Booklice, also known as Psocids, are tiny pale insects. They’re actually not lice at all, but they are pests, and can become a nuisance especially when they thrive in numbers. They aren’t lice and therefore don’t bite animals or human beings.
Booklice have no disease spreading characteristics and don’t destroy household furniture. They may cause mild skin irritation sometimes. These tiny insects may be difficult to see with the human eye and require a magnifying glass to identify them.
They are small gray/brown insects that thrive in warm, damp and undisturbed zones in buildings. Booklice feed on mildew and microscopic mold. They are reported to have appeared on earth between 248 and 295 million years ago.
The first step when contemplating how to get rid of booklice is identifying them.
How to identify Booklice
Booklice are very tiny little bugs that could almost go unnoticed. They are about 1/16” long and are usually pale in color, though some become dark brown upon maturity.
Their head and abdomen are large with a narrow midsection in between. They have large, compound eyes that bulge out from the sides of the head.
They have a thin thread-like antenna, which sweeps backward in the direction of the abdomen. Some of them have wings while others don’t. The ones that stay outside mostly do have wings. Those with wings have four of them – two large wings at the back and two smaller wings at the front. The ones you will probably be trying to get rid of are the wingless ones.
They are all females that develop from unfertilized eggs. They will produce over 60 eggs in one lifespan, which could be anywhere between 2 weeks and four months, depending on the environment.
Some of the booklice characteristics are:
- They are all females that develop from unfertilized eggs
- Adults will produce up to 60 eggs in one lifespan which could be anywhere between 2 weeks and four months, depending on the environment and season. They molt two to three times.
- They are found in paper products and books.
- They thrive in moist conditions, which are conducive to mould and mildew growth. Their preferred humidity concentration is 60% and more.
- They can also be spotted feeding on honeydew in houseplants.
As the name suggests, booklice feed on paper. It isn’t uncommon to find them on your book, wallpaper, cardboard, or even photographs.
They flourish in warm, humid environments. They cause damage to paper products indirectly by feeding on the yeast and microscopic fungi, which grow on the paper when humidity levels are optimum.
Paper packaging warehouses are susceptible to booklice infestation, because the area’s atmosphere is hard to keep dry/ control. In homes, they thrive in storerooms and dark basements. Second homes that are usually closed up half the year are great breeding ground as well.
How to get rid of Booklice Infestation
There are two routes when contemplating how to get rid of booklice infestation. The first route is the natural route. Understandably, this is the preferred way because many homes want to practice pest control without using chemicals. The second route is using chemical pest control. We will dive into both this routes below:
How to get rid of Booklice naturally
The first step is to look out for these zones in your home. Here are a few pest control measures that may assist:
- Reduce humidity. Even after you have taken care of an infestation, humidity levels should be controlled to stop or prevent future infestation. To achieve this, place a humidifier in all moist and damp rooms. Leave the humidifier running throughout the year in the dampest rooms. Reducing humidity by at least half, dries out the booklice areas and also eliminates the mold that they eat.
- Opening windows and using fans is a good way of ensuring air circulates in the house.
- Fix all taps and pipes that are leaking and make sure rooms are well ventilated.
- Ensure that your air condition overflow pipe/water drain is drained far away from the house.
- Buy a few damp rids. You can purchase then from a local supermarket. Place the rids in the rooms that have high moisture levels.
- Remove everything in the pantry and inspect all dry products (e.g., cereals, grains, and flour).
If you notice the bugs in any of products, dispose of it immediately in a bin far from the house. Before you place the items that weren’t infested back, give the pantry a thorough cleaning. The cleaning solution should be two parts bleach to five parts water. Clean all kitchen, laundry, and bathroom cupboards with this method. Make sure that the pantry and cupboards are completely dry before returning the products. You could use a hairdryer because its heat will be sure to kill any leftover eggs.
- All dry food products should be stored in airtight containers and dispose of edibles that have been stored for more than six months.
Chemical Methods of cleaning infested Regions
You may have tried to eradicate the bug naturally, but because a small portion of the infestation may have gone unnoticed, the number may increase.
At this point, it is important to involve a pest control specialist who will not only detect the problem areas but also remove the contamination and help prevent further infection.
Chemicals may have to be used to eradicate them and their breeding grounds completely. The professionals will inspect your home to find the activity and breeding hotspots.
They will then use insecticide aerosol and dust formulation to treat those areas. An added precaution that they will take is to treat your house foundation perimeter with a barrier treatment.
Ways of preventing Booklice
- Reduce your home’s humidity level by using fans and humidifiers. Booklice areas are humid environments, so kill their chance of survival early on.
- Attics and bathrooms are considered high-risk areas. Keep them well ventilated to reduce moisture levels. Fix all leaking taps and pipes and always discard paper and cardboard that you don’t use.
- Vacuum and dust furniture regularly to ensure that your environment is constantly clean. Also wipe wallpaper frequently.
- Ensure that your rooms receive adequate sunlight and are well ventilated.
- Properly store books and boxes. Keep them in a dry environment to keep mold from growing. You should also keep books off the floor and instead, store in a dry and cool place. Doing so prevents the items from getting damp, then growing mould, which attracts the bugs. If you have many items in a room that are stored in boxes, keep the boxes in shelves where possible. You can also build platforms for the boxes.
- Clean any puddles and spills immediately after they take place, making sure they have dried. A little bit of water that pours on the floor may not seem like it could do much. However, that little spill can lead to mold growth if the environment is just right and if the occurrence is frequent. You should clean up when you: pour water out of the sink when doing dishes, spill a drink, experience a pipe leak or burst, or drip water when getting out of the shower.
- Store food in an airtight container. The food in your cupboards and pantry are of no interest to them. However, the fungi and mold that grow on it are of greater relevance. To prevent your food from spoiling and getting infested with the pests, store all your dry food items in a resealable airtight container. Some ingredients that could easily get infected are dried cereals, bread, grains and beans, flour, sugar, baking supplies, crackers, cookies, etc.
Booklice may not directly harm you, but they are a general nuisance and can indirectly spoil your food by infecting it. Once you do kill them after an infestation, practice preventive methods to ensure that the cycle doesn’t replay itself.