There are few things that will send me screaming out a door, faster than the word bedbugs. The horror stories I have heard from friends going through the lengthy, expensive, and painful process of ridding their homes of these uninvited bed-fellows redefine the word unenviable. Recently I wrote about an upcoming book sale at the Kalamazoo Public Library, and I was instantly reminded to be careful about bringing home more than I bargained for. You see, bedbugs LOVE books. They hide in the bindings, they burrow through the pages. And if you're not careful, your amazing first-edition find you picked up at a vintage shop could be the beginning of a tragic tale.

Because I would hate for anyone to suffer such a fate, I've researched the signs of bedbug infestation in books. And if you're thorough and careful, you should be free and clear to enjoy any hand-me-down tomes.

  1. The bugs you're looking for are flat, oval shaped and around the size of an apple seed. They can be dark reddish/brown or translucent brown depending on how recently they've eaten. Be on the lookout for anything (alive or dead) fitting this description.
  2. Look for stains. Because bedbugs eat blood, they leave a reddish/brown smudge when they are squished. If any of the pages appear to have a small streak of what looks like blood, the book may have been infested.
  3. Check the spine. Bedbugs are flat, so hiding the in the binding of a hard-cover is easy. But don't think paperbacks have thwarted these pests.
  4. If you find an infestation, rely on temperature to help sort it out. The bugs cannot survive temperatures above 115 degrees (F) or below -26 degrees. Finding a location below -26 is likely to not happen, but books can withstand pretty high temperatures, so if you just can't bear to leave your found book behind, popping it in the oven for an hour or two should kill anything that's still creeping or crawling.

So whether it's the Bag-Of-Books sale at Kalamazoo Public Library, an extensive estate sale library, or a thrift store find, a little time and keen eyes should save you from turning a great book adventure in to a nightmare.