Book lice control: Do I have book lice?

Question: I live in Arlington, VA. We have noticed in the last several days small (about the size of a small pepper flake) brownish-black bugs in our bathtub below the ceiling fan/vent (not near the drain or faucet), and around some of our windows. Any idea what they could be? Are they book lice? How can we get rid of them?

Answer: It is difficult to determine the pest without examining a specimen. From your description though, you probably have are psocids (soo-cids) or booklice (an unfortunate name, since they are not really lice nor always associated with books).

These very tiny, pale yellow to brown insects live in humid places like bathrooms and kitchens. Sometimes they can be found in other locations in the house. Most psocids feed on mold and mildew that you can't see. Some are found in or near stored food materials. However, some psocids are associated with cereals and in quite dry kitchen cabinets.

Solving a psocid problem usually starts with solving the moisture or humidity. This will eliminate the mildew that the psocids eat. Many times there is a plumbing leak or clogged drain. In the bathroom you can check the sink drain for leaks. Check the tub trap too—there is often a trap door in a wall near the front of the tub.

In the kitchen, check the pipes under the sink for leaks. If there is moisture, be sure to dry the cabinet thoroughly before replacing everything that is stored there.

When you find psocids on rugs or pieces of furniture, the best control is to lower the humidity, that is, to dry out whatever or wherever these insects have been found. This may mean taking items outside to dry in the sun. When the item is dry, the mildew will die, and so will the psocids. A dehumidifier may be necessary in a damp basement.

For additional information and assistance, call Orkin. We will send a professional to your home to assess the situation, provide you with recommendations, and develop a customized, comprehensive treatment plan.

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