The Odd Thing I Discovered Today: Book Scorpions

The pseudoscorpion Chelifer cancroides was nam...
The pseudoscorpion Chelifer cancroides was named Acarus cancroides in 1758. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may come as no surprise to a few of you who read Bec Crew’s blog post on Scientific American’s website a few weeks ago but there is such a thing as book scorpions. Yes, you’ve read correctly: book scorpions. They are real, unfortunately.

I discovered their existence this morning while catching up on emails. I’m way behind. I’ve subscribed to one too many newsletters. I think it was while reading a newsletter from Shelf Awareness that I found a link directing me to Crew’s blog post. My morning was going great until then. One of my biggest book peeves is bugs that eat books and while I should love book scorpions since they feed on such pests, their appearance is not one I would be glad to see.

According to Crew, book scorpions, properly known as pseudoscorpions, are tiny insects that hunt booklice and dust mites that feed on the starch-based glue used to bind books. Like a scorpion, they have long, pincer-like claws protruding from their sides called pedipalps that are twice as long as their legs (I wonder if they ever get tired carrying those around). The one thing I found cool about these bugs is that their respiratory organs are called book lungs because they “look just like the warped pages of an old book.” They’re more bookish than me.

Book scorpions grow to about 4mm in length. They look a bit like bed bugs to me. When not hunting and feeding, book scorpions can be found engaging in a mating dance, prepping to create the next batch eewy-looking bugs. Crew provides a quick run-down of this mating exercise. Though helpful, I do not want to see these bugs scuttling about my bookshelves. As with the silverfish, I will war against them. And since I’m a bit paranoid after reading this article, I shall now proceed to cleaning my bookshelf and reinforcing it with book spray. (A link to Bec Crew’s article is below.)