‘Polyunsaturates’ not good for booklice
Research at Kew is investigating ways to protect library, museum and herbarium collections from damage caused by booklice.
22 Feb 2012
Distribution of booklice after 12 hours exposure to glass fibre discs impregnated with different fatty acids showing they are deterred by unsaturated fatty acids. Discs impregnated with (clockwise from top) oleic acid*, linolenic acid*, stearic acid, linoleic acid* and solvent only (no fatty acid). * indicates an unsaturated fatty acid (Image Paul Green)
Booklice (Liposcelis bostrychophila Badonnel), despite their name, are not lice and do not feed entirely on books. But these insects, which are about 1 mm in size, do cause damage to museum, library and herbarium collections through their feeding activity.
At Kew, entomologist Paul Green is undertaking research to better understand the settling behaviour and chemical ecology of booklice. He aims to identify compounds, either produced by the insects or in their environment, that can either act as deterrents to protect artefacts and museum collections or act as attractants for use in traps or lures.
The research has shown that a mixture of compounds extracted from booklice can repel other members of the same colony. The insect-derived extracts contain fatty acids and fatty acid methyl esters, among other compounds. Fatty acids with one, two, or three double bonds were repellent in comparison to stearic acid (no double bonds) and a plain solvent control, indicating that the insects are able to detect the differences in these chemical structures.
These results indicate the possibility that volatile fatty acids, or other compounds with similar properties, could be used in the vicinity of collections to deter booklice.
Item from Dr Paul Green (Entomologist & Plant Biochemist, Kew)
Kew Scientist, issue 40
Green, P. W. C. (2009). The effects of insect extracts and some insect-derived compounds on the settling behavior of Liposcelis bostrychophila. Journal of Chemical Ecology 33: 1086-1095.
Green, P. W. C. (2011). Insect-derived compounds affect the behaviour of Liposcelis bostrychophila: Effects of combination and structure. Journal of Stored Products Research 47: 262-266.
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