So Long, and Thanks for All the Silverfish

There is a sort of busy worm
That will the fairest books deform,
By gnawing holes throughout them;
Alike, through every leaf they go,
Yet of its merits naught they know,
Nor care they aught about them.

Their tasteless tooth will tear and taint
The Poet, Patriot, Sage or Saint,
Not sparing wit nor learning.
Now, if you’d know the reason why,
The best of reasons I’ll supply;
‘Tis bread to the poor vermin.

Of pepper, snuff, or ‘bacca smoke,
And Russia-calf they make a joke.
Yet, why should sons of science
These puny rankling reptiles dread?
‘Tis but to let their books be read,
And bid the worms defiance.”

– J. Doraston (Quoated by William Blades)

Books have a lot of natural predators, many of them having to do with climate. Quite frankly, though, the climate-related predators are boring, which is why my post today will focus on something a little more interesting. If you hadn’t already guessed from reading the cute little poem above, that something is bugs. I’ll only mention three kinds, but there are lots and lots more bugs. Ruining all the books.

Those who know me know that I’m not afraid of bugs. Spider? Let me grab a jar so I can trap it and keep it as a pet. Wasp? Bring it, wasp – last time, I got stung fourteen times at once, so you’ve got a tough act to follow. These bugs, though? They make me squirm. They are just… euuuggghhhh.

Because this post might be a little too yuck for some, you’re gonna have to click “Read More” to continue.

Meet the silverfish.

Silverfish can be found in basements, bathrooms, or, you know, anywhere else in one’s home. Alright, so they get around – I like to travel too. Honestly, I don’t have much of an issue with the silverfish’s cosmopolitan lifestyle. What I do have an issue with is the fact that females can lay up to sixty eggs at once. So they can all hatch and disperse and cover more ground and ultimately take over. Forget calling pest control. I would just move.

When it’s not busy chasing people out of their homes, the silverfish likes to nibble on sugars and starches. This means that a silverfish will often go after the glue in bookbindings, and the paper in books. And in case it can’t find any of that good stuff, there’s no need for the silverfish to fret. It can live for more than a year without eating. That’s right. A year.

To the left is a picture of silverfish damage. Don’t see it? Look at the stamp. Well, the lack of stamp. A silverfish had decided to be picky and has only eaten the part of the postcard with stamp glue on it.

Thanks a lot, silverfish.

And you though lice was only for your head.

Yes, dear readers, this is such a thing as a booklouse. Dorothy, we’re not in Hairtown anymore.

I’m not as disgusted by these bugs as I am by silverfish, as they don’t bite humans; I think they want as little to do with us as we do with them. They don’t even spread disease. They’re just annoying.

Like silverfish, booklice like sugars and starches, and will not hesitate to use your library as their feeding ground. If you don’t want this to happen, just make sure your books are kept away from moist storage areas. That’s all you need to do. The booklice and the silverfish will probably go party elsewhere, or die trying to get elsewhere. I favour the latter.

Last, but certainly not least… Bibble from Polka Dot Shorts.

I’ve decided to end on a high note. I know that carpet beetle larvae like to snack on cloth covers, but I can’t help but think that they’re kind of cute. Look how fuzzy they are! And they remind me of Bibble from Polka Dot Shorts.

Don’t know who Bibble is? Don’t know what Polka Dot Shorts is? You’ve been missing out! Welcome to my childhood:

As an aside, I met Polkaroo once. When I write my resumes, I often list that meeting as one of my most notable achievements.

Anyway, carpet beetle larvae grow out of the book-eating phase; as they get older, they start eating more sophisticated foods, like pollen and nectar. So carpet beetles just annoying when they’re babies. I get it. Babies can be pretty annoying.

There you have it. Next time you go to your local library, try to scope out some damage done by these little guys. You’ll be surprised, and hopefully concerned, at how easy it is to find their trails of destruction.

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