Many people don't realize they have a problem with booklice until an infestation is already underway in their home.
The good news is:
Booklice are technically not real lice and won't get into your hair.
The bad news is:
They can still be a menace inside your home.
Booklice are a small pest that feasts on mold and mildew in humid environments.
Below is our handy guide that will tell you everything you need to know about booklice and how to get rid of booklice in your home.
What Do Booklice Look Like?
Booklice are tiny pests that measure barely longer than 1/16th of an inch.
They are brown, white, or grey and have six pairs of legs. Their back legs are thicker than the front legs, but booklice can't jump. Instead, they run quickly and are adept at hiding. They do not have wings and have soft exoskeletons.
Booklice go through three life stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
The nymphs look like miniature versions of the adults and mature quickly. Most booklice become adults in less than a month. Each female can produce 60 eggs during the summer, meaning booklice reproduce quickly.
Facts About Booklice
What Do Booklice Eat?
Contrary to their name, booklice don't actually eat books.
Instead, they like to eat mold and fungi, and were named because they were found eating the moldy paper in books. Booklice also eat most dead plant and animal material, including dead insects. It's not uncommon to find booklice in freshly constructed or refurbished buildings because plaster is wet and conducive to mold growth.
They can also be found in food supplies, but only if there is the presence of mold growth.
Humans might not be able to see the beginning spores of mold, so finding booklice in the cereal can mean it's time to throw out the box.
Where do they live?
Booklice are common throughout the United States, especially in areas with a humid climate.
People in the South are more likely to encounter booklice in their homes, especially in bathrooms, barns, and other areas that retain moisture. They can sometimes be found around food, which means the food has gone bad and needs to be replaced.
They also live in areas where there is likely to be high moisture in the air, and can be found in places like behind wallpaper, in furniture, in curtains, and in potted plants.
Are Booklice Dangerous?
Unlike lice, booklice aren't parasitic and don't pose an immediate threat to people.
However, they can be destructive because of their eating habits. Booklice are slow eaters, but they can damage crops, books, and the structural security of plaster and wallpaper.
They are a common threat to libraries and courthouses, especially ones which contain old records. If you think you have an infestation, you should treat the problem quickly to try to avoid lasting damage.
Can Booklice Make You Sick?
Booklice don't spread any diseases and are not known to make people sick. However, you shouldn't eat any materials that booklice have been found in. This means that crops infested with booklice have developed mold and need to be thrown out.
How to Get Rid of Booklice
There are a couple of tips and tricks you can follow to fight a booklice infestation before it gets out of hand.
- Remove any infested items. Throw out any that are disposable, and store the rest in plastic bags for two days in the freezer. Vacuum the items thoroughly once time is up to remove the booklice.
- Reduce the moisture in your home by using a dehumidifier. This destroys the environment booklice like to live in, and it can help cut down on mold and mildew.
- Use bleach, vinegar, or another chemical to kill the mold and mildew growing in your home. If you're not comfortable doing this by yourself, you can call a mold remediation specialist to help you safely resolve the problem.
- Eliminate any standing water sources and improve your home's ventilation by opening more windows. If you live in a muggy environment, you could set up multiple humidifiers throughout your home, especially in places like bathrooms that collect moisture.
- Vacuum your floors to pick up dead booklice, and clean any previously infected areas with a standard household cleaner to eliminate any bacteria.
- To prevent booklice in the future, continue to dehumidify your home and take steps to prevent mold growth by keeping a dry environment.
Can Your Books Be Saved?
Unfortunately, if your books are already infested, there's not much you can do to save them.
You can try to dehumidify them to kill off the population, but you would then need to take them to a specialist who can eliminate the mold from the pages.
Like we mentioned above, it's best to get rid of the booklice items because booklice can reform their colonies quickly and expand their population all over again.
Unless the item is particularly valuable - for example, a first edition copy of "Alice in Wonderland"
...then it's safer and easier to toss the book out.
However, if you would like to try, there are some DIY methods that can be done at home. Make sure the books are thoroughly dry and then use a small paintbrush to brush off the dead mold.
You should also be able to wipe away the dead booklice without using any chemicals. You must wear gloves, eye protection, and nose protection to prevent the inhalation of the spores, and you need to let the books sit for several days to ensure the mold is dead.
Failing to do so can lead to severe illness, which is why it's best to see a specialist for restoration.
The Bottom Line About Booklice
A booklice infestation isn't dangerous and shouldn't affect you too much.
The biggest concern is that mold or mildew can be growing in your home and needs to be dealt with.
Armed with some dehumidifiers and standard cleaning products, you can eliminate these pests before they get out of hand.
Remember to always be careful when cleaning mold and mildew, and fight booklice using preventative measures like maintaining low moisture and humidity in the home.