Booklice thrive in damp conditions. These tiny insects are harmless to humans but can quickly grow in numbers, causing an infestation which can be difficult to control. The name might make it seem like they exist purely in the confines of old books, but actually, booklice are happy to take root in any dark, warm and humid places where damp might be found.
Booklice do not leave behind a great deal of evidence of their presence, so it might be tough to know you have an infestation unless you spot the creatures yourself. But by learning more about booklice, including what they look like, their characteristics and what attracts them, you can learn how to prevent these insects from taking over your home.
Appearance of booklice
Growing to only 1-2mm in size, booklice — or psocids — have flat bodies and are light brown or cream in colour. They are soft-bodied and agile, able to move quickly, with long antennae and large mouths. Booklice which live indoors will be wingless.
Booklice gain their colour with age, so booklice nymphs will appear almost completely transparent, only gaining a discernible shade as their lifespan progresses.
The lifecycle of a booklouse
Booklice are all female. Like stick insects, they produce offspring from unfertilized eggs — a process called parthenogenesis. A single, mature female will likely produce 60-100 eggs, which will hatch in 2-4 weeks after being laid. Instead of larvae stages, a booklouse will go through multiple nymph stages, reaching its adult form in two months, under the right conditions. Once a booklouse has reached adulthood, it can live for a further six months. Depending on conditions, eight generations of booklice can be produced in a single year.
Signs of a booklice infestation
Booklice can live wherever damp takes hold, so anywhere which is dark, warm and humid is a potential breeding ground. Telltale signs of a booklice infestation are hard to come by, however, there are a couple of specific signs you should keep an eye out for:
- Eggs — booklice eggs are sticky. They can be laid alone or in groups, and will be laid so that they stick on damp, moist surfaces. In some areas — kitchen cupboards for instance, eggs may be laid in close proximity to food sources, such as flour, and they may be concealed under debris or scraps of food, if available.
- Food — you might spot evidence of booklouse activity on certain foodstuffs, or notice that some foods are spoiling quickly. Flour, cereals, and dried meats are all common targets, so look out for signs of white powder left near these; as clues go, this is the most obvious a booklouse will leave behind.
- Movement — sometimes you’ll catch booklice in the open. Whether they’re hiding on damp timber surfaces, on furniture, within books or magazines, or on walls, booklice can be identified by their erratic, darting movement. They are skittish creatures and will flee with speed, moving in an unpredictable manner. If there’s a large number of them in your home, you’re more likely to catch groups of them going about their business.
How to get rid of booklice
If you have an infestation on your hands, the best way to eliminate the booklice in your home is to focus on removing humidity. Booklice thrive in areas of high humidity — 60% or higher — so drying these places out will render them inhospitable.
The kitchen and bathroom are hotspots for booklice. If there is any mould in sight, get rid of it as soon as possible. Dehumidifiers will help to reduce moisture levels in the air, but the key to a mould and damp-free environment is effective ventilation. Air out all your cupboards regularly, and if you have a dark storeroom where you keep a lot of books or magazines, make sure the humidity levels are as low as possible.
It’s also prudent to check for any leaking pipes in your home; even minor leaks can create the perfect living environment for booklice.
For full-blown infestations, hiring a professional pest control engineer is the best recourse.
What do booklice eat?
The diet of a booklouse is largely dependent on moisture. They can feed off bacteria, fungus and mould, which is why it’s so important to reduce moisture levels as much as possible. Booklice will also eat starchy materials found throughout the home, including book and magazine bindings, damp plaster found on the walls, damp cardbaord, and damp food (including flour and cereals).
Booklice are hungry insects, and there is no difference in appetite between nymphs and adults. So by drying out the home and removing or tightly controlling the sources of food available, you can sabotage an infestation.
Where do booklice live?
Common living spaces for booklice include: kitchen cupboards, dark and humid storage rooms, inside books and magazines, behind or underneath kitchen appliances. But a booklice can make their home wherever they find damp, so depending on the humidity in your home, this could be a wide range of places.
Are booklice harmful?
Booklice are not harmful to people. They don’t spread disease or cause any damage to your property. But they can contaminate food and cause disruption, stress and unease when they manage to infest a property.
Do booklice bite people?
Booklice do not bite people. If you think you might have booklice, but have been bitten, you might be dealing with bedbugs.
How to prevent booklice
The best way to prevent booklice is to avoid high levels of humidity in your home. Ventilate your bathroom and kitchen, open your windows regularly, store dry foods in well-ventilated areas and patch up any leaks you might find around the home.
If you’re experiencing a booklice infestation, the professional team at Pest Defence can eradicate the issue for you. Our proactive pest control services will remove any trace of booklice in your property, and we can also provide you with specific preventive advice to reduce the chances of recurring outbreaks in the future. Our discreet and efficient service provides peace of mind when you need it most, so to discuss your requirements with us, don’t hesitate to give our team a call today.