A moth eaten blog post by a consumed Assistant Conservator

posted in: Blog, Conservation, Graymondo | 0

Why am I so interested in moths?

Well, I find insects fascinating, beautiful  and ingenious; but I also happen to care for the Royal Pavilion & Museums’ collections with the help of a great team of colleagues and volunteers. As voracious moths attempt to munch their way through to adulthood (it’s only the larvae that feed on our most precious garments and materials), they become a common topic of conversation in museums.

Magnified photo of moth with wings
Close up of Monopis Obivella or the Obvious Moth
Several webbing clothes moths on a costume on display in the World Stories gallery in Brighton Museum
Several webbing clothes moths on a costume on display in the World Stories gallery in Brighton Museum

Up to a third of my work is dedicated to something known as Integrated Pest Management. This term is used to describe a programme of work involving mapping, trapping and recording pest finds. This is normally done every quarter but in relation to moths, which require pheromone traps, these can often be checked weekly. I do not trap pests in order to eradicate them, but to examine what is seeking harbourage in our buildings and where they might be entering the building. And, yes, there are multiple routes into any building. for example: doors, windows, fireplaces, people’s clothing, and objects coming into or returning to the collection.

From this data and our environmental monitoring we assess each site and decide what course of action we need to take against pests. For example, we may tweak the environment to make it less hospitable (although often we can’t), increase our cleaning programme in specific areas, or carry out refresher training with regards to general collections care.

How to get rid of moths

But enough of the waffle, I hear you say, let’s get to the point: how do you get rid of moths?

  • Look for the source of the infestation – there will be one if you get more than a couple of moths.
  • Vacuum regularly, especially if you have old wooden flooring with gaps – these gaps can offer a wonderful warm pied-a-terre for moth babies
  • Vacuum the underside of rugs and right up to the edge of carpets — moths are clever and just a little sneaky. See below of the type of case you might see.
  • Do not over pack your wardrobe or drawers and remove items regularly to check for moths. Moths love dark undisturbed spaces – think linen cupboards, coat racks, shoe cupboards, laundry baskets (especially the stuff at the bottom of it that never gets washed because it is difficult to dry), and beneath the stairs.
  • Check garments along the seams and the undersides of collars, pockets, crotches, lapels — if you hold them up to the light and your garment looks like Swiss cheese you have moths. If discovered thoroughly vacuum the wardrobe and wash the affected items. If left unwashed, moths will return to the same items. 
  • Textiles can be frozen to kill the moth larvae but that is another post.
  • Wash or dry clean items such as jumpers and suits (especially if merino wool, cashmere and lambs wool or pure new wool) after wearing as moths love sweat and any kind of soiling. Yes, it’s time to ditch luxury in favour of economy!
  • Leather shoes, jackets and feathers can also become a victim of this ravenous feeder. Evidence can usually be found in the form of casts inside the verso of the garment or hide.
  • If you love a bit of vintage, remember to clean it before hanging in your wardrobe.

Regular cleaning and vigilance are everything in the Moth Wars but perseverance will pay dividends in the long term.

Check back soon for pest news at Preston Manor from Vicki and Nick. Later in the year we’ll look at freezing — every moth’s nightmare.

Good luck!

Graymondo, Assistant Conservator

More on moths

Any recent search of the internet concerning moths will produce a huge number of results, such as these listed at the end of this blog post.

Clothes moths are on the march – so let the battle begin! | Daily Mail …

www.dailymail.co.uk/property/article…/Clothes-moths-march-let-battle-begin.html

10 Apr 2017 – … moths across the country. They are handing out free clothes moths traps to help gather moth data. … Share this article. Share. 13 shares …

How can you get rid of clothes moths? | Environment | The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com › Environment › Insects

2 Nov 2012 – Mothballs, lavender bags, cedar wood… what weaponry can help you win the war against moths, asks Catherine Bennett.

Why are so many clothes moths on the rampage (and how do we stop …

www.telegraph.co.uk › Lifestyle › Women › Life

9 Apr 2017 – Why are so many clothes moths on the rampage (and how do we stop them)?. Clothes moths caught in a trap Credit: Paul Grover …. Share this article …. Comment: Why the UK’s biggest divorce award is good news for …

Arm yourself, moths are coming to attack your wardrobe – Telegraph

www.telegraph.co.uk › News › Features

18 Apr 2012 – … and furnishings. Moths feast on wool fibres – the finer and softer, like cashmere, the better. … On guard: Sarah Rainey is prepared for the clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella – Arm … Related Articles. Moths … Top news galleries …

Rapid rise of clothes moths threatens historic fabrics – BBC News

www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-39504494

6 Apr 2017 – Rare furnishings and fabrics in England’s historic houses are under growing threat from an epidemic of clothes moths, say experts.

End of spring cleaning lets moths thrive | News | The Times & The …

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/end-of-spring-cleaning-lets-moths-thrive-cwb5lrpzx

6 Apr 2017 – Moths have been chewing the furnishings at Eltham Palace, in Greenwich, … for a resurgence in clothes moths chewing the contents of Britain’s historic homes. … Register with a few details to continue reading this article.

Clothes moth – solutions for moth infestation of carpets, rugs, clothes

www.valepestcontrol.co.uk/insect-control/clothes-moth/

Clothes moths are a nightmare according to various newspaper articles, but realistically they can be controlled with care and diligence. At Vale Pest Control we …

Moth infestations increase across the UK | UK | News | Express.co.uk

www.express.co.uk › News › UK