Dear Home Ec 101,
I was putting a puzzle together with one of my kids the other day and noticed, while looking for a corner piece, some tiny little bugs moving around.
I didn’t freak out, I just want to know what they are and if there is a way I can get rid of them?
Slightly Skeeved in Slidell
Those tiny bugs you found are insects, but they aren’t bugs. I have to clarify because some people out there like to get super picky about how we describe the creepy-crawlies we run into. Bugs are a specific order of insects. (Think back to Biology, do you remember: Did King Philip Cry Out, “For Goodness Sakes!”) The little, hard-to-see colorless or gray insects you found are commonly known as booklice and belong to the order Psocoptera.
First of all, I want to assure you, that while a little on the icky side, pscoids like your new friends the booklice are harmless. They aren’t going to bite you, your kid, or destroy your library. Psocids show up when the humidity is high and dine on the resulting mold.
Most commercially available insecticides won’t work on your barely visible pests, so it’s better to make your environment less hospitable to psocids in general. They may, by the way, have non-traditional families -and I don’t mean of the taxonomic kind. Psocids can reproduce through a process called parthenogenesis, which is a bit different than asexual reproduction. Animals that can reproduce via parthenogenesis have different sexes, but the females can reproduce without the presence of a male. I find this fascinating, which is probably just another reason why my favorite place is the nerd table.
So, I guess the question is – what to do if you find psocids in your books or puzzles?
Option 1: Take off your glasses and pretend you never saw them in the first place.
Option 2: Freak out and hire an exterminator and pay a lot of money to get rid of a harmless cohabitant.
Option 3: Invest in a dehumidifier and make the living conditions less hospitable to your little squatters. The best thing about this option is that it also makes your home less of a haven for the much more bothersome dust mites.
The choice is up to you.
Other bug problems? There is more information in these articles about bugs.
Send your domestic questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.