Paper lice are some of the constant companions in the home. While other insects disappear in the winter, paper lice are nearly always around unless you have taken steps to get rid of them. Here is a look at what they are and what they do.
Not lice at all
Paper lice, or book lice as they are often called, are actually not lice. While they may resemble the biting and sucking lice that make people miserable (like head lice, body lice, and pubic lice), they are not parasitic and do not bite. Some forms of paper lice live outdoors, feasting on bark, litter, and other organic matter, while others live indoors feeding on mold, mildew, and food stuffs. The indoor varieties often are known by the name of book lice.
What paper lice look like
Outdoor paper lice often have two pairs of wings, while indoor paper lice do not. They are very small, with soft simple bodies, long antennae, and a chewing mouth. The head is slightly larger than the rest of the body. Paper lice are all female, laying eggs without ever mating. They are grayish-white in color and move with jerking, hopping movements.
Food for book lice
Book lice are often seen, not surprisingly, in books. This is because the bindings and glues used in books has a tendency to mildew when stored, making it an ideal food source. Paper lice feast on mold and mildews, loving stored papers, cereal products, and the junk that collects in corners and window sills. You may even see paper lice in furniture, rugs, cupboards, and closets. While this may alarm home owners, paper lice do not usually do damage and are easily removed with a thorough spring cleaning.
The damage paper lice cause
Most of the “damage” that paper lice cause is through misunderstandings. While they can be found crawling on nearly everything in sight, they really do not do much damage. However, panicked home owners are often on the phone to the exterminators, racking up large bills in pest control fees. Landlords may have problems with tenants breaking leases and moving if paper lice are found in the home.
Getting rid of paper lice
If you really want to get rid of paper lice, a good spring cleaning will generally do the trick. Paper lice need a dark, warm, and damp environment to survive, so if you dry out and clean any of these areas in your home, you will see a dramatic decrease in the number of paper lice that you have. Basements are a particular favorite of paper lice, especially if you have paper or books stored down there.
To avoid attracting paper lice, store books and papers in waterproof, air tight containers. Make sure that no paper goods are stored on the floor where dampness can collect underneath. Check around the outside of your home for damp areas along the foundation – collections of dead leaves, firewood, or other debris can provide an ideal breading and feeding ground for paper lice.