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Last updated date: 25th May 2024
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What is Bookworm?

Any bug that is reported to burrow through books is referred to as a bookworm. In reality, no kind of worm causes damage to books that are frequently attributed to "bookworms." Various sorts of insect larvae, such as beetles, moths, and cockroaches, which bore or gnaw through books in search of food, are frequently to blame. Although they are not genuine worms, several of these larvae have a superficial similarity to worms and are the likely basis for the word. Termites, carpenter ants, and wood-boring beetles, attracted by the wood-pulp paper used in most commercial book production, will first infest wooden bookshelves and then feed on books placed on the shelves.

True book-borers are a rare breed. The leather or cloth bindings of a book, the glue used in the binding process, or moulds and fungus that grow on or within books are the principal food sources for many "bookworm insects”. When the pages themselves are attacked, rather than drilling holes through the entire book, a steady invasion across the surface of one page or a limited number of pages is normal (see images on right).

The term has taken on a second, idiomatic meaning, denoting someone who reads a lot or to an excessive degree: someone who devours books metaphorically.


The booklouse, sometimes known as the Paperhouse, is a wingless, soft-bodied insect of the order Psocoptera (generally Trogium pulsatorium), with a body length of 1 mm or less. Booklice feed on microscopic moulds and other organic materials found in or on ageing items that have been stored in conditions that do not allow organic growth to occur. Cool, damp, dark, and generally undisturbed areas of archives, libraries, and museums are common venues for such growth, providing a food source that attracts booklice. Bindings, glue, and paper are all targets for booklice.

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Booklice, despite their name, are not genuine lice because they do not feed on a living host. Bookbinding materials had evolved a great resistance to harm from many types of book-boring insects by the twentieth century. Many museums and archives with booklouse-vulnerable objects use pest control techniques to manage existing infestations and climate control to limit the establishment of prospective booklouse food sources.

How to Get Rid of the Booklice 

There are a couple of tips and tricks you can follow to fight a booklice infestation before it gets out of hand.

  • Remove any items that have been infected. Discard any that are disposable, and keep the rest in plastic bags in the freezer for two days. Once the timer has expired, vacuum the objects completely to remove the booklice.

  • A dehumidifier can help to reduce the amount of moisture in your home. This devastates the environment in which booklice thrive, as well as reducing mould and mildew.

  • To kill the mould and mildew in your home, use bleach, vinegar, or a similar chemical. If you don't feel comfortable doing this on your own, you can hire a mould remediation professional to assist you in safely resolving the issue.

  • Remove any standing water sources and increase ventilation in your home by opening additional windows. If you live in a humid climate, you may want to place many humidifiers around your home, particularly in wet areas such as bathrooms.

  • Vacuum your floors to remove any dead booklice, and disinfect any previously contaminated areas with a household cleaner to kill any germs.

  • Continue to dehumidify your home and take steps to prevent mould growth by maintaining a dry environment to avoid booklice in the future.

Some of the Other Book Eating Insects 


Some adults of the quarter-million species of beetles wreak havoc on books by consuming paper and binding components. Their larvae, on the other hand, cause the most havoc. Eggs are usually placed on the margins and spine of books. They dig into, and sometimes even though, the book as soon as they hatch.

  • Woodboarig beetle

  • Auger beetles 

  • Longhorned beetles 

  • Bark beetle 

  • True weevils

  • Skin beetles 

  • Powderpost beetles 

  • Darkling beetles 


The most destructive sort of book-eating pest is termites. They will consume practically every aspect of a book, including paper, fabric, and cardboard, as well as causing damage to bookcases. Before the infestation is even recognised, termites can render entire collections useless.

  • Powderpost termite

  • Western dry wood termite


Some ant species can wreak havoc on books in the same way that termites do.

  • Black carpenter ant

  • Camponotus obscuripes

  • Hercules ant


Bookbindings, decomposing organic waste (including paper), and mould are all sources of food for moths that feed on cloth.

  • Fungus moths 

  • Pyralid moths 

  • Concealer moths 


Cockroaches that cause book damage feed on the starch in cloth and paper bindings. Their faeces can also damage books.

  • Wood cockroaches 

  • Household cockroaches 


Pesticides can be used to protect books from these insects, but they generally contain harsh chemicals, making them an unappealing choice. Temperature control is widely used by museums and institutions who want to keep their archives free of bookworms without applying pesticides. Books can be kept at low temperatures to prevent eggs from hatching, or they can be frozen to destroy larvae and adults. The concept was inspired by commercial food storage procedures, which frequently contend with the same pests.


A bibliophile, or an avid or voracious reader, is also referred to as a bibliophile. It had a negative meaning in its early forms, alluding to someone who would prefer to read than engage in the world around them. Its meaning has shifted in a more positive way over time.

Interesting Facts about Bookworm 

Some of the interesting facts about bookworm insects have been discussed below:

  • Any bug that is said to chew through books is referred to as a bookworm.

  • This is a rare occurrence. Both the death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) larvae will travel through wood, and if the paper is close, they will pass through it as well.

  • The booklouse is a common bug that feeds on books (or booklouse). A wingless Psocoptera with a small body (under 1 mm) (usually Trogium pulsatorium). The insect eats moulds and other plants found in books that haven't been kept clean and safe, but they'll also devour bindings and other sections if they're not kept clean and safe. It isn't even a real louse.

  • Many other insects, such as silverfish (Lepisma saccharina) and cockroaches (different Blattodea), may eat these moulds, as well as rotten paper or starch-based binding pastes — warmth, moisture, or high humidity are required, therefore damage is more common in the tropics. Insects are less attracted to modern glues and papers.

  • Cloth bindings will be attacked by Tineola bisselliella and Hofmannophila pseudospretella. The Dermestes lardarius, as well as the larvae of Attagenus unicolour and Stegobium paniceum, are attracted to leather-bound books.

  • The larvae of the bookworm moth (Heliothis zea or H. virescens) are uninterested in books. Cotton bollworm and tobacco budworm larvae are pests for cotton and tobacco growers.


A bookworm is any kind of insect whose larvae injures the books by gnawing the binding and piercing the book pages with small holes. In this article, we will go through a brief about book worm insects, booklice and also about some of the other book eating insects. A single species cannot be called a bookworm because there are many insects that feed on dry, starchy material or paper. 

FAQs on Bookworm

1. How Do You Get Rid of Bookworm Bugs?

Answer. Place the book in a bag with an ether-soaked cloth to kill any existing insects. Repeat every two weeks for a few months to eliminate any remaining larvae. If your book's boards have been damaged by insects, talk to a professional bookbinder about your choices. It's possible that the boards will need to be replaced.

2. Where Do Bookworms Come From?

Answer. The leather or cloth bindings of books, the glue used in the binding process, or moulds and fungus that grow on or within books are the principal food sources for many "bookworms."

3. How Do You Prevent Bookworms?

Answer. To keep bookworms at bay, soak a piece of cloth in camphor, naphthalene, turpentine, or a tobacco infusion and place it behind the books. When you can't smell it anymore, reapply. A liberal dusting of fine black pepper on the shelves will also deter them.

4. What is Bookworm (Booklice) Look Like?

Answer. Booklice are teeny-tiny pests that are only 1/16th of an inch long. They have six pairs of legs and are brown, white, or grey in colour. Despite the fact that their rear legs are thicker than their front legs, booklice are unable to jump.

5. Does Freezing Books Kill Bugs?

Answer. Museums frequently utilise freezing as a pest and bug control approach. “In this scenario, freezing is preferable to heating since heat accelerates the deterioration of books and paper,” Lamson explained.