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CARPET BEETLES CAN DAMAGE WOOLEN CLOTHING

By Chris Williams on October 3, 2018.

I just took down a couple of boxes of winter clothes that were stored in the attic. The plan was to clean the clothes and put them in the closet. But when I opened the boxes, there were small holes in several of the sweaters and slacks. It must be the work of some kind of a bug. I didn’t find any moths in the boxes but I did find what look like tiny beetles dead in the bottom. What do I do now?

J.R., Boston, MA

It sounds like your clothes have been damaged by one of the species of carpet beetles, although there might be clothes moth larvae in the box as well. The name carpet beetle is a bit of a misnomer since these little oval beetles feed on a variety of animal or plant-based materials other than carpets such as woolens, furs, feathers, hides, animal carcasses, and even stored foods (see Meet the Carpet Beetles).

Random carpet beetle larvae are fairly common in homes where they usually are feeding on pet hair, lint, and crumbs in dark, undisturbed and unvacuumed areas. If you had looked more closely you probably would have found the brown shed skins of carpet beetle larvae in the attic boxes.

INADEQUATE CLOTHING STORAGE INVITES PESTS

Old cardboard box. Shutterstock.

There are two problems with your winter clothes storage: (1) cardboard boxes are not insect-proof, and in fact, the corrugations provide nice hiding places. Adult beetles or moths could easily enter cardboard boxes to lay eggs on fabrics, and (2) it sounds like you may have packed your woolens away without cleaning them first. Clothes or blankets that are even lightly soiled with food spills, perspiration, urine, vomit, etc. are especially attractive to fabric pests since the stains provide extra nutrition (see Why Do Fabric Pests Prefer to Dine on Dirty Clothes?). Add in the fact that the boxes were stored in a dark, undisturbed area for an extended time and it’s not surprising to find insect damage.

SO, THE DAMAGE IS DONE

What you need to do now is discard any damaged clothes that aren’t salvageable. Don’t store them in your closet or dresser since they could contain tiny larvae or eggs that could infest other clothes. For the same reason, dispose of the cardboard boxes and any other packing material in a sealed plastic bag. Clothes that don’t appear damaged or that can be repaired should be professionally dry cleaned to kill all stages of carpet beetles or moths.

Give Colonial Pest a call and have one of our technicians inspect your attic and your closets and other clothes storage, too, for any further signs of fabric-infesting pests. Since carpet beetles can infest so many different types of items, the inspection may extend beyond clothing. You may need an insecticide treatment of the attic or other susceptible areas if carpet beetles are found.

PLAN AHEAD FOR FABRIC PEST PREVENTION

Proper storage is the most important step in preventing fabric pests from damaging stored clothes or other woolens. Always dry clean or wash items before placing them in storage (or when not worn for extended periods) and use a plastic storage container with a tight-fitting lid.

For more on carpet beetles and how to protect clothing from beetles or clothes moths, check these blogs:

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