University of Hawaii at Manoa Library


Preservation Department
Hamilton Library
University of Hawai´i
2550 McCarthy Mall
Honolulu, Hawai´i 96822
Phone:(808) 956-6623

Preservation Department

Pest Damage

Maintaining a pest free environment in a library or archive in Hawai'i requires knowing the enemy, monitoring the collection and inspecting incoming materials. Signs of a possible pest problem include:

Book Beetles

bug-eaten book

The Book Beetle has many alias. It is commonly known as the Mexican Book Beetle, the Herbarium Beetle or the Cigarette Beetle, and is the most prevalent pest in the library. The beetles lay their eggs in the books, and it is the hatching larvae which do the most damage as they eat their way to the spine, feeding on the animal-based glue commonly used to hold the text block to the book case. As the larvae matures it turns into a tiny, lady-bug like beetle, which is dark brown or crimson in color. These small beetles will eat their way through the cover of the book, leaving exit holes the size of large pin holes. Once they are out of the book they fly to other volumes, lay eggs, and the cycle repeats itself.


Substantial damage to library materials can be attributed to various species of cockroaches.  They have large, strong, chewing mouthparts, prefer starchy materials and can easily destroy paper, paper products, and bindings. Chewing damage is generally recognized by the ragged appearance to the areas that have been fed upon. Cockroach droppings permanently stain paper and bookbindings.


silverfish damage

Silverfish cause damage to paper and books by feeding on the surface. Since they do not have strong chewing mouthparts they abrade the surface until they break through, causing damaged paper to display a lace-like, irregular appearance. They also like book covers and binding paste, leaving thin spots on the cover surface. Silverfish often leave a fine, black pelletized frass which resembles miniature mouse droppings. This material accumulates under items or may be scattered randomly over surfaces.


Termites can also cause significant damage to books, although they are generally less common in libraries. They often move into books  from buildings or wood shelves and will devour text blocks, turning the pages into confetti.

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