It has been the wettest April since records began a century ago. The deluge may have stifled wasp activity but there are some insects which love damp conditions. The millipedes which were eating my carpet are back. They are a symptom of damp conditions and are probably thriving beneath the floorboards in the monsoon-like spring we are experiencing. I found a curled up millipede in the corner of the lounge and quickly ejected it outside into the pouring rain before it got a chance to nibble the carpet.
Last week I found a lone silverfish behind the radiator in the study. I’ve now been working for Rentokil long enough to know that there’s never just one. I’ve just spotted the slow silverfish who didn’t scurry away in time.
Silverfish may not be dangerous or transmit disease, but they definitely are irritating. They are nocturnal and shy away from the light, so you may not even know you have them until the damage has been done. They eat matter that contains polysaccharides, which include glue, paper, sugar, hair, carpet and dandruff. Librarians often despair of them because they can be tricky to get rid off. Curators also need to be vigilant as they can damage pictures. In times of desperation silverfish may eat synthetic fibres, dead insects or even their own moulted exoskeletons. They can also live for several months without eating anything at all. They are very hard to treat because they hide in tiny cracks and crevices. A spritz with insecticide may help keep them at bay.
Booklice are as vile as they sound. The tiny insects are usually only slightly bigger than a pin head. They are often found in the pages of old books, as they feed on moulds and mildews that grow on the glue in the bindings or on leather. These moulds and mildews need moist areas to grow in, which is why book lice are found in damp, dark places.
Springtail come in various shades of mould; yellow, purple, red, green, gold, black, white, even patterned, mottled iridescent or metallic. Springtail lay eggs singly or in clusters. After about 10 days, the eggs hatch into juveniles and in six days mature to adults. Adults live up to one year.
Another persistent pest of damp places,Woodlice prefer to live under rocks, and can breed in decaying organic matter. These creatures aren’t bugs as such; they are actually land-dwelling crustaceans, and they need to remain damp in order to breathe through their gills.
The ultimate all-natural organic way to get rid of pests in damp places would be to introduce centipedes. Centipede’s are insectivores, and they particularly enjoy snacking on silverfish. They like the damp too.