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BOOK LICE 

When it comes to booklice they are one pest that can be difficult to eliminate but with a little information on their life cycle and where they generally live, then you can find out how to combat them and what products can help you combat them.

They may crawl in large numbers over stored papers, books, walls, furniture, and other materials in damp, warm, undisturbed areas in buildings especially during the spring and summer months. Sometimes they are found in newly-constructed dwellings containing uncured green lumber or plastered walls. They feed on microscopic mould and mildew associated with high-humidity conditions. Outdoor species are called bark lice since they are found under tree bark or leaves. They do not bite humans or animals, spread disease, or damage household furnishings. However, skin irritation may occur on some sensitive individuals.

 

IDENTIFICATION

To distinguish booklice from other insects, it’s important you know what they look like:

They are not generally any bigger than six millimetres and have soft bodies.  They have two pairs of membranous wings. However, in some species, there is a loss of the wings. They tend to have eyes that are poorly developed, have long and threadlike antennae, biting mouth parts and bear claws.

They run along exposed surfaces in a jerky, halting manner, and sometimes appear to hop. Outdoor booklice may be winged or wingless. If winged, they are weak fliers and hold the wings in a roof-like position over the body when at rest.

These insects feed on microscopic moulds, fungi, dead insect fragments, pollen, and other starchy foods found in humid environments such as houses, warehouses, libraries, and structures where green lumber is stored or used. Sweating and high humidity may form in wall voids when new lumber becomes enclosed, encouraging booklice outbreaks. Damp basements, crawl spaces, leaky and sweating plumbing, potted house plants, cereal, flour, bird nests, furniture stuffings of natural plant fibre, paste on book bindings, grains, wallpaper, etc. may harbour booklice.

WHERE DO YOU SEE THEM?

Most booklice species can be found in the crevices of tree trunks, under bark, on leaves or in animal nests. Still, they can spread beyond these places – being found inside dwellings (homes and businesses). They have been located in food manufacturing premises, warehouses, museums and granaries.  And, in these places, they tend to infest animal and plant items – leather, books, woodwork, plaster and food.

ARE THEY A PEST?

Booklice typically cause little damage to things they feed on when found in small numbers. However, when a large infestation of the bugs is experienced, this is where people begin to experience problems. They cause tremendous damage to delicate materials like fur and books. Another sign to determine if you have booklice is to look at dry meat – if you see holes or tunnels as well as salt crystals or a white powdery material, it’s a sure bet that the pests have gotten to it.

The key issue of these bugs is that they are a real nuisance, contaminating raw or processed foods. It’s important that all contaminated items are found and eliminated – a time-consuming process that is extremely wasteful.

Some of the other products that booklice could infest include but is not limited to:

  • Bagged nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Damp plaster
  • Milk powder
  • Museum books and specimens
  • Processed cereals
  • Sugar beet seeds
  • Yeast

The booklice population is likely to proliferate when they are exposed to damp conditions.

CONTROL MEASURES

Since there are so many chances for booklice to infest items, they are hard to gain control over using insecticides.

Therefore, the most effective way to deal with them is to completely dry/air out the area, which denies them of their food source and moulds.

Lowering the relative humidity hinders development or causes death due to desiccation (drying out). Effort should be made to reduce the relative humidity in rooms and buildings to less than 50 percent, drying out of infested materials, and eliminating the food source such as moulds and mildews.

Use a vacuum cleaner with proper attachments to remove debris from cracks and corners of storage areas. Clean up spilled food stuffs such as cereals, and flour. Foods stored for six months or more sometimes become infested especially in damp, dark, warm, undisturbed habitats.

Infested cereals or stored foods can be discarded or super cooled in a deep freeze at -17 degrees Celsius for seven days. Books, papers, or upholstered furniture can be dried in sunlight. Ventilate and dry areas with a dehumidifier or fan, or simply open the doors of a damp room. Infestations will usually disappear during late autumn when rooms are artificially heated and kept dry. Even with a new structure containing green lumber and freshly plastered walls, enough drying occurs after one season of summer heating so that infestations rarely occur in the following years.

Store cardboard boxes, books, and papers off the floor and repair plumbing leaks and drains to eliminate standing water. Vent the clothes dryer to the outside and remove leaf litter, vines, and other debris from around building foundations including ground-level window wells. Install a vapour barrier in the crawl space or add additional ventilation in the crawl space or basement. Regrade wet areas around the building and install a drainage tile system to handle rain runoff in problem areas. Seal cracks in interior and exterior foundation walls and repair leaking rain gutters, down spouts, roof vents, and roofs. Allow damp firewood to dry out before bringing indoors.

You must make sure commodities are on pallets and are neatly stacked above the floor. Do not put them near walls and don’t allow them to touch the ceiling. Make sure there is a gap between each stack so that there is proper ventilation, room to do cleaning and inspections and, if it becomes necessary, treatments.

Any commodities that are beyond help need to be destroyed such as pallets.

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