Everything you need to know about booklice

Abell Pest Control

Whether it's an overturned trash can, droppings on the counter or stained bed sheets, many common pests leave behind clues that make it easy to spot an infestation. From there, you can quickly call a pest removal specialist and sort out the problem with as little hassle as possible. Other creatures, however, do a much better job of staying hidden, and that means a pest problem can go on for weeks or months undetected.

The aptly named booklouse, for example, is so good at hiding out that it can sustain itself completely on old books. So unless you stay vigilant, these insects can comfortably survive in your home. Here's what you need to know about booklice:

What is a booklouse?
Psocids, known colloquially as booklice, are among the most primitive types of insect on the planet. North Carolina State University explained that there are 245 species of psocids in North America alone, and worldwide there are roughly 3,200 individual species in this family. These bugs are so ubiquitous in part because they have such a simple food source. Not true lice, the animals feed on fungus or mold. In the wild, the insects feast on natural growth found on trees, bushes or rocks.

When given the opportunity, however, booklice will forgo an outdoor meal and instead make a living inside feeding on everything from glue and cardboard to household molds. Because old books can be a breeding ground for mold, the bugs can subsist on a stack of neglected novels. For that reason, these animals can happily survive in your basement or attic, slowly eating away at precious family heirlooms or artifacts. Fortunately, the Department of Entomology at Pennsylvania State University reported that damage around the home is usually minimal because these insects are remarkably small.

Individuals are just a few millimeters long, and are usually a translucent white or gray color. Like other insects, booklice breed very quickly, with a lifecycle not much longer than a month. In response to colder conditions, however, female booklice will layer fewer eggs that take longer to reach maturity. This adaptability helps the insects be such effective pests.

What risks do they pose?
Fortunately for homeowners, booklice usually cause a negligible amount of damage, and aren't known to transmit disease or bacteria. That said, these bugs can form large clusters and can be an unwelcome home intruder nonetheless.

Booklice also have a taste for grains and the sort of cardboard boxes used in food packaging. You may find that instead of feasting on an old library, a booklice infestation instead has concentrated on your pantry. This can spoil your food. Penn State reported that females will often hide their eggs, so simply taking care of adults may not be enough to stop an outbreak of booklice.

What should I do?
If you do come across these little insects, there are a few steps to take to eradicate the problem on your own. Invasive bugs of all types are attracted to water, so start by fixing any leaking pipes.
Next, use a dehumidifier to keep an infected area at about 50 percent humidity. Especially in the winter when bugs like booklice are trying to escape the elements, this will make things much less comfortable.

In terms of prevention, keeping things as clean as possible is essential. This means regularly vacuuming and dusting, even in places like a basement. Be sure to throw out stacks of old paperwork or newspaper, and store any valuables in plastic bags or bins. You may also benefit from keeping pantry goods in sealable containers as well.

About the author:

Abell Pest Control is a family owned Canadian company dedicated to providing effective, professional and courteous service in pest management.Started in 1924 with one office, Abell now employs several hundred people with branch offices across Canada and the United States.

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