bed bugs and books

by nobugsonme on August 18, 2009 · 10 comments

in bed bugs

Sally Law of the New Yorker’s Book Bench discusses the awful truth — that bed bugs can and do infest books — with Dr. Louis Sorkin of the American Museum of Natural History in “Don’t Let the Book Bugs Bite.”

1 never_again August 25, 2009 at 5:09 pm

Is there a reliable way to deinfest them w/out a packtite? .. freezing?

2 nobugsonme August 26, 2009 at 12:40 am


The Packtite is reliable because you can use the temperature probe to ensure the insides of your books reach the required temperatures and stay there.

Freezing is theoretically possible, but it is very hard to reach the required temperatures and maintain them with a home freezer. The freezer likely is not that cold. Opening the freezer will make the temps fluctute. It also takes a very long time even if the temps are cold and do not fluctuate. Lou Sorkin tells us he killed bed bugs in 5 days at -29F (which is probably colder than your freezer, even if left unopened). But Lou’s bed bugs were not inside books: think books = insulation. (This is true in the Packtite too, but you can use the probe.)

You may be able to do it but each batch will take a long time and the length of time will be longer than Lou’s if you cannot maintain the temps he reached.

This FAQ may help, but we don’t really know the exact length of time needed to kill bed bugs depending on various freezing temperatures.

3 NotSoSnug September 5, 2009 at 1:57 am

“By placing the books in a standard oven at the lowest temperature possible (130° F for 3 hours) and placing wet newspaper or a pan of water in the bottom of the oven to maintain humidity inside the oven chamber, all stages of this insect, and in fact any insect, will be killed.”

Chapter 7, UNESCO Library Protocols

4 NotSoSnug September 5, 2009 at 1:57 am

Sigh the link: an integrated pest management program

5 Sleepless June 5, 2010 at 11:49 am

We have just discovered we have bbugs in my husbands study. (I am guessing he brought them home from a local library.) After a canine inspection indicated that some of his books are infested, we are looking for treatments that won’t harm the bindings. My husband is concerned that the heat in the Pack-Tite will be too high. Can anyone share experiences to the contrary?

Alternately, has anyone tried the standard oven method referenced above, at home (lower temps for longer duration)?


6 nobugsonme June 5, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I would think that the Packtite method would be safer and more reliable than the “standard oven method.”

(And many ovens don’t go down to 130 F anyway.)

It may be possible to harm books using these temperatures (whether in the oven or the Packtite), so you might not want to heat antique rare books. However, people have reported successfully treating books with Packtite and not causing harm to them.

7 Sleepless June 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Just curious, why do you think the Packtite is more reliable than an oven? I’m assuming we’d be using the oven’s probe to make sure we maintained adequate internal temperature. The library protocol suggests adding moisture to the environment to keep the books from drying out too much. I wonder if that’s possible with a Packtite?

8 nobugsonme June 5, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Sleepless, you’re right — if you use a probe (which you can do with an oven or a Packtite) AND your oven goes as low as 130 F, then you may prefer the library protocol. I am not an expert on this.

9 Sleepless June 5, 2010 at 8:26 pm


One more question on ‘cooking the books,’ once we get them to the right internal temp, how long do you think we need to heat them? I have had many people say that putting fabric items in the dryer for 30 minutes is adequate. I notice that library protocol has them cooking for 3 hours, but I wonder if that’s really necessary.

Thanks again for the educated guesses!

10 nobugsonme June 5, 2010 at 11:29 pm

I’m sorry I can’t enlighten you at all about the library protocol. I don’t know anything more than what’s on the link above.

However, the Packtite instructions require you to bake your items for one hour once they reach a core temperature of 120 F. (Note: the Packtite may go higher.)

It is essential that you reach a core temp. of 120 F at the center of every item and maintain it for an hour. This will take much more than an hour total.

I suppose it is possible that humidity provided by the water may alter the amount of time needed to kill bed bugs, but I also see that the recommendation of 130 F for 3 hours in an oven is given for cigarette beetles in botanical collections (unless I am looking at the wrong part of the page).

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