Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Traps set to catch bedbugs headed for B.C. libraries

Bedbugs are giving Vancouver's libraries a headache.


The service that delivers library books and other items to 18 member library systems in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley and as far north as Lillooet is cracking down on bed bugs with the deployment of specialized bug traps in its truck.

Michael Burris, executive director of Public Library InterLINK, says he will also buy some of the specialized $345 traps for libraries to use.

Bed bugs were reported this fall in libraries across the Vancouver region, notably New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver, a development that stunned library patrons.

Story continues below advertisement

The Vancouver Public Library on Monday confirmed 13 bed bug incidents over 2½ years at six libraries, releasing dozens of pages of internal reports and documents about the situation in response to an access to information request.

In June of 2009, a staff member identified as Rod found a dozen bed bugs in an Elton John DVD returned to the Joe Fortes branch. "Most were dead, but about four of them were still alive. Rod immediately killed all bed bugs," reads the handwritten security incident report.

"Last week, a patron found a dead bed bug on one of our shelves. If you want to pay your last respect, the body is put on display right outside my office," said one e-mail written by the manager of the Britannia branch on April 12, 2011.

Mr. Burris said the trap is the best choice for a response. It uses carbon dioxide, pheromones and heat to attract the bugs, which are then caught inside the units.

"It's the most effective tool we have right now. Maybe in the new year, there will be another way," he said. "For now, this is the best option."

InterLINK circulates five million items a year among the central branches of 18 member library systems. As of this month, a NightWatch trap will be deployed overnight in InterLINK's five-tonne truck used for deliveries in the Lower Mainland – the company uses a private courier for deliveries outside the Lower Mainland, but traps will not be deployed for them.

If any are found, InterLINK will use bug-sniffing dogs to figure out which materials they came from so the home system could be informed and take action. Mr. Burris said InterLINK will buy five traps in total, and share them among other libraries.

Story continues below advertisement

He acknowledged the action may cause delays in the delivery of library materials.

Marcos Michelet, whose Care Pest Control company is selling the traps to InterLINK, said they will work well in the confined storage area of a truck, but warned they can't be used to lure bed bugs in the average library branch.

"It wasn't designed to be used in a library situation," he said. "Because of the size of a truck, it will work."

Deb Thomas, deputy chief librarian for the Burnaby Public Library, is welcoming the move.

"We need to look at it as a regional issue because we're transferring books between our libraries. That's why I am pleased they are inspecting their trucks."

She said Burnaby is considering monitoring options for its four branches, and have put staff through two-hour training sessions on looking for bedbugs and properly reporting them. They are also being taught how to avoid bringing bed bugs into the workplace.

Story continues below advertisement

Since Burnaby began keeping a log in October, it has had one live sighting and two dead bugs.

Sniffer dogs are being used in branches. When their reaction suggests live bugs or eggs may be in library books or other materials, the items are placed in a room where the temperature is raised to a sustained 50 Celsius to kill them.

Jean Kavanagh, spokesperson for the Vancouver Public Library system, said branches are being inspected by a company as a prelude to further plans for dealing with the situation.

Bed bug observations from Security Incident Reports and other documents released by the Vancouver Public Library:

-"Jason spotted a bed bug in the first drawer of the checkout desk in the tray used to hold the lost cards. The bedbug (one) was already dead. Rod disposed of the bedbug and cleared out the tray." Security Incident Report, Joe Fortes branch, July 16, 2009.

-"Staff killed live bed bug walking across Fine Arts & History Desk in public area; requested desk be thoroughly cleaned on eve of Aug. 18th." Aug. 24, 2009.

- "Staff member noticed a live bed bug crawling along the edge of a book as he built a book truck of recently returned books. He squashed it." Security Incident Report, June 1, 2010.

-"We had our first sighting (well killing) of a bed bug in Oakridge. One lone bug on an empty book truck. Hardly an infestation, but I thought I'd mention it to you." June 2, 2011.

-"Not sure if you two actually want to hear about every time we find a bed bug. Let me know. Staff found one in our book drop on Sunday morning. It was alive but it is not anymore." - Anne Olsen, manager , East area. Vancouver Public Library - September 27, 2011.

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.