Booklice (Psocids) – The Facts
What do booklice look like?
Booklice are wingless and often yellow or grey in colour. This insect has a soft body and can grow up to 6mm in length. Booklice are sometimes mistaken for bedbugs, as they have a similar squat body shape. When young, they can be entirely transparent becoming opaque as they grow larger. Adults have long thread-like antennae, large compound eyes and a swollen forehead.
How quickly do booklice multiply?
All booklice are female and can lay about 60 – 200 eggs during the months of a summer season. They are laid in small clusters of 1-3 per day and are often sticky, attached to rubbish and bits of food. Some outdoor species cover their eggs with a silken web.
The eggs take around 21 days to hatch depending on the temperature of the breeding site. This process can be frighteningly fast as in some species females do not require males to fertilise their eggs. In fact, in their life-span they can produce nearly 500 offspring! Outbreaks are especially common in warm humid weather.
Where do booklice live?
Booklice like damp, warm environments and are commonly found within old books, which is how they get their name. Libraries often find the pest a real problem as they like to feed on the paste found in a book’s binding. Booklice also eat lichen and microscopic mould. They prefer the dark so will scuttle off if exposed to daylight and are often found in rooms where there is a lack of ventilation and light, such as kitchens. Most often they are found in cupboards and food, which can be very unpleasant.
What are the signs of a booklice infestation?
• You will know if you have booklice as they often contaminate food, leaving holes and sometimes tunnels in packaging.
• These tiny pests have also been known to eat wallpaper, and may swarm over newly plastered walls as they are attracted to the dampness.
• Infestations can also be detected by coming across the eggs themselves, which is an indicator of their nesting area.
• Check piles of old paper or under mattresses- anywhere damp and unused.
Does a booklice infestation need controlling?
• If you find booklice in your home, professional extermination services are required.
• Shop-bought remedies can be ineffective as they do not deal with the entire life-cycle.
• Treating the problem yourself can be an enormous task as it is hard to identify exactly where the booklice are living.
• Although generally harmless, this little booklover can cause real damage to food supplies, libraries and antiques.