Living With Booklice


Liposcelis bostrichophila, a globally distributed booklice
Photo: Jarmo Holopainen,

Historians have an interest in the preservation of important manuscripts. Books and other paper documents can be damaged by excessive sunlight, moisture, microorganisms, fungi and insects.  Booklice are insects that sometimes damage books.  In nature, booklice live under the bark of trees and feed on fungus.  Can such insects survive on a diet of the paper and adhesive found in books?

Green and Farman compared growth and reproduction of booklice on combinations of paper and adhesive to booklice grown on diet specifically for booklice. The booklice thrived on the artificial diet but decreased in numbers and did not reproduce on paper and adhesive alone. During their experiment some booklice died and the survivors were observed feeding on them. The dead book lice may have sustained the life of the booklice survivors. They conclude that booklice need a source of food in addition to paper and glue such as mold or contamination with suitable food. They suggest that efforts to prevent mold and protect documents from spilled foods will provide good protection against booklice.

Green, P., & Farman, D. (2015). Can Paper and Adhesive alone Sustain Damaging Populations of Booklice?. Journal Of Conservation And Museum Studies, 13(1), Art. 3. doi:

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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