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Do worms that eat books actually exist?

Last night one of my daughters asked: “Daddy, are there really worms that eat books?”

I hesitated for a few seconds while I gathered my thoughts and replied: “Yes, I think so, I think you might sometimes find them in really old books.”

My daughter’s interest was piqued by Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – a novel filled with books concerning a book-loving family who embark on a bookish adventure.

Her question was a good one. Wikipedia, if it is to be believed, says:

“Both the larvae of the death watch beetle (Xestobium rufovillosum) and the common furniture beetle (Anobium punctatum) will tunnel through wood and paper if it is nearby the wood. A major book-feeding insect is the book or paper louse (aka booklouse or paperlouse). A tiny (under 1 mm), soft-bodied wingless Psocoptera (usually Trogium pulsatorium), that actually feeds on microscopic molds and other organic matter found in ill-maintained works (e.g., cool, damp, dark, and undisturbed areas of archives, libraries, and museums), although they will also attack bindings and other book parts. It is not actually a true louse.”

If anyone has any conclusive information on this subject then any help would be appreciated. In the meantime, here are 340+ books published before 1900 that all have “worm holes”.

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