Bed bugs infest libraries in three cities: what can we learn from these cases?

by nobugsonme on September 30, 2011 · 20 comments

in bed bugs, colorado, libraries

The Mesa, Arizona Public Library and the Public Library in Norman, Oklahoma both became infested with bed bugs in the last ten days.  They recently troubled the Longmont, Colorado library.

Are there any patterns here, and what can we learn from these cases?

First, Mesa. reports,

According to Mesa spokesman Steve Wright, bedbugs were on chairs in the computer tech section and upstairs in a reading area.

The chairs were immediately thrown out after the incident was reported to staff, Wright said.

The city hired an outside vendor to check the rest of the library with a bedbug-sniffing dog. According to Wright, the problem has been remediated.

The library is open for business as usual.

This is not the first time bedbugs have been found in a library.

It’s also not the first time that spokespeople have declared a bed bug problem solved before they could be fairly certain of that.

Anyone remember the recent bed bug problems in the library in Longmont, Colorado?

This story from, as well as the report imply that the Mesa library was considered clear based on a canine inspection with no alerts, with no actual “bed bug treatment” other than canine-identified infested chairs being thrown out.

Let’s compare the situation in Mesa to the recent case in Longmont, Colorado.  In Longmont, chairs were apparently treated based on canine alerts, so once those chairs were treated, the problem was considered cleared.

And then ten days or so later, in another canine inspection, the canine alerted to seven additional chairs, as well as to two which were previously treated. Incidentally, according to the Denver Post, at least one library employee in Longmont is now thought to have taken a bed bug home.

It’s almost always the case that public cases of bed bugs are declared “solved” almost immediately, even though most of these cases are not employing one-shot treatment methods like Vikane gas fumigation or structural heat treatment.

The simple truth is that dogs are not 100% accurate, and some are more accurate than others.

Most treatment (especially a contact killer like freezing CO2, as employed in Longmont) is not a one-shot deal.

And as long as you stay open for business, there’s a chance that more bed bugs may be brought in from whatever sources brought them in originally. In other words, some Longmont library patrons who sat in the chairs before the infestation was discovered could have brought bed bugs in again by the same method.

I hope the Mesa case truly is eradicated, but I wish public officials would stop declaring success after one treatment and before enough time has elapsed for them to be more certain.

Oh, and I really hope the Mesa library destroyed those chairs before tossing them out, or a lot of people are going to potentially suffer from bed bugs after putting the chairs back into use. For this reason, treatment is often preferable to tossing things out. Mesa Public Library might have spent its funds renting something like the Insect Inferno, rather than puchasing $15K worth of plastic chairs.

And what about Norman, Oklahoma?

Bed bugs were discovered by a patron who found and killed two bed bugs in the magazine area of the Norman Public Library on Tuesday, September 20th.  Treatment occurred the following weekend.

In Norman, one library patron complained to editors of the Norman Transcript that the library did not post a warning to patrons visiting between the time bed bugs were discovered by a customer on Tuesday evening, and when the library was closed for treatment on Saturday (the timeline of events is detailed in this Norman Transcript article).

Disclosure to patrons was made in Longmont via a sign posted outside the open building, but it isn’t clear from the news reports linked to above if any disclosure occurred in Mesa. Interestingly, in the Colorado city, patrons did not seem to be deterred by the sign.

The Norman library was treated with “heat and chemicals,” which is ambiguous — we’ve heard the term “heat” being used to refer to steam or structural heat treatment.

Like Mesa, Norman rushed to replace upholstered chairs with plastic ones.

According to this story from KFOR news,

The library is considering putting restrictions on patrons bringing backpacks, suitcases or bed rolls in to the facility.

It may be a hardship to people needing to study or work in the library to restrict backpacks, but these along with luggage and especially bedrolls do seem like a significant danger in terms of transmitting bed bugs.

And clearly, we need to do everything we can to minimize the risk of libraries and other public places becoming infested with bed bugs.


What can we learn from these cases?

Based on my readings about these three cases, I would suggest library and other public officials stop rushing to declare bed bug cases “cleared.”

They should consider disclosing the presence of a problem to patrons using the facility, at least until treatment has occurred.

They should not assume canine inspections are 100% accurate.

Training library staff to recognize bed bugs and what to do if they’re found (as occurred in Longmont well before their bed bug problems came to light) is a good proactive move.

They should also consider that book drops and chairs seem to be bed bug problem areas in libraries — chairs, of course, were the focal point in Mesa, Norman, and Longmont.

Not allowing suitcases and bedrolls per Norman officials’ reasoning is one way to reduce exposure.

To reduce the problem of bed bugs being returned in books or infesting book drops, libraries could also easily and inexpensively employ a Packtite or Packtite Closet for treating returned books.

Any other suggestions?  Please comment below!

1 David James September 30, 2011 at 8:49 am

Many libraries have followed your advice and use the Packtite to treat their returned books before shelving them. Books are going to always be a potential harborage for bed bugs because many people fall asleep reading and leave the book on or near the bed.

2 Tyler LeCompte September 30, 2011 at 10:09 am

It is unfortunate that many libraries, and other public buildings for that matter, are choosing to throw out affected furniture and/or books without doing some additional research about all effective treatment options, including Vikane gas fumigant or heat remediation. If the cities and counties that manage these buildings would proactively implement an Integrated Pest Management program that addressed the elimination AND prevention of pests such as bed bugs, they would ultimately save their communities thousands of dollars (in replacement furniture and ineffective pest control techniques) and improve the public opinion as well. of course, here at BBFS we always say “Gas em first, then bring in the dogs!” Thanks Bedbugger!

3 Pete September 30, 2011 at 5:21 pm


I am going to assume it’s probable that the cities and counties managing buildings are not as educated as they should be either. I’m only saying this because the would be managers of these buildings would probably have already implemented a seerious IPM program a long time ago, if they actually had a realistic perception about the devastation these BBs will cause. I’ve worked in New York for over 10 years and to this day I am not the least bit shocked as to the number of people I am surrounded by who turn a blind eye to BBs and the true severity of the tragedy they are wreaking on society. I really feel it’s up to the US Gov’t to step in for proactive meaasures that would be implemented nationwide, and in turn, worldwide…….but of course……trusting in your gov’t to have your best interest at heart without political agendas attached to it is just like wishing for global warming to go away on its own. It’s so sad and frightening what Americans have to go through in this day and age whether they are aware or not.

4 Carpathian Peasant September 30, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Libraries tend tn be quiet, dry, scented with paper and full of electrical energy and positive thought.

5 Sam Bryks October 1, 2011 at 3:22 am

One would wonder with the number of infested chairs reported how long this had been going on? A lot of comments and “thinking out loud” here.
I am always concerned about panic tactics — throw out the chairs as if chairs are forever ruined by report of some bed bugs on some chairs. I attend a few libraries, one with leatherette uphoslered chairs, another with both solid maple and also rolling office style upholstered chairs – very comfortable.. and I would not want them thrown out because of bed bug reports and PANIC…
Heat treat books in a Packtite? You gotta be kidding.. the volume of books in a major library is in the hundreds and even thousands in the course of a week. Books don’t like being heated … the glue of spines can be ruined.
Fumigate the place with Vikane? Wow!!! some Pest Control Firm is going to make a lot of money if that were the standard practice…ooops… you mean fumigate the books? or the chairs? .. well, perhaps the chairs in a pinch.. I don’t know how much it costs to rent the Inferno, but I doubt a library has staff to man this .. or should I say to “person” it..
Yes, dogs are not 100% effective, but we don’t know the extent of the dog inspection in the case..Every chair checked? if so, then a real problem with that dog I think.

The report of bed rolls or sleeping bags is something. Were those of homeless people? Some homeless people do frequent libraries as places where they can even sleep in chairs in safety, when their sense of safety out in the open is not good.
Looking at these situations, what is really needed is a careful,competent professional assessment of risk and circumstance by an IPM professional be it the PMP or an extension person or an IPM Consultant. That should be step one..
Assess risk and then create a solid plan for any preventive measures possible and for action that is reasonable and not from panic.
Sometimes it means isolating an area, or arranging an appropriate inspection/monitoring. Close the library without creating panic. If it is near closing, then just isolate the area where the sighting(s) were made. If it is not near closing then sometimes it is better to close and advise patrons that a maintenance issue requires early closing, and answer honestly to those who ask directly.
A library is not the ideal habitat for bed bugs, but of course they get in there – then it is a matter of isolating, localizing and treating by vacuuming and steam treatment where appropriate, and if there is a suspicion of widespread isolated infestation in furniture, etc., then establishing a plan of treatment is ideal. It might involve heat fumigation of chairs or even a Vikane fumigation, but that would be determined by the facts.
The one thing NOT to do, is create panic.

6 David James October 1, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Sam, Many, Many libraries have implemented Packtites in their routine. Customers, many of whom visit this site, have been packtiting books for over 2 years. It is probably one of the most commonly treated items in the Packtite. I appreciate your concern and opinion but the experience of thousands weighs a little more.

7 Sam Bryks October 1, 2011 at 11:43 pm

I had no idea that “thousands” of packtites are being used by libraries.
Using a packtite for books in a home is quite different than using one in a library.
I am not sure I would put my valuable books into a packtite.. I think I would prefer using either Nuvo Strips or napthalene over a Packtite..
I know this is NOT being used in the libraries I frequent.
This is one of those issues that needs careful assessment of risk before instituting a treatment that may be only targeting the very rare case. If the location has a high incidence of imported infestation from books, then it would need an evaluation and determination of what kind of approach would be most appropriate.
If you have actual data on use of packtites for libraries, please do post so we can learn more. I am of course interested in the experience of thousands.

8 Sam Bryks October 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm

David, you should identify yourself as a principal involved in marketing Packtite. In that capacity, there is of course a potential conflict of interest as selling Packtites is your business.
I am all for good devices useful in our battle against bed bugs, but in the absence of evidence… i stand by my comments.
I have never heard of heat treatment as a common practice for treating books.
While books are fairly resilient, I am not so sure of how they would stand up to repeated heat treatment as a process at a library. Perhaps not so well.
I once used microwave to treat cereals and pet food suspected of Indian Meal Moth infestation instead of throwing it out. Worked well.
I may take a book I am not concerned about and see if a short microwave “cooking” does any harm. I would imagine the bed bugs are in the spine or at the join of the covers to the body of the book rather than in the body, but I don’t actually know. Until I see real hard data of the experience of libraries or of PMP’s working in libraries, I stand by my thoughts on this. As I noted earlier, if you have the data of thousands on this… beyond use in homes which is different, I am not convinced that this is the way for libraries to go..

9 Cimicifuga October 2, 2011 at 4:28 am

There probably hasn’t been a proper scientific study of heat treatment of books for bedbugs yet, but there should be, along with many other studies like how effective plant extracts(cinnamon, citronella, lavender, peppermint, etc.) are at repelling bedbugs and for how long. (With mosquitos, it varies by species and the exact formula of the repellant, and the effect wears off gradually.)

In the absence of these studies, I will gladly give anecdotal evidence myself in support of the packtiting (if that isn’t a verb yet, it should be) of books, CD’s, DVD’s, and general clutter, and yes like some others who have commented on this website I even packtite my laptop. (The label on the battery says it’s safe up to 65 degrees C.) I have packtited my laptop and some of my books multiple times and have not noticed any deterioration.

Packtiting books and electronics might cause damage (and injury) in some cases. Not all books are the same (type of paper, type of ink, type of glue), and not all electronic devices and batteries are the same either. The Packtite needs to be used with care anyway, just like pesticides. We’re still in the dark ages of bedbugology here, and there is obviously vast room for improvement.

This is the first time I’ve heard of microwaving books. If it’s safe and effective then obviously that’s great, and many households and workplaces already have microwaves, but it sounds dangerous! I would contact the manufacturer of the microwave for advice before experimenting with that idea.

In the long term of course prevention is the best cure, and libraries need to join the effort of educating the public about prevention, and obviously library staff need education as well.

10 Cimicifuga October 2, 2011 at 4:36 am

PS. I think the ethical quality of Mr. James speaking in favour of his company’s product using his own name is exactly the same as the ethical quality of you (apparently a competitor) speaking against his company’s product using your own name, as long as all the arguments are fair and rational. Anyone can see the names of the companies you represent by moving the mouse cursor over your names, so I don’t think there’s anything inappropriate going on.

11 David Cain October 2, 2011 at 6:44 am


To settle the debate of PackTite and precious books I have Packtited a 1760 book a number of times to test for damage and have had non to date.

In fact I regularly decontaminate books for people and the Packtite offers a safer method than what we used to do that required each book to be individually wrapped to avoid moisture damage.

I would respectfully suggest that people refrain from making comment about something that they have not done because it just makes you look very silly when more experienced people come along and tell you to stop posting about things you have no experience of.

I have tested and failed microwaving books over 5 years ago, partly because it does not work but mainly because some book bindings carry metal and some leaf and embossing on books will destroy your microwave.

Hope that clears up the debate.

David Cain
Bed Bugs Limited

12 David Cain October 2, 2011 at 6:55 am


To specifically reply to this:

Sam Bryks October 1, 2011 at 11:53 pm

David, you should identify yourself as a principal involved in marketing Packtite. In that capacity, there is of course a potential conflict of interest as selling Packtites is your business.

I have know David for many years and he has always been open about his interest and involvement when posting. Can you say the same for others in the pest world including academics who should know better than to stand up and declare that the winning product has their name on the patent. I know this is an old debate between me and you Sam but if you are going to be nasty like that you need to look at your mate first. In fact the world has now spoken on that issue as he was called out at the Chicago meeting and in a straw poll I would say that 25% of the people in the room felt the academic had ruined their impartiality and many felt strong enough to complain to the meeting organizers.

There is a lot of snake oil being sold in the name of bedbugs but Packtite is not one of them.

David Cain
Bed Bugs Limited

13 Ci Lecto October 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

While I can see that library managers would acquire PackTites, I can’t imagine them treating every book every time, especially if staff time is tight or a book is in demand.

If you’re in NYC, I’d recommend a visit to the East 46th Street (Grand Central) branch of the NY Public Library. Opened in the past 10 years, it has mostly wire chairs with removable pads and stand-up workstations. There are four upholstered chairs at the front (generally occupied by people with lots of bags and luggage), these seem constructed in a way that they can be easily inspected and, if necessary treated. I don’t know this for certain, but it seems like the designer of this facility took bed bugs into account.

My big concern regarding the bed bug epidemic is how people will relate to “public” facilities. I love my libraries and would hate to see people shun them (and disinvest in them). Library leaders and civic-minded people need to get ahead of this issue.

14 Pete October 3, 2011 at 10:51 am

This is insane! This site, and the professionals who are involved in BBology, are all here to help one another through support and education. This is the first time in years that I’ve witnessed anyone take pot shots at another for a product that has so obviously helped in the war against BBs. NO ONE should be taking a negative approach when addressing one another here, this is a support, education, and information site…..if you have problems with David Cain or anybody’s products, take to another forum. More importantly, if you can’t suggest a better product than the Packtite as far as treating items that can’t be thrown into a dryer, then there is no debate. You don’t trust the product, you’d rather use your microwave?……just be careful with that because Indian Meal Moths are different from BBs. Bottom line, if you had proof that heating books in a Packtite would yield negative results, then post that………but you can’t.

15 CarpathianPeasant October 4, 2011 at 4:12 pm

The opening message asked, what can be learned from the three cases of library infestation.

I said libraries tend to be quiet. Is quiet important to bed bugs? How about dryness? Paper, or at least the scent of it…. Do they have a liking for electricity? Do they especially react to positive people?

Yes, that’s important — are some places and people more vulnerable than others.

16 Sam Bryks October 7, 2011 at 1:00 am

Thanks for your update on books in the Packtite David (Cain).
Good point also about the metal content in books re: microwave.
I am surprised at the negative feedback on my comments. Identifying that the other David is a proponent of Packtite is just what it is… nothing negative, just a matter of disclosure. The facts stand up on their own in any case.
If the heat in the packtite does no harm to valuable books, that is good to know. Clarifies a point I raised.
Regarding the other point, I felt that the academic (Changlu Wang) needed to raise the issue himself. I trust his work. He was not aware of the potential conflict and I gather he responded to this openly at the meeting.
The points I raised about the Packtite and books were honest concerns, and there is no reason to ascribe “nasty” to these. There are still questions about practical usage that I raised. Pointing out that a response was from one of the principals of Packtite was just what it was — pointing it out to identify a “potential” conflict of interest, not to dispute facts..
It’s as if someone rated a particular car and model as the best without identifying that they were the manufacturer… The car might very well be the best in testing and this can be stated honestly, but knowing who is saying so is a matter of honest disclosure. I just happened to see who David was by the website link, so I pointed this out.. Nothing nasty about this… Just a fact..

17 sam bryks October 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

After learning of my errors about heat treat of books, I did a bit of research on this to clarify and enhance my knowledge and hopefully share with others.
I had met a museum specialist last year in relation to a tender, and learned a lot from her at that time, but obviously my knowledge in this specific aspect was a bit lacking. What she taught me (not a new lesson) was the importance of reviewing existing knowledge especially in managing valuable items. I had suggested UV lights as an early detection tool for clothes moths, as well as a defense against incursions by dermestid beetles that can fly, and she advised me that the UV itself could
damage valuable old fabrics though we both agreed it was a good idea in common areas
First, I learned that heat treatment of archives and of individual books is useful, but humidity is a key factor or the articles could be damaged.

Excerpt from PARKER (Thomas A.). – Study on integrated pest management for libraries and archives / prepared by Thomas A. Parker [for the] General Information Programme and UNISIST.- Paris : Unesco, 1988. – 119 p. ; 30 cm. – (PGI-88/WS/20)

“5. To disinfest an entire structure of insects, heat the space with commercial gas burners. This approach has been successful in the past and is being used today by large cereal grain processors. All insect stages can be killed if the heat is distributed throughout the building with electric fans and a temperature of 140° F (60° to 63° C) is maintained for 6 hours. Loosen the books and materials to allow the air to circulate around them. This technique not only controls cigarette beetles in books, but all stages of insects in the entire structure (Cressman 1935).

7. If a localized, limited infestation is found in a library, isolate the infested books and subject them to a heat treatment. 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. This technique is commonly used in herbarium collections in various parts of the world. It is much easier to kill all stages of insects with heat than it is by freezing. If a source of humidity is supplied in the chamber, the books should not dry out during treatment. Only active infestations should be treated in this manner. ”
This certainly advises that any valuable book should NOT be heat treated unless there is a verification of infestation. Of course, bed bugs don’t eat books, and any infestation will be rather localized…
I did find a more recent paper verifying the aspects of heat treatment of books and/or archival documents.
As for treating incoming books, I still see this as an essentially worthless undertaking and I hope this was not the plan suggested for use of the Packtite..
With respect to ordinary (not rare or valuable books) books that are likely to be discarded within a few years, it is then really a matter of risk/benefit..
In a home in which infestation was widespread, the Packtite could be a great tool for this aspect to treat such items – but again, in a library? I think that in that case, it is much more incident specific rather than a standard practice..
I just do not see the benefit of heat treating a lot of books on a low risk probability.
I seem to be marked as a bit of an insulting curmudgeon when this is not how I see myself, nor my intention (I have met a few avowed curmudgeons over the years and this is not how I relate to people). So if anyone takes any offense in this post, I would welcome understanding how ….

18 David Cain October 9, 2011 at 9:25 am

Hi Sam,

Sorry it was not addressed at the meeting, the question was dismissed if anything and if you don’t see it as a conflict of interest feel free to take that point but certainly in the EU it is a serious issues and could result in legal action against anyone not disclosing.

I am sorry that you don’t see the point and value in decontaminating books back into a library given that it is a viable transmission method for bedbugs onto other peoples homes. The only viable method being to educate all library users as to the risks of bedbugs which is simply not a viable option.

I sincerely hope that you again stop to understand the process of infestation from the field perspective so that you are actually able to advise your clients accurately about bedbug risks.


19 David James October 9, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Sam, you are absolutely correct and ordinarily I am much better at disclosures. So for the record, I manufacture and sell the Packtite. Per the libraries, the most interesting detail here is that the libraries that use Packtite have done so on their own, meaning, this has not been the case that we spend day after day cold calling libraries and telling them about how a packtite should be implemented in their bed bug strategy. In fact, we never have tried to “sell” a library on a packtite. What has happened naturally is that they have seen the need themselves and identified a solution on their own. One library told me that before Packtite, they had employs take suspect books, wrap them in plastic, and take them to the roof to bake in the sun. A method that not only did not reach high enough temps for them, but would not work obviously year round. So don’t assume my company is selling anyone on a system or strategy that utilizes Packtite, they have found the tool on their own and are making use of it in any way they see fit, just as many hotels, shelters, and homeowners are doing. I guess what I am saying is we can all argue how or if these places should use a Packtite, it doesn’t really matter, the end users are making those decisions for themselves everday.

20 Sam Bryks October 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Thanks David,
appreciate your feedback..
some of the original posts were a bit confusing in terms of how libraries would use the Packtite, but I think use for suspect books is a very useful tool.
I wasn’t trying to impune anything or anyone but just trying to get a better understanding of how this was being used, and to learn a bit more about this.
I think for the average book in circulation, humidity is probably not an issue,though I am sure there are lot of easy ways to ensure this is not an issue.
The library folks are dealing with unusual circumstances that can easily create panic. I know it happened in Toronto with news stories of bed bugs in our largest library – which is downtown, and very popular. Sometimes homeless people use a library as a respite from weather -hot or cold, and lots of seniors like to go to libraries as a place they can sit down and read the paper in a nice environment.
It is also a very popular place for college and high school students doing projects using computers and wireless access, so the traffic can be high.
We in the industry really need to create good protocols for handling bed bug infesations in this environment without a reactive “spray the place” approach, and help the library people manage this and reduce panic.
I am not sure how often books may need to be heat treated for bed bug as an “insurance” treatment, but I think that the PackTite could be even of more use in archival and rare books collections to protect against a variety of pests attacking the books.
If I were offering IPM services to a library, this would be high on my list of priorities. From what I read online, I am not really sure what they are doing currently. Mind you, for small quantities, the Nuvo Strips would do a superb job as well. Ethylene oxide used to be a favoured sterilant fumigant in hospitals and perhaps in this situation as well, but concerns about toxicity have made it much less desirable if used much.
Best wishes,

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