GREENSBURG – Staff at the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library are taking steps to make certain a resurgent species of insect doesn’t take up residence among its collection of books and movies – now or in the future.
Decatur County Health Inspector Sean Durbin said residential infestations of cimex lectularius, commonly known as the dreaded “bed bug,” have become increasingly common across Decatur County – and the country as a whole – in recent years, leaving locals itching for a way to get rid of the blood-sucking bugs once and for all.
Durbin’s wife Lori, who serves as marketing and teen program coordinator at the local library and Library Director Andrea Ingmire are taking precautions to make sure some of the most repugnant guests of the so-called “Ugly Bug Ball” never get the opportunity to show their proboscis’ anywhere near Greensburg’s largest collection of literature.
“We’re not going to be a ‘halfway house’ [for bed bugs],” Ingmire said, reiterating that the library is not infested with the bugs; they’re instead trying to make certain such a problem never occurs. To that end, library staff has obtained a "ZappBug Oven 2" that will swiftly eliminate the problem in the instance an unwitting patron returns a book containing a bed bug or its eggs.
Ingmire said the device is a “high heat treatment oven” that heats to 160 degrees Fahrenheit – hot enough to toast even the most resilient bed bug and its larvae.
Ingmire and Lori Durbin said bed bugs, which at adulthood are roughly the size of an apple seed, can easily fit into the pages of books and even the corners of DVD cases due to their small size and flat bodies. Decatur Countians unaware their home has become a bastion for bed bugs may inadvertently carry the tiny hitchhikers into the library, thereby risking infestation.
That’s where the library’s multifaceted bed bug prevention program comes into play.
Library staff has employed the services of “Grissom,” a bed bug detection dog whose renowned sniffing skills are capable of snuffing out any potential bed bug hiding place. Ingmire said Grissom and other dogs like him are trained to pick up a bed bug’s trail – including its eggs – and will lead exterminators directly to the musty-smelling insects’ location.
“If he [the bed bug detection dog] alerts on anything, we have a process in place to treat whatever it is he alerts on,” Ingmire said.
Grissom belongs to staff of BBUGGS, Inc., a Shelbyville company who specializes in making bed bugs a distant memory.
But as is the case with many maladies – of the insect variety or not – prevention is the key.
Lori Durbin and Ingmire said they are encouraging those who borrow library materials to notify a staff member of a possible bed bug infestation in the borrower’s home. Both library personnel said such information would be kept entirely confidential and will help in the library’s preventative efforts.
Ingmire said guests should examine their reading materials for small dark spots, and if anything suspicious is found, the borrower should notify library staff immediately.
Knowing a bug may be hiding between the pages of a Hunger Games novel can go a long way in helping staff nip the bug problem in the bud – long before it ever becomes a serious issue.
Bed bugs, however, engage in some interesting “hunger games” of their own.
Subsisting solely on human blood, bed bugs typically hide near places where a host will be immobile for a long period of time. Commonly, the bugs wander into one’s bed covers for their meal, usually during the night, though the bugs are not strictly nocturnal.
The painless bites make the bugs difficult to detect while feeding and many of those bitten never even realize it, Sean Durbin said. To complicate matters, not all of those bitten will display any sort of characteristic bite marks.
Once it’s succeeded in obtaining its blood meal, the bloated bug wobbles off for shelter in a manner not unlike a Thanksgiving guest that has overstayed his or her welcome at the dinner table making a beeline for the living room recliner. The blood-filled bug then returns to its hiding place, the health inspector said, where it molts, reproduces and lies in wait to begin the gruesome process all over again.
Sean Durbin said he and others at the Decatur County Board of Health routinely field phone calls asking for help with a bed bug infestation, but the agency’s hands are mostly tied.
“Because bed bugs are not technically a health hazard, the [Decatur County] Health Department doesn’t get involved in regulations,” Durbin said noting that bed bugs are not known to carry or transmit any disease among their human hosts. “The only real advice we can give is to call a pest control company.”
Such treatments are expensive, Durbin said, but they are the only sure-fire way to get rid of bed bugs. Even then, those treatments do little to prevent a future return of the unwelcome house guests, Durbin warned.
Durbin said the best steps local residents can take to prevent providing a cozy home for the bugs is to avoid clutter around the house and to carefully inspect one’s luggage when traveling. Due to the bugs’ propensity only to dine on sleeping or long-sedentary subjects, Durbin said the vast majority of public places are unlikely to become infested.
“The likelihood of the library, a school, the movie theatre or any place like that to have a [bed bug] problem is pretty slim,” Durbin said. “The library is being very proactive; they’re really on top of this before it becomes an issue.” Hotels and motels, however, are just the opposite.
"Hotels are always a prime location [for bed bugs]," the health inspector mentioned.
In any case, Durbin said an old adage applies in bed bug prevention. “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”
Library staff members are doing just that.
Ingmire and Lori Durbin said only one bed bug has been discovered in the building thus far, and that was a tiny stowaway in a borrowed book. That insect was identified and subsequently baked well past the point of perfection in the library’s “bed bug oven.” Andrea Ingmire and Lori Durbin said the same fate awaits any future six-legged hitchhikers hoping to “bug” library patrons.
Lori Durbin said the library has never experienced an infestation of any kind and she added that the library’s steps to curb an issue long before it becomes a real problem shouldn’t deter visitors.
“We don’t want people to be afraid to use the library,” Durbin said. “We’re just trying to inform our community so we’re all better protected.”
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