Bookworm (insect)

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File:Bookworm damage on Errata page.jpg
Pages riddled with bookworm damage on Errata.
File:Bookworm traces.JPG
Traces of a bookworm in a book

Bookworm is a popular generalization for any insect that supposedly bores through books.

Actual book-borers are uncommon. Both the larvae of the death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) will tunnel through wood and paper if it is nearby the wood.

A major book-feeding insect is the book or paper louse (also known as booklouse or paperlouse). These are tiny (under 1 mm), soft-bodied wingless Psocoptera (usually Trogium pulsatorium), which actually feed on microscopic molds and other organic matter found in ill-maintained works (e.g., cool, damp, dark, and undisturbed areas of archives, libraries, and museums), although they will also attack bindings and other book parts. It is not a true louse.

Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1907-1916, Augustine Birrell once recounted a situation in which a bookworm had eaten through to the 87th page of a fifteenth-century vellum book. By the twentieth century, chemical book composition thwarted much of the damage done to books by various types of book-boring insects.[1]

Two moths, Tineola bisselliella and Hofmannophila pseudospretella, will attack cloth bindings. Leather-bound books attract various other consumers, such as Dermestes lardarius and the larvae of Attagenus unicolor and Stegobium paniceum. The bookworm moth (Heliothis zea or H. virescens) and its larvae are not interested in books: the larvae are pests for cotton or tobacco growers as the cotton bollworm or tobacco budworm.

See also


  1. Murray, Stuart (2009). The Library: An Illustrated History. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. p. 198.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>