Pest of the Month: called book­lice — it’s the pantry pest

Horowhenua Chronicle - - SPORT - By BRENT PAGE

House­holds within the Horowhenua re­gion oc­ca­sion­ally en­counter an in­sect which is ca­pa­ble of ac­cess­ing food stor­age cup­boards and pantries.

This is the pso­cid (pro­nounced so-kid). Pso­cids are tiny in­sects, av­er­ag­ing 1-2mm in size and tend to be over­looked. Mi­cro­scop­i­cally they may re­sem­ble tiny ter­mites, how­ever, to the naked eye they can ap­pear as mov­ing car­pets of brown dust, swarm­ing over shelves and food. While seem­ingly not one of those pests that pose a great risk, num­bers can quickly mul­ti­ply re­sult­ing in a mas­sive pop­u­la­tion ex­plo­sion, par­tic­u­larly in damp, warm en­vi­ron­ment.

In the pantry, pso­cids flour­ish on grains, bran, ce­real, break­fast foods, dried fruits, nuts, crack­ers, cook­ies and dried pasta. They are com­monly found in­side an opened bag of flour. Any man­u­fac­tured ma­te­rial of plant ori­gin is sus­cep­ti­ble to a pso­cid at­tack. What is re­ally in­ter­est­ing is in­stead of ac­tu­ally eat­ing these food items, the pso­cids are ac­tu­ally graz­ing on all the mi­cro­scopic moulds and mildews found grow­ing on the sur­face of these prod­ucts.

Pso­cids are of­ten re­ferred to as book­lice, book ticks or dust lice, how­ever, they are nei­ther lice nor tick. The name ‘book­lice’ comes from the fact that they are also fre­quently found in li­braries or more of­ten where old books are stored. Pso­cids do not at­tack the books di­rectly. In­stead once again they feed on moulds and fungi that are grow­ing on the books them­selves. How is this so? As pa­per is sourced from wood, and wood, be­ing plant de­rived, it at­tracts the growth of moulds. The glue the binds the pages is also tempt­ing. It is of­ten man­u­fac­tured from plant-de­rived cel­lu­lose, and once again it is the moulds grow­ing on the glue that the pso­cids are gorg­ing on.

Depend­ing on tem­per­a­ture (10-25 de­grees C) and rel­a­tive hu­mid­ity (greater than 50 per cent), most pso­cids can pro­duce two or three gen­er­a­tions an­nu­ally. Eggs hatch in two to four weeks. They go through two to four nymphal stages, tak­ing up to three months, be­fore reach­ing ma­tu­rity. Once ma­ture, fe­males can gen­er­ate 50-100 eggs dur­ing a life­time. Adults have a life­span of ap­prox­i­mately five months. They also have a sur­pris­ing abil­ity to sur­vive in ad­verse con­di­tions and with­out food.

How to con­trol pso­cids? It’s easy — the key is to en­sure a low hu­mid­ity en­vi­ron­ment within the house, pantry or ar­eas where pso­cids are lo­cated. For ex­am­ple, when cook­ing, hu­mid­ity is likely to build up in the kitchen/pantry. To re­duce the hu­mid­ity level, en­sure there is ad­e­quate ven­ti­la­tion — open a win­dow. It is also im­por­tant to check cup­boards reg­u­larly, store food prod­ucts in closed con­tain­ers and use any plant­derived food prod­ucts be­fore ‘use by’ dates. If an in­fes­ta­tion oc­curs in a cup­board, try us­ing a hair­drier to dry the area out. Try to en­sure it stays dry and once again, has plenty of air cir­cu­la­tion. If you can keep the hu­mid­ity low, pso­cids are less likely to re­in­fest.

Brent Page is a Horowhenua en­to­mol­o­gist and Di­rec­tor of Na­ture’s Way Pest Con­trol. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.nwpc.co.nz

In the pantry, pso­cids flour­ish on grains, bran, ce­real, break­fast foods, dried fruits, nuts, crack­ers, cook­ies and dried pasta. They are com­monly found in­side an opened bag of flour.

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