Riverhead Free Library now pest-free

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Suburban Exterminating supervisor Joe Delutri uses a steam machine that generates heat of up to 300 degrees to kill bedbugs.

A week after Riverhead Free Library was treated with heat application and a natural pesticide after a single bedbug was found inside, the library appeared to be pest-free.

Library director Lisa Jacobs is asking patrons to stay vigilant and report it if they spot the parasite. There is a question and answer sheet about bedbugs inside the library and on its website, she noted.

She said that attendance has been down this week, though she attributed that to the holiday weekend rather than a bedbug scare.

“People seem to be taking it in stride,” she said, adding that the library generally hosts about 1,200 patrons a day.

Last Tuesday , simply as a precaution, the library brought in a bug-sniffing dog because reports of bedbugs in public buildings had increased. Ms. Jacobs said other libraries in the county had taken similar steps after bedbugs had been found at libraries in Huntington and Central Islip.

The dog did give a positive response for the presence of bedbugs, and the library was immediately closed to the public last Tuesday and Wednesday.

Suburban Exterminators visually inspected the building last Tuesday and found no bedbugs inside. Exterminators also laid out 30 dry ice bedbug traps Tuesday afternoon and, on Wednesday, entomologists discovered a single bedbug.

The library has since been treated using a combination of heat and the all-natural pesticide Topia, which Ms. Jacobs said she hopes will be successful. The building reopened Friday.

“Let’s hope we can put this behind us,” she said.

Lynn Frank, an entomologist with Suburban Exterminators who treated the building, said that short of quarantining the library for several days, placing a tarp over it and pumping it full of harmful chemicals, there was no surefire way to be certain the building was pest-free. However, he said the treatment used in the library is extremely effective.

Mr. Frank said there is a bedbug epidemic in the northeastern U.S., with the worst problem in New York City. He said bedbugs are affecting all levels of society in the region.

“This is not an insect that favors the poor,” he said. “Everyone is susceptible to bedbugs. I’ve gone into mansions that are worth tens of millions of dollars … that have bedbugs.”

He stressed that bedbugs do not transmit disease though their bites, but the bites do itch and they can cause psychological trauma. Bedbugs nest in beds and other furniture and feed on the blood of warm-blooded mammals including humans as they sleep.

Mr. Frank said if anyone spots a bedbug in their home, it’s best to call an exterminator right away because an infestation is easier to treat in the early stages.

Despite last week’s discovery, patrons outside the library Tuesday morning appeared unfazed about the prospect of bedbugs.

Anita Checkijian of Riverhead said she could not let herself worry about every report of bedbugs because they had become so common in public places.

“It wouldn’t effect me,” she said, even though “They’re all over.”

Riverhead resident Ed Rolko said he would continue to visit the library two to three times a week. “I haven’t had any problems,” he said.

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