Can Bedbugs Really Live In Books?

by Emma Oulton

Maybe it’s just the sleep deprivation from staying up all night to binge-watch, but I was crawling out of my skin during Orange is the New Black Season 3, as I watched [mild Episode 2 spoiler alert] Litchfield prison get infected with bedbugs — including the books. But can bedbugs really live in books? I hoped that the reality that I saw in Orange, in which they had to burn all their books after the library got infected, wasn't true. (The inmates were forced to wear trash bags and sleep on pillows of toilet paper, too, yes, but I'm a book-lover.) It was all so gross, I could barely concentrate on all the Alex and Piper drama.

Watching those books go up in flames, I couldn’t help sneaking nervous glances at my own bookshelf. Could there actually be creepy-crawlies living in there? Unfortunately, here's some pretty icky news: apparently, bedbugs in library books is a rather common occurrence. You might not actually see them, but if you notice tiny dark spots on the pages, there’s a good chance bedbugs are hiding in the binding. BRB, off to be sick.

Reading in bed doesn’t sound quite so cozy anymore. You might be reading the new Fifty Shades of Grey, but it’s not that sexy when you could swear you hear the scuttling of tiny feet in between the pages. That exciting pile of books on your bedside table doesn’t look so enticing when you think of the little legs that right this minute could be waiting to make the jump onto your headboard. You’ll find yourself waking up in a cold sweat, looking up how common bedbugs are in your city. This is a total nightmare, and we're living it.

So, if you are unlucky enough to find bedbugs lurking in your paperbacks, do you need to pull an Orange is the New Black and burn down your bookshelves? Well, not exactly. Temperatures above 115°F or below -26°F will kill bedbugs, so you can either freeze them to death, or cook ‘em. The freezer in your kitchen is only around 0°F, so if you stick your infected books in there, you’re just going to end up with bedbugs living in your ice cream. (Enjoy your nightmares tonight.) The good news: paper can actually survive surprisingly high temperatures, so if you stick your books in the oven, you’ll kill off your gremlins and live to read another day. Phew.

However, if you’ve got a whole library to contend with, it’s another story. Bedbugs are seriously disgusting, and you definitely don’t want to spend the day handling infected books as you wait to cook them off one by one. (Or 10 by 10? How many books can you fit in an oven? I haven’t tried this out.) You could try dousing them all in some pretty strong chemicals, but you’d probably end up poisoning everyone in the meantime.

Nope, looks like there’s only one solution, and the great Orange is the New Black bedbug purge hit the nail right on the head. If you find yourself in prison with a nasty case of book-bugs, you’re gonna have to burn that library to the ground.

Images: Orange is the New Black/Netflix; mattsgifs