If you are curled up reading your favorite book and see a little bug crawl across the pages, you just might have book lice. Also known as paper lice, book lice love stored papers, books, walls, and other materials. Feasting on mold and mildew, they are harmless to people, pets, and furniture. Here is everything that you need to know about the life of a book louse.
What they look like
Book lice are tiny, less than 4 mm long. They usually do not have any wings, and they are gray-white in color. They are about the same size as head lice, but have a large head and abdomen and small thorax. If you look closely, you will see long, segmented antennae and chewing mouthparts. Book lice run in a jerky matter that gives them the illusion of hopping. The few that have wings are weak fliers.
The life of book lice
All book lice are female, and the eggs do not require fertilization to hatch. The average female will lay about 60 white eggs near a food source. The eggs hatch, and the book lice nymphs will eat and grow into adulthood, going through 4-6 stages throughout their lifetime. Development takes one to two months or even longer if the weather conditions are not favorable. Book lice prefer the dark, and they like temperatures of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. They also need a high humidity in order to survive.
Book lice eat a variety of foods, including mold, dead insects, pollen and starchy foods. Preferring damp, warm areas, book lice can be found anywhere from basements to houseplants to furniture stuffing to books
Controlling book lice
Keeping the humidity from becoming too high can help keep book lice under control. A relative humidity of less than 50% will help to dry out infested areas and eliminate molds and mildews that act as a food source for the book lice.
Preventing book lice
Book lice are easy to prevent, and with proper sanitation, pesticides are rarely needed. Start by vacuuming out all cracks and corners of the storage areas and removing any spilled food items from floors. Avoid storing foods for longer than six months since they have a higher risk of becoming infested with book lice.
Food items can be placed in a deep freeze for a week to kill of book lice. Books, papers, and furniture can be dried in sunlight, and rooms should be ventilated and dried out using a fan and/or dehumidifier.
Infestations are most common in the spring and summer when the storage areas become damp. The artificial heat used in the fall and winter will usually kill off book lice infestations. However, if the storage area remains damp even in the winter, you may need to take additional steps to help prevent book lice.
When storing items, keep paper goods off of the floor and repair any leaks and drains. Remove leaf litter and debris from building foundations and waterproof basements. This will help to eliminate the homes and breeding grounds of book lice and prevent them from spreading.