema on 42nd Street, spray the seat, floor near the seat and myself, when I get up from the seat on leaving.

No one complains about the crazy lady who sprays alcohol all over the place?
posted by pracowity at 4:27 AM on September 5, 2012 [10 favorites]


This is why I don't kill spiders, harvestmen or house centipedes.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:28 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


This is why I don't kill spiders, harvestmen or house centipedes.

What happens when they run out of bedbugs?
posted by indubitable at 4:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


I order books from interlibrary loan sometimes

Eh, I don't know, I spend hours a day with academic ILL books and the only health risk I've noticed is severe asthma attacks brought on by dust and bits of fragile spine flaking off, since usually no one has wanted them in the past, oh, century. (Also, our books definitely spend a lot of quality time in super-heated UPS trucks, which it appears may actually help? I wonder if there's a cheap temperature-tracking device we could use to test this.) Then again patrons also use books as coffee rests, tissue holders, sneeze blockers, and other assorted immune-assisting actions, so I'll just chalk up "bedbugs" along with "whooping cough" on the list of Worst Case Scenarios. If you're really worried, I'm sure your local librarians can talk to you over any sightings or problems that they've had, or ways to ameliorate any chance of a future problem.

On the plus side, if this set of blood-suckers could help solve the more abstract issue of blood-sucking, antiquated copyright laws, maybe libraries can become more electronic!
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:48 AM on September 5, 2012


I'm beginning to suspect koeselitz of being an undercover bedbug.

I see what you did there.
posted by the cydonian at 4:52 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know, maybe libraries would have more luck getting people to follow their bedbug prevention policies if they didn't publicize people's names in the newspaper and sue them for 12,000$. My heart kind of goes out to this poor guy - he was trying to do a good thing, and now he can never take out a book again because he apparently has a slumlord.

I have friends who've suffered through infestations - one of them spent several THOUSAND dollars trying to control it in a very nice co-op building, where they didn't understand what needed to be done. I lust for her apartment, so it's not just a decrepit housing problem.
posted by corb at 4:57 AM on September 5, 2012


actually noticeable bedbug infestations are almost unheard of except in incredibly decrepit conditions which seem to be rare these days

HA! Read it and weep. Look up your own city. This site is the Vancouver renter's bible. Old buildings, new buildings, $500,000 1 bedroom condos; they all have them.

Conditions do not have to be incredibly decrepit; all that's needed for them to be noticeable is for them to be present in large numbers which happens when they are not treated for properly. If your building has hoarders, you will almost inevitably have a massive infestation that is virtually impossible to eradicate due to the sheer amount of hiding places and the compulsive behaviour that will replace clutter soon after it is removed.

At some of the buildings I work at you can see them casually strolling across the floor, lights on and all. We pick them up off the floor by sticking a piece of tape on them. We do a complete change of clothes (down to the underwear) and shoes to work in the buggiest buildings, and keep all clothes/shoes/belongings in knotted garbage bags.

Good times.
posted by moneyjane at 4:58 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also; buy stock in e-readers.
posted by moneyjane at 5:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


No they mustn't hurt the rare books! Nonono! Take the rare books out of circulation and store them in plastic until it's safe!

You... you can store them at my house...
posted by windykites at 5:05 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, there is this brilliant plan of keeping lifeforms from infiltrating the library stacks, but it seems like it might have some downsides...
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:26 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great. Now I'm thinking about how many used books I picked up at the last Friends of the Library book sale.
posted by Foosnark at 5:31 AM on September 5, 2012


actually noticeable bedbug infestations are almost unheard of except in incredibly decrepit conditions

That is just not true.
posted by mediareport at 5:38 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'm not sure "well-meaning" is the best description for that priest in Denver:

DPL banned him from the library and asked him to bag his outstanding books and return them outside the library building rather than through the book drop. However, he placed them in the book drop a week later, causing a reinfestation, ABC affiliate KMGH-TV reported September 24. “He flat-out refuses to cooperate and has recontaminated the facility,” DPL Manager of Security and Safety Tom Scott said in the September 22 Denver Post. “At this point, it’s an intentional act...”
posted by mediareport at 5:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Okay, this has convinced me that I am going to get an ereader. I love physical books and I don't like the idea of having no books if I break the reader or if, you know, total social collapse happens and there is no more tech support. But I hate and fear bedbugs far, far more.
posted by Frowner at 6:11 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


As if books and libraries don't have enough problems as it is. RIP.
posted by "But who are the Chefs?" at 6:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


That is just not true.

It depends - do we consider New York to be, by definition, "incredibly decrepit conditions"?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:18 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


And that's it. Just heat up your books, all done. Throwing away ancient volumes because of bedbugs is a freaking crime.

They were too stained with bed-bug droppings, apparently.

Ugh. Do not want.


From the linked article:

Has Had the infestation been smaller — if bed bugs had not fallen out of books which were being checked back into the library — it may might not have been noticed, and the books may might have been reshelved.

Dear bedbugger.com: it is not that difficult.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:25 AM on September 5, 2012


Now I see why you are trying to lure me back in with your amnesty, Chicago Public Library. Your tricks won't work on me!
posted by enn at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


A friend who travels regularly has a bug oven that he loads his bags into whenever he gets home from a trip. Probably do the job for a few books.
posted by calamari kid at 6:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, I have a really, really deep-seated phobia of infestations (bedbugs or otherwise.) I was actually considering paying the Brooklyn Public Library the $30 I owe them for Beavis & Butthead: The Official Strategy Guide but at this point I'm so goddamn paranoid that I don't even want to go in there.

My girlfriend and I had a bird mite problem -- easy to fix once you figure out what it is, but the bites are terrifyingly identical to bedbug bites -- that basically turned me into an shivering ball of anxiety and despair for a month. Even now when she or I get two mosquito bites too close to one another I, uh, require calming down.

I don't like the idea of having no books if I break the reader...

You can back them up on your hard drive, although it may require either ripping out the DRM, or finding DRM-free copies of books you purchased.
posted by griphus at 6:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to have to do some testing with my crock pot, then ... though I'd rather buy a freezer.
posted by tilde at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2012


Stop research into ways to get rid of bedbugs; it's pointlessly difficult, and the only really effective way is DDT

Better yet, we should start research into ways to get rid of bedbugs. I heard a presentation from an entomologist who briefly worked in bedbugs, and wow, the stories she told. This shouldn't come as a surprise, but getting rid of bedbugs is an industry, not a science. So what do they talk about at bedbug conferences? Not how to better kill bedbugs, but how to maximize profits! This woman was an expert in pesticides and resistance, and she explained that there are various classes of pesticides that affect insects in different ways, so once a population becomes resistant to one class, you would typically switch to another one. It would take some effort to get approval from the FDA, but it's not a difficult problem. Bedbug people want nothing to do with it, though. If people can make money to come spray apartments all the time with the same ineffective pesticides they've been using for decades, why would they want to start using a new one that actually works and you might only have to apply once?
posted by gueneverey at 7:12 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


Oh GOD I wish this post didn't exist. I work in a used bookstore and there's a subconscious thrum of worry in the back of my head all the time anyway. I've already been through two bedbug infestations (Lessons learned: a) do not accept free beds from NYC and b) do not take your own bedding to a rented lake house for the weekend and then blithely bring it home without putting it through the dryer for hours) and I never, ever, ever want to go through another one. I say that, but here I am, with a house full to the brim of used books and a job where I spend all day going through boxes and bags and piles of used books, some of which are beyond nasty. Now I have to be at work in a little under two hours and thanks to this I'm going to itch and twitch all day long.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:19 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you think your town is bedbug-free, I suggest reviewing the Bedbug Registry for an alarming wake-up call. Only covers US/Canada/UK, but that doesn't mean the problem doesn't exist elsewhere. Just type "bedbug [your country name here]" into ye olde Google for information on bedbugs in your nation.
posted by rednikki at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joakim Ziegler - yes, the Black Dagger Brotherhood books are for real. And they are total crack.
posted by rednikki at 7:34 AM on September 5, 2012


Looking in that bedbug registry I find reports that look suspiciously as though they were written by specific competitors trying to give a hotel a bad name. They could be totally fictitious. Is there any effort made to avoid fake reports?
posted by artistic verisimilitude at 7:41 AM on September 5, 2012


Agreed with nickyskye on all points, as someone else who's had them and who was freaking THE FUCK OUT after having my sanity ground down by itchy sleep-deprivation over the course of months.

Alcohol and diatomaceous earth were the only things that worked for me; the poisons weren't actually as effective, though I may have had a population that had developed immunity to them.

If you're looking for diatomaceous earth, they also have it at Saifee Hardware, on 1st ave and 7th Street.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:43 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


I live in rural Oklahoma and I'll gladly keep our scorpions and brown recluses. In fact now that I think of it, we've had two or three instances where a roach population tried to get established from something that was brought into the house, but each time the populations were quickly eliminated by our resident wolf spiders and probably a few brown recluses. It makes me wonder if a population of wolf spiders (or some other similar hunter spider) introduced into the ecosystem in a NYC apartment would do anything to put a dent into its bedbug population.
posted by crapmatic at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


nickyskye: Wow, reason number umptiy two bazillion that I'm so glad that I don't live in NYC. That sounds like hell on earth.

I heard the diatomaceous earth stuff wasn't hazardous once you actualy got it down into the fibers of a carpet... as inert as that stuff is I'd love to use it for pest control but I'm scared of the backlash on my pets (two dogs), lungs, and vacuum cleaner filter (a dyson fwiw). Amy I being unreasonable and/or uniformed?
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2012


If people can make money to come spray apartments all the time with the same ineffective pesticides they've been using for decades, why would they want to start using a new one that actually works and you might only have to apply once?

This is foolishness, like the conspiracy-theorists who claim that we haven't eradicated cancer because DOCTORS love MAKING PROFITS off our MISERY.

Most bedbug-specializing exterminators in NYC have guarantees of effectiveness, which means that if they don't get all the bugs out after a couple rounds of spraying, they have to come back again, which loses them money, which is bad for everyone.

the same ineffective pesticides they've been using for decades

This is not a decades-old problem; this resurgence is maybe 15 years old, tops. If you have a Super Effective way to kill bedbugs in one spraying, I would suggest you bring it to the city and spend a week or so making your first couple million dollars.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:48 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


have had to destroy valuable historic books due to serious infestations

This is a great way to deal with bookworms too.
posted by Tavern at 7:50 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


"It makes me wonder if a population of wolf spiders (or some other similar hunter spider) introduced into the ecosystem in a NYC apartment would do anything to put a dent into its bedbug population."

But New York must have its own native spiders that would normally handle this sort of situation. Or perhaps an average apartment building is just too far removed from nature to support any animal population that doesn't directly live off human beings.
posted by Kevin Street at 7:59 AM on September 5, 2012


Mhy new nhame is Mhister AH!
posted by Mister_A at 8:00 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


But New York must have its own native spiders that would normally handle this sort of situation.

No, thankfully we do not also have to deal with giant horrifying hunting spiders and bedbugs. Just the latter. We have little spiders, though.
posted by griphus at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2012


House centipedes eat bedbugs, so I have gone from thinking they're horrid ugly invaders to thinking of them as adorable fluffy scuttle-pets. However, bedbugs, unlike house centipedes, can fit in any crack that you can slip a playing-card into, so I imagine that even keeping a resident clowder of house centipedes on you at all times isn't a feasible strategy, given how easily their prey can hide.
posted by Greg Nog at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


Also: Or perhaps an average apartment building is just too far removed from nature to support any animal population that doesn't directly live off human beings.

Limiting the amount of non-people, non-pet things that can live in an apartment building is a feature, not a bug. Although we (the general we, not my household) still have roaches, waterbugs, centipedes, mice, rats, and all sorts of molds and fungi.
posted by griphus at 8:04 AM on September 5, 2012


Even though I sometimes miss NYC, I don't mind having missed the bedbug epidemic, especially if the Brooklyn Public Library still has a policy on not refusing any, and I mean any, donations, at least in terms of giving people receipts for them. Some people would bring in books that were almost illegible from mold, and they'd have to go straight into the dumpster. I can't imagine what might be crawling on them now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:12 AM on September 5, 2012


Is there any effort made to avoid fake reports?

Hah, yeah, right. Along with the bug-paranoiacs who saw a carpet beetle or flyspecks or are actually reporting their mosquito bites and hives, and the in-denial apartment-dwellers who are desperate to believe they got their current problem from that recent hotel stay rather than the (overwhelmingly more likely) reality that they live in an infested building (because this is a reality that makes reinfestation far more likely and far less preventable) - these self-reporting vehicles are very far from reliable (a preponderance of reports on a particular dwelling becomes far more believable of course).

There was an old Life In Hell cartoon about "bachelor living" that included a panel inviting you to hold a secret message up to a mirror for the magic method of getting rid of cockroaches: of course it is just the word "MOVE" written backwards. Beyond all the horror stories it is very evident that far and away the key issue of whether you're going to deal with bedbugs or not is whether you live in an infested building. To pretend economic factors aren't a huge factor in this is ridiculous. Just as with cockroaches another huge factor will be the habits of particular tenants. Just as with cockroaches another huge factor will be how much of a cheap slumlord you're burdened with. Yes they can happen anywhere, I'm sure there are "$500,000 1 bedroom condos" that have them. I'm also sure the management of these buildings will eventually do whatever it takes, just as I'm sure the cockroach infested hovel I lived in when I was very poor is still infested by cockroaches and the simple reason is that all the tenants on all 4 floors don't produce $500,000 in gross receipts in 5 years.

There are handful of things you're obviously better off avoiding (taking thrown away furniture off the street, any sort of used bedding) and there are factors of contamination you basically can't do much about (the random gravid female climbing onto your stuff wherever and whenever). Hotel/lodging tactics are somewhere in between - it is a more likely vector of contamination (direct contact with bedding being far and away the biggest vector) but doing what it takes to really cut off that vector is a pretty huge undertaking.

Everything else is pretty much sympathetic magic to ward off the joo joo, avoiding the library included.
posted by nanojath at 8:21 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


For folks who want to sanitize stuff from bookswaps and thriftstores and so on, this seems like the perfect time for a bit of Make Magazine-type hacking. If you combined this Instructable on killing bedbugs with Christmas tree lights with these instructions on building a DIY sous vide machine with a temperature regulator, and stuck it all in a box lined with foamcore insulation, you could make a quite large oven that would hold at exactly 120 degrees for as long as you wanted for probably less than $100. It would take a little experimentation to figure out what items are safe at that temperature for a few hours, but it's not much hotter than a room in the summer without AC, so I imagine most things are.

It also sounds like, in New York, you could do a pretty good business selling or renting devices like that on Craigslist ...
posted by jhc at 8:23 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


We lived in Hell's Kitchen and Brooklyn a few years ago, we must have barely missed the bedbugs.

We're actually having a mouse guy come out today because we live next to a field of the little suckers, but suddenly, that doesn't seem so bad.
posted by emjaybee at 8:25 AM on September 5, 2012


Oh, God. Not library books! (Guess same goes for CDs/DVDs...) Cripes. Soon after moving to Montreal, I experienced my first (and hopefully last) bed bug infestation. That was five years ago and I still get flashes of paranoia about a re-infestation almost daily. (They are horrible little creatures, but at the same time marvels of evolution. -They are darn good at what they do and can survive almost anything. ...Whenever I see furniture left on the sidewalk now, I just walk by without a glance --regardless. Couldn't care less. But the library? C'mon! Seems like a slim chance, but I really prefer to go with ZERO chance when it comes to bed bugs. Also, this is pretty ingenious.
posted by Bartonius at 8:26 AM on September 5, 2012


Greg Nog: Believe what you want, but it's hard to believe this website isn't a parody.
posted by gueneverey at 8:29 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Also note there is a lot of questionable lore about bedbugs and their apparently nigh-supernatural abilities - note the comment at the end of this article about a DIY bedbug detection set-up where an entomologist found the bedbugs she'd collected could live at the outside 2 months without feeding. As far as I've been able to find there's no modern good scientific backing for the oft-repeated 18 months figure.
posted by nanojath at 8:36 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are "$500,000 1 bedroom condos" that have them. I'm also sure the management of these buildings will eventually do whatever it takes...

I have no doubt that having a landlord who is uninformed, or refuses to treat, is the worst case scenario, but being in a fancy building comes with its own problems of inaction and denial. The building we're moving out of is a co-op of one bedrooms that go for nigh upon that amount (we're mere peon subletters). While the board and management company were willing to treat us, they refused to do anything to notify tenants and shareholders, as a whole, that the building has a problem. Not so much as a flier that said "this building has been having sightings," and maybe "here's how to identify the bugs, here's how to contact management, and here's what you can do to prevent and treat the problem." The reason they haven't told people, I would guess, is because they are worried about property values taking a hit.

Instead, the guy from the management company told our neighbors that "a little birdie" told him that we, being horrible filthy renters, brought the problem into the building, when he knew full well that three floors were treated in the year before we moved in. Yay.

The problem has persisted for at leas three years because nobody is informed, and because it's not being treated as a collective, building-wide problem. There's a lending library in the basement. One of the apartments accepts packages for everybody else. There's a laundry room. People leave used items outside of the building with little signs that say "free." It's nuts.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


being in a fancy building comes with its own problems of inaction and denial

Very good points, of course the problem is bigger and more complicated than my random speculations (though I generally stand by what I wrote).
posted by nanojath at 8:48 AM on September 5, 2012


As far as I've been able to find there's no modern good scientific backing for the oft-repeated 18 months figure.

The 118F figure up above was from a .gov link that I didn't find on this machine, so I can't quickly link it, but it also said that bedbugs can live about a year without feeding at 55F or less, and that they last between 2 and 6 months in normal climate-controlled environments.
posted by Malor at 8:50 AM on September 5, 2012


You have all terrified me to the point where I now want to look over my books and EVERY SURFACE IN THE HOUSE. Those things are damn creepy.

Also, I wonder how much NYC stoop culture contributes to the spread of these things? This is very tragic for those of us who love used books.
posted by corb at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012


Are you people trying to get my wife to cut off my library/paperbackswap/used book privileges?

Privileges?! Inalienable rights! Pretty sure they're in the Universal Declaration -- report your wife to the UN if she tries such shenanigans.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:51 AM on September 5, 2012


The 118F figure up above was from a .gov link that I didn't find on this machine, so I can't quickly link it, but it also said that bedbugs can live about a year without feeding at 55F or less, and that they last between 2 and 6 months in normal climate-controlled environments.

Oh, interesting, so in hot weather they need to eat more? (fascinated through the terror)
posted by corb at 8:52 AM on September 5, 2012


Could this be a catalyst for libraries to become a lot more electronic?

Yes, we're stubbornly hoarding all the generous funding earmarked for increasing our electronic holdings, but with this bug thing exposed, we'll have to relent!
posted by Rykey at 8:53 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Exterminators say the bedbugs can crawl into checked-out books at night



THESE ARE OUR FORESTS

THEY ARE OUR MEAT
posted by randomination at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


nanojath: To pretend economic factors aren't a huge factor in this is ridiculous. Just as with cockroaches another huge factor will be the habits of particular tenants.

As far as I know, there is little truth to that. Those little fuckers are evil, and supremely difficult to get rid of, and even the cleanest people can get them and have a hell of a time getting rid of them. It's not a hygiene problem; they are highly evolved human parasites, and the only reason we can even think of them as anything other than a universal problem is the advent of DDT.

Economic factors are only an issue in that poor people can't typically throw the resources at eradicating them that rich people can. I think we'd probably do very well to get state-level resources available to tackle and wipe out infestations... much like fire protection, having the expertise available for free to everyone would make the whole community far more resistant.

corb: Oh, interesting, so in hot weather they need to eat more? (fascinated through the terror)

Well, typically metabolisms are higher in warmer weather, so presumably they starve faster if it's warmer. I don't know this for sure, but it seems reasonable to assume that they might have some way of hibernating in cold temperatures, to survive outdoor winters before re-colonizing human habitations.
posted by Malor at 9:02 AM on September 5, 2012


itchy sleep-deprivation

This. It’s all about this. I don’t hate my worst enemy but I freaking hate bedbugs.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:14 AM on September 5, 2012


Chocolate Pickle: “You wouldn't say that if you'd lived through an infestatiion.”

koeslitz: "Like I said in my comment, I have. Weeks and weeks of dry-cleaning, of pointless 'fumigation' that does nothing (it really doesn't work on them), of more dry-cleaning, and finally a long round of legal threats that finally drove our landlord to allow us to break our lease in exchange for us not publicizing the whole thing. It was a nightmare.

And all simply because human skin sometimes has a sensitivity to bedbug bites. But there are much more dangerous and weird things out there. Spiders that bite you when you're sleeping are more dangerous. Mosquitoes are vastly more dangerous."


I appreciate that your experience was not harmful in any real sense, but having lived with them on and off for two and a half years thanks to an asshole landlord and a shitty building with plenty of hiding spaces, I still think I would qualify them as harmful.

Maybe it's because female skin is supposedly more sensitive in general, but I woke up from bedbug bites every single time (they hurt me like a motherfucker), and on top of this, I would have massive welts all over my body for days on end that itched, burned, and stung no matter what I did with them or put on them. I was working on maybe an hour of uninterrupted sleep per night at the worst times, and each time I woke up I was hit with a surge of rage-filled adrenaline. Sometimes I would cry for a half-hour or so. When they're nymphs they're too small and lack color so they're hard to see. My bedsheets were ruined from when I squished them on accident and from their droppings. They were in the building; there was no getting rid of them without some serious landlord help and, as stated, he was a massive asshole.

Once I bought a pith hat to try and stave off completely losing my mind so that I could go on 'bedbug safari' whenever I got woken up in the middle of the night, so at least I could laugh about it. I guess one good thing came out of it? I like my pith hat.

It's true other things are 'more dangerous' but the only thing I've lived through more hellish than bedbug bites was literally losing my mind, hallucinations, etc. I feel like that says something.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:22 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Hey koeslitz. Somehow I missed your first post, which I somewhat agree with as a method, seems like a losing battle. It's true bedbug would be 'harmless' more or less if we could mitigate te effects of their bites, but the can still ruin and stain clothing, furniture, other materials. And it seems like we haven't made that much headway (perhaps for lack of trying) in terms of akin sensitivity as it is.

Personally I think the best approach, because we do k ow ways to get rid of them, is to put down some legislation for landlord responsibilities in residences, because response needs to be quick an thorough, particularly in older buildings. Libraries obviously would require a different approach.
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 9:41 AM on September 5, 2012


Just wanted to pass along - I happened to find myself chatting with a fellow in the back of an art gallery who motioned to boxes and boxes of historical photos and writings from someone who apparently was one of the guys taking photos and notes and grabbing copies of NYC beat culture of the 1960s. Apparently he was living in a one room studio with these endless boxes taking up most of the space, and this group of preservationists were now helping him by taking them off his hands and getting them taken care of.

One of the issues was definite bedbug infestation. I asked how that was handled.

He told me that there was a place in New Jersey they used where you basically put these materials in, and then it sucks all the air out, creating a total vacuum, that they then leave the stuff in for days (or maybe it was a week, I forget). And that was that for anything living in there.

So there's some options. I got the impression it was stupid expensive.
posted by jscott at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would have massive welts all over my body for days on end that itched, burned, and stung no matter what I did with them or put on them.

Just as an aside, there is nothing better in the world for itchy bug bites than deodorant. Yes, deodorant -- I think it also needs to have antiperspirant in it. Whatever skin change happens that shuts down sweating, also prevents itching.

I've used it for years that way, but the most serious test so far was when my foot was covered in fire ant stings -- easily thirty, maybe forty. The relief was total, to the point that I was completely unaware of having been stung. The only real downside is that it takes awhile to start working, typically 20 to 30 minutes. But once it's working, it will keep working for at least a day, maybe two, depending on your brand. If it starts to wear off when the itch is still present, it's slow enough that you can just apply some more deodorant, without it ever bothering you much.

My stings itched through three re-applications, each perhaps 36 hours apart. Fire ants suck, though maybe not as bad as bedbugs do.
posted by Malor at 10:01 AM on September 5, 2012 [7 favorites]


Any person thinking themselves immune from this pestilence because of their clean and healthy living is really risking what an irony-loving God can do with a handful of bed bugs.

Sorry if I missed it upthread, but bed bug sex is really the best thing about these cute little buggers. They jam it in anywhere, is my understanding. Kind of like a Alien chestburster only not as gentle going in.
posted by angrycat at 10:49 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Malor, does that also work on rashes from urushiol (poison oak, ivy, etc.)? Or sunburn?
posted by rahnefan at 10:56 AM on September 5, 2012


They jam it in anywhere, is my understanding.

Oh god, I had for gotten about that. From ye old Wikipedia: "Traumatic insemination, also known as hypodermic insemination, is the mating practice in some species of invertebrates in which the male pierces the female's abdomen with his penis and injects his sperm through the wound into her abdominal cavity (hemocoel)."

Bluuuuuuuugh. There is just not one good goddamn thing about those bugs.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:05 AM on September 5, 2012 [5 favorites]


This is wrong. So. Wrong. I can accept that I may get bedbugs from second-hand furniture, or even from staying in a hotel. But from library books? I can't deal with that.
posted by thelonius at 11:17 AM on September 5, 2012


One of the issues was definite bedbug infestation. I asked how that was handled.

He told me that there was a place in New Jersey they used where you basically put these materials in, and then it sucks all the air out, creating a total vacuum, that they then leave the stuff in for days (or maybe it was a week, I forget). And that was that for anything living in there.

So there's some options. I got the impression it was stupid expensive.
Here's the home version, what a coincidence! (also, yay, I don't have to empty my freezer). Not quite as stupid expensive ....
posted by tilde at 11:20 AM on September 5, 2012


Last year, one of my friends became so obsessed with the idea that he had a bedbug infestation, I thought he was having a psychotic break.

I'm guessing it's the blood feeding that creates such a mythic level of fear. So far I've been lucky, despite living in a fairly crummy building, but I'm a little paranoid of my upcoming stay in an NYC budget hotel.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 11:44 AM on September 5, 2012


I found another link from that brokelyn article that was interesting. Wired reports:

The low-budget detection device is the brainchild of Rutgers University’s Wan-Tien Tsai, and the highly scientific instrument requires a 1/3 gallon insulated jug (check camping and sporting stores), a plastic cat food dish, some paper and talcum powder and 2.5 pounds of dry ice. Put the ice in the jug, the jug in the dish, and make a paper entry ramp up into the talcum-coated dish. The bugs will flock.

The little blood suckers are attracted to higher temperatures, which usually moves them toward a 98.6 degree feast (heat sources are a great place to check for the first sign of infestation, as are sofas, beds, and electrical outlets). But with brains the size of a speck, bedbugs are also instinctively drawn to another indication of animals: carbon dioxide.

Hence, the dry ice. The stuff is just solid carbon dioxide, which “melts” into its gaseous form (all right, Dr. Science, the process is called ‘sublimation’). The parasites are drawn toward the gas, and get caught in the cat food dish (thanks, talcum powder). This patent-not-pending design, which usually lasts about 11 hours (at room temperature), has proven to be as or more effective than professional kits, the Wired article says.
posted by nTeleKy at 11:47 AM on September 5, 2012 [8 favorites]


The fear comes from them being in your bed. I lived with roaches for over 20 years, and I was never so freaked out as when I stayed where there were bedbugs. I'm equally freaked out when roaches infest bedrooms - as they did towards the end of my mom's stay in one building (and that's what got her to move after 5 years - she could live with roaches in the kitchen, but not in the bed with her).

Or just a lot less willing to loan rare books and a lot more careful about letting rare books anywhere near the dime-a-dozen circulation books.

If a book is actually rare, the library is crazy to allow it in circulation at all. In my mind, any book that is actually rare should be off in a special section, probably with climate control, a and certainly with supervised reading rooms and a no-ink-allowed policy.
posted by jb at 11:54 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Scuttle-pets! Greg Nog, you almost make me feel disappointed that I don't have any scuttle-pets of my very own. Almost.
posted by whatzit at 11:55 AM on September 5, 2012


He told me that there was a place in New Jersey they used where you basically put these materials in, and then it sucks all the air out, creating a total vacuum, that they then leave the stuff in for days (or maybe it was a week, I forget). And that was that for anything living in there.

Yup, clear out! Don't come back till we're done!

Now help me move this methylamine.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 12:01 PM on September 5, 2012


However, bedbugs, unlike house centipedes, can fit in any crack that you can slip a playing-card into, so I imagine that even keeping a resident clowder of house centipedes on you at all times isn't a feasible strategy, given how easily their prey can hide.

I'm sorry, but the word "clowder" is already in use meaning "a group of cats". If you are looking for a word to indicate a "group of house centipedes", I would suggest an 'abomination' of house centipedes.

I would accept a 'skittering'.

While there are no formal accounts by accomplished house centipede breeders, I know they are delicate creatures. Have a group of them on one at all times means one would be continually finding crushed ones, with scatterings of legs, in one's clothing and bedding and so on.

But who here can't imagine the charm and delight of having a dozen churring little pet house centipedes wandering over one's sleeve or sporting about in one's hair, myriad tiny legs a blur with motion?
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:05 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


rahnefan: Malor, does that also work on rashes from urushiol (poison oak, ivy, etc.)? Or sunburn?

Well, you're not supposed to use deodorant on broken skin, so if you've got the usual blistered mess from poison oak/ivy, I think it would be a very bad idea to use it. I imagine it would stop the itching, and maybe would be okay if you hit it right away, before you broke the skin from scratching. If you've got those big blisters, though, I wouldn't recommend it. I suspect getting antiperspirant into open wounds is probably high on the list of Stupid Self-Treatment Tricks.

I doubt it will help at all with sunburn. I suppose you could try it, but I'd be surprised if it did anything. Deodorant/antiperspirant stops itches like frickin' magic, but I don't think it has any painkilling properties.
posted by Malor at 12:07 PM on September 5, 2012


A bad sunburn itches like a mofo after a day or two. If you don't have aloe handy, why not give a good itching remedy a try?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2012


House centipedes eat bedbugs, so I have gone from thinking they're horrid ugly invaders to thinking of them as adorable fluffy scuttle-pets. However, bedbugs, unlike house centipedes, can fit in any crack that you can slip a playing-card into, so I imagine that even keeping a resident clowder of house centipedes on you at all times isn't a feasible strategy, given how easily their prey can hide.

Dude. My cats, vicious predators who stalk everything up to and including the size of a grown human, scamper and hide when they catch sight of a centipede. Centipedes crawl up out of the drain, moving with their hundred legs all akimbo but set on a solitary purpose: to feast on the souls of the living. There is no possible situation where a large population of 2-inch Cthulhan poison-fanged arthropodic horrors is a better alternative than anything.

Unless this is phase 2 of some kind of escalating-predator situation, but I'm sure that would end up with apartments filled with honey badgers
posted by Mayor West at 12:56 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Is this where I pimp my idea of developing a version of Advantix that you put on people and it kills bedbugs?
posted by workerant at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2012


I've also found being fat and Scottish appears to make you impervious to bed bug bites. When I moved into a house share a few years ago, I was eaten within days. We eventually traced them back to what looked like one the Alien Queens which was under Stuarts bed and whose minions totally ignored him.

Forget all the nonsense about sticky tape on bed, bed legs on trays of oil. Only chemical warfare stops them. Buy several cans of an aerosol pesticide and spray your bed frame, get a small mountain of powder and put it all around the corners of the room. If you can be bothered, set of a fogger and stay with a friend overnight. Also wash sheets on high and hoover daily (and empty the hoover)

Also if you have access to a chest freezer, put your clothes in it for a day though make sure its as cold as it can be.
posted by Damienmce at 2:12 PM on September 5, 2012


Joakim Ziegler - yes, the Black Dagger Brotherhood books are for real. And they are total crack.

The wikipedia page makes them sound like John Ringo through the looking glass:


Marissa The "great beauty of the species". She was for over 300 years initially the Shellan of Wrath, the vampire king. Their match however was a loveless one and ended when Wrath fell in love with Beth. She was attracted to Butch from the moment they met. Her brother Havers kicked her out of their house after knowing she harbored feelings for Butch, a human. He later is miraculously transformed into a vampire. She is now his Shellan and helps run "Safe Place", a safe-house for battered females.


The Amazon author bio made me chuckle, too:

J.R. Ward is the number one New York Times bestselling author of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series of vampire books...A graduate of Smith College, she was a double major in History and Art History with a medieval concentration in both...Prior to becoming a full time writer, she was a corporate attorney, serving for many years as the Chief of Staff of one of Harvard Medical Schools premier teaching sites.

I'm looking forward to meeting such characters as Yllumynator, Zherph, Jhuriste, Erizza and Phyduciary as the series wears on.
posted by snuffleupagus at 2:47 PM on September 5, 2012


New York City is worth it, bedbugs and all.

There's plenty of intolerable things in life elsewhere that cannot be eradicated with a few months determination. :) Even if those few months are harsh and may be repeated a number of times. There are things in life, such as a bedbug infestation, that are workable, even if stressful.

One really difficult problem is that it is very hard for most educated, normally sensitive, often really good people to put their mind fully into dealing with the problem practically, methodically, thoroughly, patiently. They just want it to be gone. They don't want to think about it, it's too repulsive. It makes otherwise rational people get fuzzy headed. They don't want to be thorough. So they do a sloppy job and sure enough, the critters come back. It's so hard for many people to go through their entire possessions as well, bagging everything, spraying everything methodically with pesticide, living in and out of industrial, transparent trash bags for months on end.

Then there is the problem of the neighbors who do not work together as a team. So the pestilence moves around the building. This bedbug infestation problem requires neighbors be a team because a single critter just moseys down the hall to the next apartment, floor to floor, one critter makes 350 baby bedbugs in a month. Kaboom. No neighborly collaboration, no spraying of public hallways, the problem doesn't end. Then the neighbors need to be vigilant, over years. Vigilant when they take a plane, when they go to the movies, spend a night in a hotel, when they have guests over, when they take train rides with upholstered seats, if they buy anything second-hand, spending time in office buildings, department stores.

A former co-worker went to France with his wife for a holiday. The city of Nice. The Riviera. Fancy hotel. He came back *covered* in bites and had no idea what they were. He thought he and his wife picked up some sort of a disease from the sheets. I had to educate him what to do. Bedbugs are not a NYC problem. They are global now.

RolandOfEld, diatomaceous earth should not be breathed. Putting it into carpet seems unsafe to me because every footfall would cause the stuff to rise up in little invisible poofs, into the air. And if the vacuum cleaner is not sealed the stuff then becomes airborne during a vacuuming and breathed. I would not put the stuff into the carpet, ever, but that's just my point of view.

Great tips in this thread. Love Malor's use of deodorant for bites. Bedbug bites, in my experience of them, itch for many months.

Am sorely tempted to save up to buy the foldable, easy to store, ZappBug oven thing that calamari kid linked. Or possibly share the expense-use of the gizmo with neighbors. It's about $400 bucks, shipping included. That's about 1/3 the price of what I lost in just a single infestation, in throwing away the mattress, sheets, pillows, comforters, books near the bed, any furniture with upholstery...not to mention the sheets permanently marked with bedbug feces, the bed frame needing to be repainted, the endless bottles of Pronto, rubber gloves, dust masks, brooms, mops, bounty towels, rubbing alcohol, plastic bags, laundry and dry cleaning bills.

Seconding gueneverey's thoughts about the landlords using ineffective poison control. Having been in the 1990's a super of two Hell's Kitchen tenement buildings (one in which I've lived the last almost 26 years) I've observed the astounding stinginess of even decent landlords when it comes to spending money on a chronic problem in the building, whatever it may be. Landlords, in my experience of about a dozen of them in this same building, wait for the problem to become catastrophic and very expensive, rather than do preventive maintenance or, omg, actually research how best to economically and effectively handle a problem.

The present slumlord, who is vastly rich (owns a major, renowned skyscraper, as well as dozens of buildings all over the city, hires a man, one middle aged guy, who has been doing this, he says, for over a decade, arrives without a mask or gloves, and a young male assistant, also with no mask, maybe gloves on, usually not. He sprays haphazardly, usually does not spray inside the walls, or use Drione dust, because it's a pain in his butt to carry around extra stuff, a drill and putty, unless asked by the Big Boss if there is an apartment to be rented at the highest market price.

This guy only uses the effective pesticides now because there were endless recurrences and tenants sought legal restitution for the cost of what things they lost during an infestation and asked to be put up in a hotel during the initial treatment stage, which usually lasts for weeks. The pest removal companies made a fortune being ineffective, for years. I know because I've spoken many times to various pest removal company employees, at length. Only when the tenants made it financially hard for the landlords, did landlords force the pest control companies to spend extra money on the costlier, effective pesticides. All while the bedbug population exploded.

Prior to the bedbug mess in the last 8 years, I witnessed the calculated ineffectiveness of pest control companies' rat control in NYC. A "pest removal", routine exterminator guy would come to a building, infested with rats in the basement, and fling a few blocks or mini-bags of poison in the corners, which the rats didn't touch because they had gourmet meals inside the unprotected garbage bags stored in the basement until garbage collection day.

When I was a building super I made my own rat pesticide, mixing cat food with D-Con pellets, placing the bait strategically, refreshing it often, putting all garbage into rat proof containers. This was only undermined when a hoarder collected garbage and rats/roaches infested her apartment on the ground floor. The neighbors and I reluctantly and sadly ended up teaming together to take the hoarder to court, evicting her for the safety of the building's residents. Hoarders and bedbugs often go together. I do speculate that bedbugs may well move from place to place because there are rats and mice but I have not read anything about this.

In the local dog park on 52nd Street and 11th Avenue, is a man with scrawny looking, hyper rat terrier. The man used to work in a hardware store but took a call one day about somebody needing to hire a bedbug sniffing dog, for $350 for 10 minutes. He retired himself from the hardware store, went to Kansas to buy a specifically trained rat terrier, one of the few dogs adept at sniffing bedbugs. He now cannot keep up with the demand and is prospering so well he has plenty of free time.

Yes, the bedbug nightmare is now a booming industry. The Bed Bug Preparation Services in NYC charge a fortune, like $1000 and up for a studio because the prep work is the hard part in the treatment process. It's an excellent business to get into just now from what I've heard from anybody who has anything to do with bed bug removal. It would be so awesome if there were a team of likable geeks who did this for a living and had an organized, easy to communicate with, educated team to do the prep work, treatment and post treatment back to normal.
posted by nickyskye at 3:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


Even Mickey Mouse.
posted by nickyskye at 3:58 PM on September 5, 2012


koeselitz: That's an interesting article, and I'd never heard that. What's most interesting is that DDT resistance in bedbugs seems to be half a century old; before that, it seems to have been effective against them. Or at least I would assume it was – otherwise it would be very difficult to explain the fact that they were virtually eradicated.

The key is probably the "virtually". The ones that survived did so because they were resistant to DDT.
posted by Decimask at 4:36 PM on September 5, 2012


set off a fogger
Foggers don't work. They don't penetrate into the crevices where the bedbugs live, and often use chemicals that don't affect the bugs. Spot treatment with pyrethrins and pyrethroids seems to be the current standard.

ZappBug oven thing
I would super recommend getting an oven, even though they are crazy expensive. We have a PackTite, which is a little cheaper than the ZappBugg, but also smaller. It has been amazing, in no small part because it has made us feel less helpless, and given us a day-to-day way to treat our belongings, and also prevent reinfestation. Went to the movies, tried out chairs at Ikea, or walked anywhere even vaguely near the McKibben Street lofts? Toss your clothes in. Want to keep a book? Cook it. The only downside has been the aforementioned ruin of glue and leather over time (sorry, shoes).
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:00 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Diatomaceous earth as a nano-pesticide? Cool!

This cdc.gov document [pdf] suggests 3mg/m3 as the maximum permissible airborne exposure, but I'm pretty sure that's if it was completely aerosolized. 3mg isn't very much. A penny weighs about 2.35g so 3mg is about 1/780th of the weight of a penny but metal is about 1/10th more dense, so maybe adjust that to about 1/80th the volume of a penny.

I have no idea if pet snuffling is enough to suck diatomaceous earth that's worked into textile fibres.
posted by porpoise at 5:54 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish: A bad sunburn itches like a mofo after a day or two. If you don't have aloe handy, why not give a good itching remedy a try?

Oh, yeah....it's been so long since I've been sunburned that I forgot about the itch. All I remembered was the pain.

You could try deodorant for that, but deodorant has an astringent quality, which I think may be why it cures surface itches so well. Astringency = drying, and that seems like a remarkably bad thing to do to a burn. Plus, IIRC, the itch is fairly deep, unlike insect bites, which are right on the surface. So it may not help, and I think it has a fair chance of causing more damage. I wouldn't try it, myself. If you do, report back. :-)

Whether or not it works on a sunburn, it definitely, definitely works on bites. The onset is quite slow (again, 20-30 minutes, which is frustrating when the itching is really dreadful), but the relief is total, and it just lasts and lasts and lasts. I don't think brands matter, but just in case, I use the Arm and Hammer baking soda stick deodorant, and it's fantastic at de-itching.
posted by Malor at 6:14 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


jetlagaddict writes "Also, our books definitely spend a lot of quality time in super-heated UPS trucks, which it appears may actually help? I wonder if there's a cheap temperature-tracking device we could use to test this."

It wouldn't give you a time/duration scale but temperature indicating papers are available that would give you an idea of peak temperatures. $1 a piece is pretty cheap.
posted by Mitheral at 7:17 PM on September 5, 2012


It's like there are two yous, the pre-bed bug you and post bed bug you. And post you is forever looking at random bites and yammering are there two more is it breakfast lunch and dinner is it is it IS IT
posted by angrycat at 7:21 PM on September 5, 2012 [6 favorites]


*derail. evidenceofabsence just *loved* learning about the McKibben Street lofts. Wow, an entire culture I'd missed out on knowing about. Must go and explore Williamsburg.

Back to bedbugs. The Pack-Tite unit looks ok. It's about $80 bucks cheaper than the ZappBug gizmo. But the ZappBug unit can handle carry on luggage and more in one go, which is useful for traveling.

That ZappBug store - website rocks. It's lists all the tools, links, videos, info, everything in one spot. Simple, easy to comprehend communication. Love it. Honestly, I wish I'd seen that site years ago. It probably didn't exist yet but it's excellent.
posted by nickyskye at 8:58 PM on September 5, 2012


You know... suppose for a second there's no magic bullet for the bedbug epidemic. What will be the long term effect on NYC culture? Basically, unless you can guarantee that your residence is some kind of bedbug Fort Knox, it would really make no sense to invest a lot of money in physical belongings. I thought about that myself when I was living there. I mean, if at any moment you may have to trash all your stuff and start over, why bother spending money on stuff? Or maybe it'll lower the bar for conspicuous consumption. Like, rich people will be the only ones who can afford to keep two suits on hand at any given time. Certainly it won't make any sense to buy property, since at any point you may need to skedattle to get away from a persistent bedbug infestation.

This just might make NYC livable again!
posted by Afroblanco at 12:46 AM on September 6, 2012


For an Australian, this thread has been one of the most fascinating insights into American life I've ever read. I had no idea that this was a thing, a shared trauma. It's like someone says 'bedbugs', and instantly all the Americans get this thousand-yard stare and start absent-mindedly groping for the trigger bottle of isopropyl alcohol that is no longer there.
posted by Ritchie at 3:34 AM on September 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's generally a part of American life. I only live a few hours from New York City and I've never seen a bedbug nor do I remember anyone I know having ever mentioned seeing one. Termites, lots of other domestic insects, but not bedbugs. (Though of course it might not be something people would be inclined to mention.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:53 AM on September 6, 2012


For an Australian, this thread has been one of the most fascinating insights into American life

Ritchie, before you get all comfy in your anthropological chair. That isopropyl alcohol yearning may well be coming too close for comfort: What's bugging Sydney? Bed bugs, Australia facing bedbug invasion.

XMLicious, same story. Suburbs across the country are starting to see a rise in bedbug infestations
posted by nickyskye at 6:05 AM on September 6, 2012


Ritchie: I think most Americans have that about some sort of pest in their community - spiders, roaches, lizards, frogs, mice, rats, scorpions, bees, snakes, ants, wasps, silverfish.

But those are seen as area pests, not something that can just come along from one little visit to a junk store or book jumble like bedbugs. Even lice requires significant contact, and is mostly carried on your person and personal items. Fleas die out within reason, too, and are more an issue for the pet-rearing population.

But bedbugs are on seats. Library books. Shoes. Sweaters. Cushions. Shoes. Jackets. Shopping bags. Items not really considered that personal, items we are in casual contact with every day, and crawl into, infest, live, thrive, explode populously on the place we spend so much of our slumbering hours ... our bed(s).
posted by tilde at 6:38 AM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


You know... suppose for a second there's no magic bullet for the bedbug epidemic.

With apologies to all New Yorkers here who have faced difficult bedbug issues, I've lived in New York for 12 years and I've only known one friend who had a bedbug issue that lasted more than a couple of weeks. I think the bedbug "epidemic" is overblown. Of course, the thought still horrifies me. It just doesn't really change my behavior (except I guess I'm less likely to buy furniture off craigslist).
posted by benbenson at 6:49 AM on September 6, 2012


I've lived in New York for 12 years and I've only known one friend who had a bedbug issue that lasted more than a couple of weeks.

You're a braver man than I to tempt fate like that.
posted by griphus at 6:55 AM on September 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


the ZappBug unit can handle carry on luggage

The PackTite can do carry on stuff (we've used it for that), but might not be able to handle large, checked bags.

posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:12 AM on September 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I bet you know more than you think.

My daughter's in school, so it has anonymized reporting of issues like this. And I've been surprised by how often scourges like this (and lice) show up among fairly high-end families. I think they're just often too embarassed to talk because there's an association of these things being low-class.
posted by corb at 12:00 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a fantastic post and discussion. Thank you.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 11:49 AM on September 8, 2012


Oh yeah, though it looks like the discussion has died, one more tip from experiences friends of mine have had: two sided fly tape applied around the target area appears to very effective. Traps the suckers en route.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 3:35 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]


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