Identification and Life Cycle
There are two common types of Psocids (Psocoptera), booklice and barklice. Both psocids feed on microscopic molds and mildews associated with high-humidity condititions in such areas as basements and crawl spaces. Since psocids cannot retain water in their bodies, they cannot live in a low-humidity environment.
On occasion, some people may find a pale gray or brown insect in their food cupboards. These insects can be found in the folds of packaging, or in dry food items such as flour, sugar and milk powder. Psocids are not caused by poor hygienge or an unkept home. It is a common household pest that lives in dry powdery foods, and even in dust and debris under the refrigerator, oven, washing machine, etc.
Psocids are not true lice. They do have a similar appearance to lice, but their feeding habits make them different. They are tiny, soft-bodied insects, 1/32 to 1/4 – inches long, an antennae, mouthparts, large eyes that protrude from the side of the head, and a transparent to a light gray to light brownish colored body (may be winged or wingless). They do not jump, but are fast runners.
The life cycle from egg to adult can take approximately 4 weeks to 2 months to complete. The female may lay up to 60 to 100 eggs at one time during the warm summer months. She deposits her eggs singly or in clusters near a food source, and often hide them by covering them with silken webs or debris. The eggs will hatch after 11 days into nymphs. They will go through several molts before becoming adults, and live up to 6 months
Habits and Damage
Most psocids live outdoors. The type that can be found on tree bark, trees and shrub foliage are known as barklice. These winged psocids feed on fungi, lichen, pollen, and decaying plants.
The other type that are commonly found on paper materials such as books, are known as booklice. These wingless insects prefer damp, warm environments, and feed on mold, fungi, grains, insect fragments, and starchy materials including books, carboard boxes, papers, and wallpaper.
They rarely cause property damage and are harmless in small numbers. However, in large numbers, they can cause damage to such materials as books and furs. They can con-taminate raw or processed foods including bagged nuts, processed cereals, chocolate, and cereal grains.
They are not known to bite humans, or spread disease, but in high numbers they may trigger an allergic reaction in some individuals such as skin irritation and respiratory problems.
Common Signs Of A Psocid Infestation
- Visual Sighting. They may be seen on surfaces in humid conditions or in food products.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy for Psocids control is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can properly identify and help you maintain a pest-free environment for your level of infestation.
It is important to recognize and take corrective measures around a home or building based on the severity of an infestation. A thorough inspection can determine the type of treatment needed.
The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with ants.
- Clean regularly and vacuum debris from corners of storage areas, especially in pantries, and cupboards.
- Promptly clean-up spilled foods such as flour & cereal.
- Check for infestations in dry foods, and paper materials stored for 6 months or more in damp, dark warm areas.
- Provide suitable drainage for basements, cellars, and crawl spaces to reduce moisture.
- Ventilate and dry out damp areas by using a fan or dehumidifier.
- Store items such as cereal, grains, cookies, flour & bread in airtight containers.
- Remove all piles of newspaper & cardboard boxes.
- Seal all cracks & crevices around plumbing pipes, electrical and gas lines, and in cupboards.
- Fix leaky pipes, faucets and other plumbing problems.
- Clear leaf litter, vines, and debris around foundation.
- Properly install rain gutters & down spouts to direct water run off away from the structure.
- Allow damp firewood to dry before taking indoors.
- Seal all cracks and openings in the foundation as well as around utility pipes and wires.