Thursday, August 29, 2013

Beware the Bookie Monster

The British Library's Collection Care Blog has an article that Dick Eastman suggests "should be required reading for anyone who cares for old books. The information applies equally to books at home or at a library, museum, or any other archive."

While many articles have been published in this newsletter and elsewhere about the damage to books by fires, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other disasters, the article by Christina Duffy describes a different threat that is equally damaging: insects!

If you take care of books, you should read The Bookie Monster: attack of the creepy crawlies! article at

The Bookie Monster: attack of the creepy crawlies!

[From the British Library's Collection Care Blog - - link above, also]

Have you ever been described as a bookworm?
We hope the only bookworms encountered in our reading rooms are of the Studious genus, but did you know that there are a whole host of pesky pests out there hungry for paper? Fires and floods are usually the scenarios we think of when we hear about damaged books, but books are also susceptible to pest damage. “Bookworm” is actually a generic term and doesn’t apply to any particular species, although it is often used to describe the Anobiid beetle (Anobium punctatum).
Furniture beetle damage
Figure 1: The larvae of furniture beetles, Anobium punctatum, attack wooden book boards, shelving, frames and compressed paper. Copyright DBP Entomology
Where the passionate reader sees inspiration and literary genius, the pest sees a delicious and satisfying papery meal. Holes in books and bindings, large chewed areas and scraped surfaces are all evidence of pest attack. Thankfully, damage like this is largely historic and it is a matter for conservation rather than pest control. Our Preservation Advisory Centre has produced a free information booklet on Managing pests in paper-based collections written by Consultant Entomologist David Pinniger. Although there are physical and chemical treatments to control infestation, it is much cheaper and far more effective to use preventive methods. Here we take a look at a few of the culprits.

Name: Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)
Likes to eat: Paper

Silverfish (or fish moths) are nocturnal wingless scaly insects (10-15 mm) associated with damp conditions and require a localised humidity above 70-80%. They are named in light of their silvery exterior and slithery fish-like movements. 
Silverfish (Lepisma saccharina)

Figure 2: The silverfish is a primitive insect with three bristles called cerci at the tail end where the abdomen tapers. Copyright Aiwok
Post-meal evidence includes irregular holes in paper and ragged, scraped surface areas. If they are particularly greedy they will preferentially target areas with glue or ink which may be more nutritious.
Silverfish damage
Figure 3: Silverfish (sometimes known as fish moths) leave irregular holes in paper around a scuffed surface. Copyright DBP Entomology
[See link below for the complete article listing several other insect pests (with photos) - great article for saving great books!  This article was previewed on Dick Eastman's EOGN]
Pests will only usually damage material because they are seeking nutrition. Collection items boasting mouth-watering edible materials such as wooden boards, textiles, adhesives, gelatine and starch can satisfy the pickiest of pests. Prevention is always better than cure so it is important to be vigilant for the signs of an infestation. If you are unsure about a potential pest problem contact the Preservation Advisory Centre for some helpful advice.
Christina Duffy
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