MANATEE -- Bedbugs are so prevalent in Manatee and Sarasota counties right now that one Bradenton exterminator says he has at least one job every single day to rid a structure of the bloodsucking pests.
Now it seems a small number of the critters, whose exoskeletons have become hardened against pesticides, have hitched rides into Manatee County library branches.
"Most recently, staff at one of our libraries discovered a piece of furniture that had bedbugs," Nick Azzara, Manatee County spokesman, said Tuesday. "The piece of furniture was removed for fumigation. Now it's being reupholstered with vinyl."
There have been isolated incidents like this with bedbugs in Manatee libraries over the years, Azzara said.
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There have also been reports recently of bedbugs in libraries in St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Pinellas Park.
"We service seven or eight counties, but I don't have to leave Sarasota and Bradenton to find work," Rodney O'Quinn, president of Kellers Pest Control, said Friday. "We are doing a couple of bedbug treatments every day, either fumigation or heat. One for sure, but most days, we are doing two. Our little area is one of the worst areas for pesticide resistance in the state."
Books are attractive to bedbugs, O'Quinn said.
"We have treated many structures where we suspected books from the library were the cause," O'Quinn said.
"Someone may be reading a book in bed or a recliner that is infested," O'Quinn added. "Bedbugs are constantly looking for new harborages. They can get into the binding of a book. They are reliant on man to transport them."
O'Quinn, who says his company leads the state in the new technology of killing bedbugs with heat, calls bedbugs, "the world's best hitchhikers."
"The county is proactive on the bedbug front by regularly cleaning furniture and book areas," Azzara said. "The libraries are in the process of having cloth furniture reupholstered with faux leather or vinyl. Library patrons are asked not to bring in any bedding, pillows, large luggage, bags or boxes into the libraries to help prevent the spread of bedbugs and other household pests."
O'Quinn believes homeless people can pick up bedbugs in shelters and transport them into the libraries, which are public places.
"I know for 100 percent that the homeless population has a lot of bedbug issues," O'Quinn said. "I have treated many shelters here and in Polk County. People bringing books from the library into their homes. It's inevitable."
While O'Quinn said that some of the steps the library is taking won't hurt, he recommends the library create a "heat box" for all returned books.
The box must be hot enough, long enough, to kill bedbugs and their eggs.
"I know 126 degrees is instant death for bedbugs and their eggs," O'Quinn said. "If libraries have a heat box installed, it takes care of the problem with books. But it has to be a temperature that won't melt the glue that binds the book."
O'Quinn said it's extremely hard to inspect a book for bedbugs, which are very small.
"You can flip through them and do everything right and still miss an egg," O'Quinn said.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.