In This Issue...What's “Bugging” You? Part 3
Inspection and Elimination
If you suspect insect damage, carefully inspect garments for holes against a good light source. A good “trick” is to hold the item so you can look toward a light source from the inside of the garment, looking out. After doing that, turn the garment inside out to get a look at seams and hidden areas! Damage can be masked by soil on the garment. Sweaters should be stretched to make visible any holes which could be hidden by the construction of the knit. Look carefully for burrows or trails on areas containing food or beverage stains.
Signs of insect damage and infestation include moth eggs in the form of small, white grain-like granules, and larvae in small white clusters of webs. Remember when you disturb the clothes the “live” evidence will “abandon ship” if they can, making it even harder to notice.
If You Find Evidence
- Inspect carefully! If you find signs of insect damage, check all susceptible items in the area carefully and try to find the primary source of the infestation. It could be an old wool scarf, a fur hat hidden in a box, or a section of wool carpeting under a bed. There could be more than one source too! Creep into those dark areas with a flashlight. Look for the telltale signs…wings, dried skins, webs, droppings, or even the live insects if you can surprise them before they can hide.
- Carefully remove everything in the infested area. And remember, it’s not just your closets...include the closet shelves and your dresser drawers too! You MUST be willing to be “seriously inconvenienced” if you want to control, and hopefully eliminate, these pests! A good pest control company will insist on this!
- Vacuum the entire house, especially the infested areas, thoroughly and regularly. Dispose of the vacuum bags promptly in case they contain eggs or larvae! Even clean the vacuum brushes after each use! If cleaned well, you may not need to use an insecticide. If you DO use an insecticide, just treat the cracks and crevices in the infested areas.
- Wash down floors, walls, ceilings, shelves, drawers, and interior surfaces of all infested areas. What works best is antibacterial products…bleach is great, but remember that the bleach itself can damage fabric!
- Use sprays on infested carpets, especially along baseboards and under furniture. Be sure to test for colorfastness before spraying anything! Many household pesticides labeled for ants, fleas and cockroaches will work on fabric pests. You also may purchase products specifically designed for clothes moths, carpet beetles, and silverfish. The commercial websites, www.bugspray.com and www.doyourownpestcontrol.com contain a wealth of information and many pest-specific products.
- Never spray clothing with a household insecticide. Always remove clothes before having anyone spray the insides of closets and drawers!
- Immediately launder or dry clean everything, even if you don’t see evidence of damage to clothing that was stored in a suspect area! Your laundry temperature needs to be over 120°, and not all fabrics will tolerate the laundry temperatures needed to kill the insects. Don’t just move clothes to another area of the house or it could spread the infestation. If an item can be tumble dried, the added heat should help destroy the bugs.
- Contact a reputable pest control firm to help solve the problem if you have a heavy infestation of insects in your home. They will be able to find and effectively treat hidden and difficult-to-access areas.
- Use traps in addition to the above-mentioned remedies. Several manufacturers sell pheromone traps designed to attract the males of the specific species which, in turn, reduces the entire population. Traps are not meant to eliminate an infestation, but only to help you monitor your success at ridding yourself of the bugs. Margaret’s offers the Safer Clothes Moth Traps as one of our Boutique Wardrobe Products items.
Prevention Tips & Tricks
What are some of the best ways to prevent insects from turning your garments into their habitat? It’s a two-part project. First you must control and eliminate the pests you already may have. Second, you need to make sure your clothing is stored in such a way that it will not be damaged should a re-infestation occur. Your goal is to make living in your house as difficult as possible for that pest! Everything you do to make YOUR house uninviting will keep your clothing and textiles safe from damage!
General Control of Textile Pests
- Practice good housekeeping techniques! If carpets and rugs are vacuumed frequently and thoroughly, eggs and larvae will be removed before damage occurs. Make sure your carpet cleaner pays special attention to crevices and uses a special crevice tool. In addition, a thorough vacuuming and cleaning of floors, shelves, walls, cracks and crevices in closets and drawers, as well as other less-frequented hiding places of insects, such as under and behind couches, couch cushions, and draperies, reduces the chances of infestation. Don’t forget to clean your window sills! The dust and deceased insect accumulation can be a favorite hangout for carpet beetles! Use crevice and upholstery tools that came with your vacuum to frequently clean corners, cracks, ducts, vents and baseboard moldings! If you have pets, clean even more often. Pet hair is a favorite food source for these pests. Be aware of where family members may be snacking and leaving crumbs of food that could attract insects such as silverfish and cockroaches. The eggs of clothes moths don’t vacuum as well as the beetle eggs because of an adhesive outer layer on the egg.
- Spring and Fall Cleaning where you roll up your sleeves, pull the furniture away from the walls and give the house a true going over, is a great defensive maneuver! Remember the larvae thrive any time of the year, so your control measures must be year-round.
- Periodically take everything out of your closets and drawers, shake them out, brush them off, vacuum the area and put the clothes back.
- Don’t hang onto woolens you don’t use. Woolen garments, in particular, represent a potential source of infestation if you don’t use them regularly. If they’re worn, cleaned and brushed on a regular basis, moth problems should be minimal.
- Brushing clothing or other items regularly, once or twice a month, is a very effective means of moth control, as it will dislodge or crush the pests. Carpet beetle eggs, especially, are very fragile and easily destroyed by brushing them off. Try to do it outside if possible, and brush all accessible areas of the garment, including under collars, cuffs, seams and pocket flaps. And don’t just brush, take the clothes outside into bright indirect sunlight. This is a good mold and mildew prevention technique (See read our Mold & Mildew newsletter) Be careful in direct sunlight as some clothing could fade.
- Insecticide products intended for direct application on clothing, bedding or textiles in the home for either treatment or prevention of fabric pests are currently not available to consumers! Insecticide products that may be used to treat cracks and crevices CANNOT be used to treat clothing or textile items.
- Insecticides typically used by professionals to treat areas or objects, other than clothing, include the following fumigants: Naphthalene, which acts as a repellent, Paradichloro-benzine, which acts as a larvacide, and Vikane, which kills adults and larvae, but not necessarily the eggs. A second fumigation after 20 to 30 days is often needed for severely infested areas.
- Freezing can also be used as a way to control fabric pests. Items must be stored at 0°F for a minimum of 48 to 72 hours. This works best for small items such as stuffed animals, feather accessories or things difficult to launder or dry clean.
- Buy items that are labeled “Mothproof.” If you know you have a problem, or have had one in the past, purchase items that have been treated by the manufacturer to resist clothes moths and carpet beetles. Many high-quality garments, especially those containing wool, will be labeled “mothproof” (or at least moth-resistant) on their label if the fabric was treated.
What is mothproofing?
- Mothproofing is a chemical treatment given to fabrics that provides protection from insects without leaving objectionable odors, as do mothballs. The mothproofing agents can be either synthetic or natural plant-derived insecticides. Currently there is no moth-proofing product available for consumer application. It must be done when the fabric is manufactured. If an item is labeled “mothproof” or “moth resistant,” the protective chemicals were applied by the manufacturer, and the process is considered permanent. There are mothproofing chemicals available that can be applied during dry cleaning, however, they are highly regulated and tend to contaminate the solvents. The dry cleaning process itself effectively rids the clothes of any living larvae much better than normal laundering. Many high-quality fabrics containing wool are treated with a moth-proofer during their manufacture.
- Synthetics contain permethrin, tetrametrin, deltametrin and methoxychlor.
- Plant-derived insecticides contain pyrethrins, which, because they break down rapidly under light, are stabilized or intensified by piperonyl butoxide.
Forms of mothproofing:
All chemicals used in mothproofing are regulated and must be approved by the EPA. None are currently available for consumer use. There are two forms of mothproofing:
- Solvent-based chemicals are most effective when applied in the form of a dye bath. This can be done when the fabric is manufactured or during dry cleaning. These solvent-based mothproofing chemicals may be used in PERC or petroleum dry cleaning systems. It is added to the solvent and to the garments to be treated and processed through a regular dry cleaning cycle. Extremely low concentrations are needed to provide protection until the next cleaning. Margaret’s does not offer this service because we don’t want our solutions and filters to be exposed to such chemicals. They are difficult to completely remove and would affect ALL the clothes being cleaned.
- Water-based residual pesticide sprays should only be applied to surfaces in your home and not to the garments themselves. Such treatments, however, are rarely effective as they do not penetrate the material where the moths hide.
Information Specific to Clothes Moths
Once you have determined you have a clothing moth infestation, you will need to employ the best control methods available. This depends on the location, the extent, and the level of control needed. Some areas are easier to control than others and will need nothing more than an aerosol and some traps. Others will need an ongoing extensive liquid treatment program.
The first tool that will prove helpful for any level of infestation is to install some Clothes Moth Traps. These are pheromone-based traps that use female sex pheromones to lure males. According to the manufacturer, the attractant is much stronger than natural pheromones and emerging males will not be able to resist the smell. Once they get to the trap, a board of non-drying glue awaits them. They land, get stuck and are prevented from impregnating females. Traps will last several months and though they won’t prevent larvae from feasting, they will cut down the adult male population dramatically, which will in turn prevent future egg laying and aid in overall control. The traps also serve as a good monitoring device. If your traps are catching more moths than you would like, more treatments are needed. Locate them in closets, around carpets or behind furniture and inspect them at least once a week. Margaret’s carries one type of clothes moth trap in our Boutique Wardrobe Products.
Once you have traps in place, aerosol or liquid treatments can be done. In order to prepare for these applications, it is best to do the thorough house cleaning mentioned above…vacuuming, laundering or dry cleaning of infested AND non-infested items. Vacuuming will help to remove larva, adults and their frass but eggs and pupa are almost impossible to remove. Glue-like excretions and the cocoon spinning process does a good job of affixing eggs and pupa in place. The same holds true for carpeting. Thick carpets need a good vacuuming. Area rugs and hand woven rugs need to have their top and bottom sides cleaned. Topside treatments may not penetrate far enough to get the bugs. Once you have cleaned closets, clothing, rugs, carpeting, furniture, or anything else with obvious moth activity, you are ready to treat. The simplest thing you can do is use some of the aerosols which are available. For closets, the aerosols are both effective and practical. Aerosols are also effective for treating furniture, taxidermy mounts or tapestries. There are several which are all used for different situations.
The following items are suggested by the www.bugspray.com website. NOTE: Margaret’s Cleaners does not have specific experience with these chemicals and does not endorse the website. This is purely to give you an idea of what types of measures can be used to control moths. All of the commercial web sites noted in our references appear to carry similar products to control fabric pests. Be SURE to read labels and follow instructions carefully! Some of these may require professional application.
- ECO PCO is a food grade aerosol that is labeled for use in restaurants and homes. It has a fresh odor and is effective for clothes moths. It can be applied directly to carpeting or furniture. It uses the latest active ingredients which have low mammalian toxicity yet are active on insects.• Permethrin has long been used as a chigger, mosquito and insect repellent and can be used to provide some protection from clothes moth attack. It is odorless, won’t stain (but TEST it first on a small area; use of any chemicals directly on clothing is not recommended) and will provide months of protection in dark protected areas. Permethrin is advertised as better protection than moth balls and easier to use.
- If you have areas where you want continuous protection, you should install a battery operated Aerosol Dispenser. It contains a metered aerosol which provides a one second blast of aerosol every 15 minutes. The refills last a month and do a great job of killing both larvae and adults. Eggs and pupa will remain intact and it takes several months for these to hatch. This system works well for small areas like closets and is maintenance-free if you keep the canisters filled.
- Larger areas can be treated with aerosols as well. With the use of a variety of foggers, you can treat large areas quickly and effectively. These machines convert water-based formulations into aerosols that project the mist 20 to 30 feet. The best approach is to use both a growth regulator and an adulticide. Nylar is the latest Insect Growth Regulator (IGR). An IGR is essentially a protein. When certain insects are exposed to it early in development, they are not able to properly mature into eating or reproducing adults. Nylar will last several weeks per application, it is odorless and will stop the cycle of clothes moths. Be sure to add an adulticide as well. Exciter is one that works well. It uses Pyrethrin as the active ingredient. Pyrethrin has no residual and will break down within a few hours of application. However, it is very safe, has little or no odor, and kills moths quickly. Use the two together, and treat at least once a month if you have valuable rugs to protect or other items in large areas.
- Dusting is another option of treatment and works best when you have infestations in wall-to-wall carpeting. If moths have moved under the moldings they are protected from both liquid treatments and aerosols. Dust is best suited for such treatments and one commonly used is Deltamethrin Dust. It is odorless and should be applied with a Hand Duster. This device allows you to get proper coverage under the molding where larva and adults will be active. Its effectiveness will last 6-12 months, which insures that any eggs will die as they hatch. Deltamethrin Dust works well and has long term residual effectiveness, but it is too messy for use out in the open. Because of this drawback, it is best suited for areas such as under moldings, in dry storage where boxes are stored, or in other inconspicuous locations.
Information Specific to Carpet Beetles
Controlling carpet beetle infestations can be difficult. This is true for several reasons. First, they are likely to be active in small areas, but there are usually several such areas throughout the home. Second, they tend to be active in hidden areas. Third, the cycle of the carpet beetle enables them to have a built in defense mechanism against treatments. Although larva and adults are easily killed, eggs and pupa are not. When you treat, it is likely you will kill adults and active larva. Eggs and pupa that hatch after the residual treatment has worn off can easily reestablish the population. To prevent this, it is important to treat at least twice and in some cases as many as four times. Though every case may have specific keys to achieving success, here are some guidelines for treating:
- Be sure to treat all carpets, including the tops and bottoms of area rugs.
- Treat all fabric furniture. Be sure to turn pieces upside down to treat the undersides.
- Don’t skimp on chemical applications. Because carpet beetles tend to be deep in carpeting, it is important to have the product penetrate. If you try to “stretch” the application over a larger area, this will make the whole treatment ineffective.
- Since eggs and pupa are impervious to the chemical treatment, they will continue to live. After 30 days, they may hatch and thrive as if you never treated the area. This is why you must treat at least twice. Depending on the product used, you may need to treat once every month for 4-6 months.
- Clothing where infestations have been discovered need to be inspected and cleaned. At the very least, vacuum all your clothes for a quick and effective way to remove adults, larva, eggs or pupa. Be sure to throw away badly infested pieces.
- Vacuum your home thoroughly before treating. This helps remove some of the beetles as well as get them lifted up or moving where they are active. Your treatment will prove to be more effective if they are stirred up.
- Once you have vacuumed, you are ready to treat. Treatments suggested include custom sprayers which spray in a flat uniform fan shape. Permethrin is used for mild infestations, is odorless and lasts 2 to 4 weeks and is the safest thing to use. Cyfluthrin is also odorless and a treatment will last 4 to 6 weeks. Multiple treatments over a period of two to six months are needed to get all growth stages of the beetles as they mature. Even a pest control company will have to come back to the home several times to do the job completely. For more specific instructions and information on the process, visit www.bugspray.com.
- Following treatments, install some Carpet Beetle Pheromone Traps to both monitor your success and reduce the risk of future infestations. Set a trap in any area you have seen evidence or in any area you want to protect. They are only effective, however, about 3 months of the year, because of the lifecycle of the carpet beetles. Inspect them once a week during the treatment phases and if you find adults accumulating, you know it’s time to treat again for the larvae.
Another product that can be added to the mix when treating with any of the above chemicals is an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) This IGR lasts about 3 months and will work with many different insects. Its function is to stop larvae from developing into adults.
Information Specific to Silverfish
- Drione Dust is a silica-based material that works as a desiccant on insects. Silverfish, as well as other insects, cannot live where it is applied. Drione can be used both outside and inside. It should be applied under siding, around entries to the house, in storage boxes, light fixtures, electric outlets, and broadcast throughout the attic. A variety of dust applicators, aerosol cans and hand dusters are available to help achieve uniform distribution of the dust. Most indoor applications will last 6 to 12 months; outside applications may only remain active for a few months since high moisture levels will tend to break the dust down.
- If dusting sounds like too much work, you can bait for silverfish as well. Niban FG has been used several years for crickets, ants and roaches. It also works well for silverfish. Niban uses boron as the active ingredient so it is safe to use around children and pets. It does not have an odor, can be applied inside and outside and will last a long time. Niban should be applied the same way as Drione. Treat cracks and crevices where the silverfish are entering the structure. For proper application and coverage, a proper bait applicator should be used. Niban uses a food base to attract silverfish. The advantage of using bait instead of dust is that the silverfish will always be out looking for food (bait). You only have to be close to the nest for it to work. If you are dusting only, the silverfish may be able to avoid treated areas and thrive if you miss their nest. Local populations will just move around your treatment areas.
Once you have done your treatment, give it time to take effect. As with moths and carpet beetles, traps are also available that target silverfish. Good locations for traps include bookcases, cabinets, pantries, closets, filing cabinets, or any place you’ve seen them. Inspect them every couple of weeks and change them about every 3 months. If you’re still finding silverfish in areas you’ve treated, you know that further treatment is necessary.
Continued in Part Four: Storage Suggestions & Resources