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Tiny Booklice: How to Identify and Get Rid of Them

Updated on September 25, 2017
Casey White profile image

We are booksellers on Amazon and are constantly looking for ways to make sure our books are not creating a breeding ground for lice.

Booklice are tiny little creatures, and this article will show you how and where to look for them; and explain your best chance for getting rid of them.
Booklice are tiny little creatures, and this article will show you how and where to look for them; and explain your best chance for getting rid of them.

Booklice Are Tiny

If you live in the United States, there is some good news about booklice, in that there are only about a few hundred known species here. The rest of the world has about another 1,000 species. Usually, we share our home with these little flesh-colored creatures who feed on any mold they can find. They are tiny, but here's what to look for and where to look for it:

Booklice, Up Close

Hey there!  Weren't you in "Alien?"  Nope, just a tiny booklouse up close.
Hey there! Weren't you in "Alien?" Nope, just a tiny booklouse up close.

Places Booklice Love!

If you have any debris around your home, the booklice are lining up to thank you for their new home! You can also look for them under bark or stones and on the bark of trees. The more gregarious species live in silken webs on trunks or branches of trees. Barklice is the common name for the winged forms and the wingless forms are called booklice (potato, po-tah-to). All of them are capable of running fast! And, they love to feed on the starchy materials in the bindings of books, hence the name booklice.

Life cycle of female booklice.
Life cycle of female booklice. | Source

The Things You Will Need to Find Them

Here's what you'll need:

* Flashlight
* Magnifying Glass
* Maybe a fan or dehumidifier. (This is a link to the one that we use).

  • Booklice are itsy, bitsy little bugs - about 1/16 " long and they are not actually lice at all, so although they are harmless, they are still bugs. If you've got any dried out, or decaying plants, you might find these little critters enjoying a plant buffet, or they may even be lurking around your stored food. The head and abdomen appear large, and the midsection is more narrow. Huge, compound eyes protrude from the sides of the head. They also have thread-like antennae that sweep backward toward the abdomen. Not all booklice have wings, but some do (usually the booklice that stay outside), and when they do, there are four of them - two smaller front wings and two larger back wings. Most of the ones you will be hunting down should be wingless booklice.
  • Booklice really love paper, so you might find them on bookbindings, photographs, or even your wallpaper. You can look for them to thrive in a dark basement or storeroom, if you have one, and if you have a second home that you close up for part of the year, they have probably set up residence there as well. If you live in an older, loosely-constructed home, there are probably a lot more booklice living there than people. You may need to invest in a good magnifying glass to see them, but they are there.

You can find booklice in things other than books.  They can find fungi or mold under wallpaper, in furniture, along the sides of windows or on window sills, usually around potted plants.
You can find booklice in things other than books. They can find fungi or mold under wallpaper, in furniture, along the sides of windows or on window sills, usually around potted plants.

How to Get Rid of Them!

  • So, now that you know what they look like and where you might find them, here's a good way to get rid of them (although you will never completely get rid of them all, so just accept that fact): If you find booklice on objects that can be taken outdoors, then do just that, and clean them thoroughly, allowing them to dry in the sun. Because booklice are soft-bodied insects, they dry out quickly in the sun, so the sun will probably kill the ones you miss.
  • In places like a storeroom or closed house, open up the windows and let the room dry out. Turn off any humidifiers that might be on, and use a fan or dehumidifier if you have one. Booklice thrive when there's moisture, so get rid of it.
  • The most important thing to look for is the breeding area of the booklice, such as upholstered furniture, damp papers or books and old mattresses, just to name a few. If simple cleaning without the use of chemicals doesn't seem to be getting the job done, you might have to bring out the "big guns," by buying household insecticides containing pyrethrins, rotenone, allethrin, chlorpyrifos or propoxur labeled for crawling insects or booklice.
  • If you find that booklice have contaminated your food, you will first need to kill the critters by sticking the whole contaminated mess in your microwave, and nuke them for a few minutes. Then, throw the stuff away. You certainly don't want your family to eat insect-contaminated food.

Tips

* You will need a magnifying glass to be able to see them and know where to clean (they are almost microscopic).
* The eggs are laid singly or in clusters and are sometimes covered with a silken web.
* Booklice do not bite humans or animals.

Warnings

* The dead bodies of booklice in house dust, are believed by some to trigger an asthma attack.

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    • Casey White profile image
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      Mike and Dorothy McKenney 2 months ago from United States

      Sounds like mites. I would bet that you have some mold up under the boards that you can't see. If they are plentiful, I would recommend you get a pest specialist to look at them.

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      Ger ruane 2 months ago

      I have small white insects crawling out of skirting boards I have no dampness what r they any help please

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      beverly 2 years ago

      So pretty much its just cleaning and maintaining the problem. there is no real "cure" to eliminate these critters permanently?