Hairs Falling Out of Your Trophy Mounts?
By Chris Williams on January 1, 2016.
My husband is an avid hunter who has several mounted trophy heads in his “man cave.” We noticed hairs falling out of a couple of them and on closer examination found some whitish worms and strange debris down in the hairs. Our county extension agent had them identified and said they were clothes moths! Can that be right? How do we get rid of them?C.K., Dunbarton, NH
That’s not the most common place to find clothes moths, obviously, but it’s not that uncommon either. It’s the clothes moth larval stage that does the feeding damage but these small (up to 1/2 inch long) caterpillars are rarely seen since they spin silken tubes in which they hide. The “strange debris” that you see is likely a combination of larval tubes, pellet-shaped feces, and silken webbing.
Clothes Moths or Carpet Beetles, or Both?
It’s also possible that the clothes moths are a secondary infestation and that most of the damage you are seeing is due to dermestid (carpet) beetles. When an item is badly damaged, we often find both pests. The damage from the moths and the beetles may look similar but clothes moths tend to clip hairs off at the base while carpet beetles mostly clip hairs at the tip, leaving the base intact. There may be bald spots visible. If carpet beetles are present, you should find the shed skins of the larval stages down in the hairs as well. The presence of the larval stage itself is the best way to identify the pest (see How to Identify Pests That Damage Fabrics).
Can These Trophies Be Saved?
The degree of infestation and the value (emotional and monetary) of the mounts determines what can be done. Sometimes the mounts can be removed and fumigated in a chamber. This will kill any pests present but will not protect the mounts from reinfestation if moths or beetles remain in your home. For valuable mounts, you might want to get the opinion of a taxidermist. There are specialty mothproofing insecticides that can be applied directly to the mount. Unfortunately for some heavily infested or damaged mounts, the expense of treatment and restoration may not be worth it.
Treatment of the mounts should be supplemented by applying an insecticide to cracks and crevices in your husband’s man cave to kill any hiding moths or carpet beetles. There is also a very real concern that the pests could have infested other woolen or animal-based items in your home (see Clothes Moths Aren’t Found Only in Clothes), and other areas may need to be treated as well. A complete inspection by a professional exterminator can answer that question. There are also pheromone traps available to monitor for the pests’ presence in the future. Give Colonial Pest a call today. We can help!