This Week’s Creature Feature ... Book Bugs for Book Worms
Pests lurking in our book nooks secretly graze, bore and eat the words we read.
A few pests graze on the surface starches or glues on papers and books. Others bore into books and eat the paper. Still others feed on mold that grows on the surface of damp paper.
The most familiar paper pest is the silverfish, which looks like a fish out of water and swims lightning fast across floors and walls.
Silverfish like starchy food. They feed on glazed papers or on the starchy glue or paste in book bindings or wallpaper. They leave dull, deglossed, light-colored areas on book covers or pages where they have removed the finish. They also notch the edges of pages and leave yellowish stains on paper from body scales and feces.
The large American cockroach (not the smaller German cockroach) will also feed on books and papers.
Both prefer paper that is soiled from body oils, food or other insects.
Books or paper stored in cardboard boxes in attics or basements are a most enticing meal for these pests.
Beetles like the death-watch beetle and the common furniture beetle are uncommon, and books are not their usual food; they feed and tunnel through wood and paper, if they are nearby.
Since books are made up of cellulose, they are full of edibles for these larvae.
Sometimes beetle larvae will bore into books simply looking for a protected place to pupate. When the adult beetles emerge, they leave tiny, round exit holes in the book.
Termites also enjoy a good book. Termites enter the structure from a ground nest outside and tunnel directly into books or stored papers.
Books are susceptible to termite attacks when they are stacked on the floor or are undisturbed in a damp basement or storage area.
Book lice are not lice at all but small white wingless insects fond of very damp and humid places where they feed on mold that grows on the surface of books and papers.
Mold or fungus beetles feed on mold on books or papers, including wallpaper.
Eliminate paper pests by placing books or papers in a freezer for four days. Papers should be sealed in plastic before freezing, then thawed before the plastic comes off. Microwaving or heating books or papers is not a good idea.