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Book Lice

Summary: Book lice populations can build up quickly in stored food products that have been left and forgotten at the back of your pantry shelves. You'll find yourself throwing away a lot of never-used food if you don't use some precautions.

Nathan; BC Canada asks:

I have found tiny bugs in my cupboards so small that they look like dust partials, but they move.  I have removed everything from my cupboards and have cleaned with bleach, but even after 5 weeks I still keep finding them on the counter. How do I get rid of these little bugs? I believe they are called Liposcelis bostrychophila but I'm not totally sure. 


Book lice are tough little guys to get rid of, but it can be done without pesticides. Somehow, your cabinets have a high humidity level that needs to be reduced. Here's the information you are seeking.


Normally, control using pesticides is not needed if strict sanitation is practiced. If all else fails you may consider using a product like Tri-Die Aerosol or Tempo 1% Dust.

Liposcelis bostrychophila, also known as book lice, are part of the psocid family. There  are small, soft-bodied insects that feed on mold, fungi found in grains and other starchy materials. Book lice usually avoid light and like to live in cracks and crevices where the humidity is fairly high such as enclosed spaces like cabinets. You don't often find them inside unopened packages of products shipped from the manufacturer, but they do have a habit of getting into broken or opened packages and containers.

Reducing the humidity below 50% will eliminate most infestations of book lice. Try to ventilate high moisture areas using a dehumidifier or a fan. Be sure to use a crack and crevic attachment on a vacuum cleaner to remove bits of food  from the cracks of storage shelves. Don't overlook spilled foods like cereals and flour.

We are all guilty of pushing containers of food to the back of the shelf and forgetting about it. Foods stored for six months or more sometimes become infested especially in damp, dark, warm, undisturbed places. Try to rotate food products so that older items are used first. Check the manufacturing dates when you are going through your cabinets. Adult book lice populations tend to build up in greater numbers as the infestation ages. Put grain and cereal products in containers with tight fitting lids if the contents are not used within one week after opening. Place infested products inside plastic bags prior to disposal to reduce the spread of adult insects.

Ask Rick A Question


14 Apr 2011, 04:54
1) I am sure there are more than 1 kind of insects or mites on my walls and ceilings. I found some that looks like booklice and others that look rounded. All of them measure from 1mm - 2mm in length and width 1mm.

2) The rounded ones when crushed appeared to be brown and have 2 feelers. They seemed to know when to come out to play - and that's usually at night whenthe lights are out.

3) I also found some rounded ones 1mm size crawling on the mattress in my guest room which is not being occupied. These little creatures can jump when you try to crush it or catch it.

4) I am getting paranoid now; I also notice a regular bird (a minor I was told) that seems to find it a habit to perch on my window every morning, returning day after day just to have a perch until being shoo-ed away. Could it be bird mites too?

5) The paint expert said the wall lice feed on the porous cement that is being used to build our walls.

6) Wonder what the pest exterminator would advise regarding the above concerns?
Ask the Exterminator
14 Apr 2011, 10:53
What I advise is having each pest properly identified before doing anything else. Having the exact identity of the insect species will make it much easier to learn where they may be nesting and, of course, how to control them. Right now, you are only guessing.
john smith
08 May 2011, 08:48
About two months ago i noticed some tiny moving dots that looked like flour in my kitchen. They were inhabiting flour stored in jars and a jar of shreded coconut. I chucked the jars out but there were still a few of them around. I had also noticed a few larger bugs that looked similar to headlice wandering around. They seemed to like hanging around my window sill, computer, phone and tv. Recently i noticed that there were hundreds of the flour like bugs crawling all over my lamp, psp and electronic drawing tablet. I also noticed some of the larger bugs hanging around. I think the larger ones laid those small ones in everything i own thats electronic. I looked up pictures and i can tell they are booklice. its winter now and my room is damp so would just having the heater on often solve the problem?
10 May 2011, 18:34
hi, i ordered some books online (batch). One of the books had booklice in them. This one has been disposed off. There were two different coloured types, (2 lice in total) one was off-white and the other coloured brown (latter slightly larger). Shall I be disposing of the rest of the books (don't see any lice)? Could they have book lice eggs (can't see any, but is it possible they could be too small to be seen?) and thus need disposing off? Currently quarantined to a plastic box in cold temperature of car (cold, sunny but not rainy).
john smith
11 May 2011, 18:17
Its alot worse than i thought. The tiny bugs are on every surface in my house. I have been cleaning and blasting every room with heaters but i could do with some advice.
15 May 2011, 00:09
I found tiny brown looking mites in clusters on my kitchen counter...what are they and why did they just appear? They are not in the!!! - Lisa in California
Ask the Exterminator
20 May 2011, 08:19
Collect some insects and take them to your local county extension agent to have them properly identified before doing anything else. Having the exact identity of the insect species will make it much easier to learn what they are and why they are present.
Ask the Exterminator
20 May 2011, 08:22

You can heat the books in a microwave to kill any of the insects.
26 Aug 2011, 21:03
I've been having a problem with book lice for the last 23 yrs. We get rid of them, but they come back. I vacuum and clean, but still find them behind pictures on the wall, on the bathroom counter (usually at night) when I move something. I've sprayed and even resorted to moth balls in the drawers. I'm going crazy and need some help. Pls advise what else I can do. We have dehumidifier in the bathroom, but it doesn't seem to be helping.
Ask the Exterminator
29 Aug 2011, 09:42
Please read the article at this link: It goes into a lot more detail about booklice control.
28 Sep 2011, 17:11
we developed a case of booklice in our bedroom in august...we have used a fan, dehumidifer, air conditioner and cleaned alot...just when we think we got them, they are back...there is no explaination for where they turn up and we have not located a source spot...some days we find one and others up to a dozen...we are down to just empty furniture and our has been 2 months now and i would like my bedroom there something that we can get an exterminator to do? i just want them gone...thanks
Ask the Exterminator
03 Oct 2011, 19:24
An exterminator will tell you to reduce the humidity. I suppose you can find an exterminator who will be happy to take your money and profess that his treatments will fix your problem, but truth is, get the humidity below 50% and you'll solve your own problem. Buy a cheap hydrometer at Home Depot to confirm your humidity is below 50%.
13 Oct 2011, 09:14
you should remove all cardboard packets and anything else that these things have contaminated and clean your cupboards.i was recommended to use rentokil small space fly control .this is a small unit that i hang inside my carousel unit in my smells a little strong to start with but this soon wears off this keeps these blighters under control,but you have to clean everything thoroughly first
30 Apr 2012, 07:27
One answer: Thermal Remediation. If you have booklice or any form of pest all over your home in large numbers don't waste your money on residual chemical sprays, they won't get rid of them. I have booklice in my house, it's horrible. We just bought the home last year. We're moving again soon and before we move, we're heating up the space and stuff to 51 degrees celcius to kill them and their eggs. It's expensive but worth my sanity!
Good luck!
18 May 2012, 10:10
Had a terrible infestation of booklice in utility/storage room, looked like piles of drifting sand or dust! - removed everything from room, vacuumed thoroughly, washed floor w/ Simple Green or Pine Sol (I forget which), let dry & air out, sprayed w/ peppermint and eucatyptus essential oil mixed w/water, let dry & air again. every so often I sprinlke a few drops of eucalyptus oil in there but that seemed to do the trick and humidity here is super high. I find Eucalyptus and Peppermint to be invaluable in this East Texas Environment!
21 Jul 2012, 03:58
I borrowed an old book from the library and I must have touched my hair after touching it. Now I have booklice in my hair. Please help. I have dyed my hair. I have use olive oil;I have used headlice treatment for 10 hours; I have ironed my hair; I have heated my hair with ahair dryer. Nothing works. Please help me. It looks like it is only on me. Thank God! It seems to have not landed on anyone else. Is it possible or they are just not feeling it?
Ask the Exterminator
21 Jul 2012, 06:53
Bed news! Booklice don't live on humans. Better see a doctor about head lice.
10 Sep 2012, 09:27

I live in Vietnam and I have been dealing with the annoyance of booklice (self-diagnosed) for many months. I have found some in my wardrobe and have started a clean. However I saw one recently and it was hopping about, albeit just jumping about half an inch (approx 1cm.) Can you tell me if booklice do this? I decided to crush it and it became a dark brown smudge. All the insects I have seen are 1-2mm in length and the bodies are not very round. I've tried to take pictures but they are just too tiny! I have not been near any pets for 6 months and I have no bite marks so I am doubting fleas.

I would ask an exterminator to come round but I would not understand a thing they were saying due to language issues! Therefore any ideas would be much appreciated.
Ask the Exterminator
10 Sep 2012, 12:02
Booklice don't jump, but springtails do. Both require moisture or high humidity to survive.
12 Sep 2012, 11:32
Thanks for for your quick reply. Do bed bugs do these small jumps? I found a creature crawling on my mattress (1mm)and it did this same strange little jump. Think these things are sending me a little crazy!
Elena Brubaker
28 Oct 2012, 02:50

I am struggling with a booklice infestation in my home. I noticed the first one in my kitchen about 3 months ago. Then more and more. I put all the food into plastic bags and bleached the surfaces, throwing out items I saw to have them on it. But they continue to thrive- I see one or two a day, and they are moving into different rooms. They seem to be traveling inside the walls resurfacing in adjacent rooms through outlets. Is this possible? How do I get them out of the walls? Are they breeding inside the wall? I read a post on this site that room dehumidifiers will not work? Can room dehumidifiers get the house humidity under what sounds like the magic 50% humidity? I don't think that pesticides are an option for me with a 5 mo old baby. Please help me I want to rid of these before it's out of hand.
01 Nov 2012, 14:51
Hello Exterminator,

I know you are getting bomarded with questions on this article, but please could you answer this one question, which I'm sure many other Booklice sufferers would be interested to find out:

Does Keeping a window wide open reduce humidity - hence reducing habitable climate for booklice?

I've looked everywhere online and some people say this is so - But what about in Autumn/Winter Months?

Would leaving a window wide open in winter months actually reduce humidity? Or would the cold air increase damp? Would it be better to close the winter and put Central Heating on instead?

Thank you very much,
London, England
Ask the Exterminator
04 Nov 2012, 07:16
Opening the windows would only help if the outside humidity is below 50%. However, even open windows will not help if your house has damp conditions.
04 Dec 2012, 19:41
Yes, we too have an infestation of these book lice in our pantry - I have thrown out everything. The things that they were not found in have been put in the freezer for the past 5 days - do you know if this will kill any eggs IF they have laid them. Also I was wondering about diatomaceous earth as they are soft bodied - that should cut them to pieces as they come out at night should it not??? I have had our pest control guy spray the pantry shelves along the edges and some are dead but we STILL see live ones crawling about!!! The pantry is sanitized to death but they are STILL coming from little holes in the rubber like grout. We live near Houston TX so it is very humid although with air conditioning the house is usually on the dry side. Thanks for any advice.
17 Feb 2014, 07:13
Hello exterminator, please help, I found book mites in our cupboard in and around food two weeks ago, I have had a pest control company come and deal with the problem, they have come four times and i have removed my kitchen cupboards, in the hope i will get rid of them. My question is could they be living in the blocks/concrete? Do they come from outside? My fear is that they will spread. The Pest control company used "actiobiol". Is there something stronger that can be used?

Thanks in advance
Ask the Exterminator
17 Feb 2014, 11:31
Read the article and you will see pesticides are not needed to stop book lice.
Alexis Van Dyne
28 Mar 2014, 23:26
My friend had booklice in a bag of chocolate chips in her cupboard and she's been eating out of it at night and she just thought the bugs were crumbs. Are booklice going to affect her health if she ate them? Do you think she should go she a doctor?
J. Seldon
28 May 2014, 07:19
To the guy that has them in electronic devices.

I have psocids that live in a TV! They used to hang around window sills as well before I cleaned those areas. Sometimes I see them crawling around my computer and landline too. This is ridiculous.

We barely had any mold and I have eliminated any all mold sources possible, yet these shitlings still find something to feed on. When fed the insides of their bellies turn white. In contrast, if you have black mildew for them to feed on their bellies will go black when fed. I have absolutely no idea what they could be eating unless it's the white wall paint or something.

So far, we've only seen them in a living room corner where the TV is. No crevices there, no mold under the carpet, nothing been spilt on the TV either. Besides, it's almost always dry in my place, yet they have somehow been breeding over the past year (even though not in large amounts I must admit).

These things are pretty smart for what they are. They easily spot humans and then quickly run back to their crevices (backside of the TV in my case). I guess I'll have to disassemble my TV to see what's up otherwise I am crap creek without a paddle.
04 Aug 2014, 19:41
We returned from 1 week holidays to find crawling creatures like shown on your page in the kitchen in Delta, BC. We used supermacro mode on the camera to see the details of the insect. They are everywhere in our kitchen, but not anywhere on the island. The largest grouping was in the toaster, which had a bread basket stored on top. They have been found in cabinets containing spices, medicine, recipe books, dishes, ...
We found them in tortillas [where we think we got the critters from as we have never bought flour tortillas before and never had these critters till now].

We recently had a carpenter ant problem this spring, so the idea of high humidity in walls is a real potential. but we have had hear record high temperatures for the past few weeks. Current outdoor temp and humidity is 26C and 55% so reducing the humidity to below 50% is not a possible solution.

We have removed everything from cupboards including shelves and sprayed a mixture of 0.25% Pyrethrins & 1.01% Piperonyl Butoxide into all cabinets and crevases. We have disposed of all flour products in packages. We are washing all dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment. The microwave, hood fan, dishwasher, and fridge have been sprayed but are not so easy to disassemble. We plan to wash all containers with food in them with bleach and remove lids to clean the cap and threads with 8% sodium hypoclorite bleach mixture.

How do kill the eggs, larvae, live bugs?
Do I need to freeze them to some particular temp for a certain amount of time? The freezer would accomplish this.
Will exposure to heat, sunlight, ... cause them to die? ? The sunny climate right now would help with this.
Without food how long can they live? Can we just quarantine everything for a specific period of time without a food source to kill the colony?

Please help.
25 Aug 2014, 16:42
Today when cleaning out my daughters room I found about 15 small white bugs that I had to look real close to see it was moving. It was smaller than a grain if salt. I found the in my daughtets bookshelf that has doors. I actally hound them om my daughters winter boots. I was cleaning out old shoes thst dont fit . Could they be book lice.? You had to really focus to even see them move, they were that small . It looked like a speck of dust. I dont like bugs at all esp in my home. After finding them I vacumed the book case and washed the boots in hot water. After that I went right online to try and findout what they could be an im thinking book lice.
06 Sep 2014, 18:56
Dear exterminator, I live in London,England and my block of flats (apartments) seems to have a problem with psocids. I get them in all rooms but never in my food cupboards as I keep all open packets in plastic boxes.

What I would like to ask you is, in the English climate are psocids likely to live on the outside walls and come in through the windows if I leave them open at night?

Thank you
Ask the Exterminator
06 Sep 2014, 20:23
All insects come from the outside to the inside. Windows without screens are sure to invite insects.
03 Feb 2015, 14:44
Why don't you answer the many questions people ask in full?? Please!!?

Thanks! ....A sufferer of booklice!
Ask the Exterminator
03 Feb 2015, 18:46

This is a box for comments. It's a place where visitors can share thoughts. Sometimes I add a response, but not often. If you want to ask me a question, click on the "Ask Rick a Question " link at the top of the page.
millie soto
14 Mar 2015, 23:43
Please help I been getting anxiety attacks . I think the are book lice like people say. my landlord thinks they are sugar ants but they are not I don think so. but the are thousand of them on my dinning room table on my counter, walls,electrical sockets . please tell me how to kill them. before I go crazy. thank you.
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