Moths

This is one of those stories where you can hopefully learn from my mistakes. I was in the craft room a couple of weeks ago – looking for a spinning project to take on a little retreat weekend I have coming up. My craft room was the messy sort of organized. And honestly it’s seen a bit of neglect over the last year. But I always had a basket or two out in the open, displaying the pretty fiber. I picked up one long neglected project and unthinking, turned it over.

moths 1

Hint: cocoons in your fiber are never a good sign. (I mean, unless it’s a collection of silk worm cocoons. I guess there’s an exception to every rule.)

Lesson #1: never EVER leave your fiber untossed and unsealed for a long time. This project had been hibernating for year. I go through and toss the stash (checking it for bugs) at least once per year. But I hadn’t flipped this little pile of wool over in much longer than that. Turns out that spraying cedar oil only goes so far…

Unfortunately a lot of my craft room had this problem. Because I’d “never had moths before” so I wasn’t worried.

moths 2

And of course it’s the pretty, pretty handspun that was all the most exposed. That basket also held a couple of cocoons at the bottom. Luckily not all my stash was in trouble. I keep my sock yarn in this pretty hat box, with cedar balls at the bottom. And this yarn all checked out ok:

moths 5

And none of my design yarn was hit. Which is a bit of a shock, since I kept my “inspiration” skeins, um, like this:

moths 4

Lesson 2: laundry baskets just give the moths plenty of access on all sides. I think this basket was only saved from damage because I have a regular habit of flipping it over and sorting through it.
Lesson 3: Moths hate turnover.

Any designs I’m not wearing regularly are stored away carefully. I have a large collection of rubbermaid bins, and I’ve been adding to my freezer bag collection recently. Because these open topped bags?

moths 3

They’re all gone. I think it was just luck that none of their contents were damaged.

Most of my personal stash lives in this lovely old chest.

moths 6

I wish the chest were cedar, but it’s not. Instead I have a variety of cedar satchets, boards, and balls scattered throughout. I went through the whole chest. It looked fine, I was congratulating myself on no damage. When I found this:

moths 7

No cocoons, no moths, no eggs that I could see. Just one, ONE skein with a little nibble taken out of it. Seems unlikely that it could be the sum total of the damage. So I bagged up ALL that yarn as well.

Lesson 4: when you have moth damage. Nip it in the bud.
All yarn with obvious damage, and any yarn with exposure (such as Every. Single. Skein. in the chest with that one nibbled skein) ALL that yarn went into plastic bags. I bagged stuff that was stored together in giant freezer bags and grocery bags. But I didn’t cross between storage areas (no point in creating more exposure – even briefly)

Um. I have 4 kitchen trashbags of exposed yarn.

Luckily none of my finished garments showed damage. No yarn stored in other rooms of the house was harmed. My kilt, Neil’s pea coat, the wool couch blanket in the living room: all ok. So it could have been worse.

Also, since I’m counting my blessings, it’s COLD outside.

Lesson 5: Freeze the little buggers to death.
Moths and larvae die below freezing, but you have to freeze for 2 weeks. Then you let everything thaw for a couple of days – so any potential eggs can hatch (eggs are hardy.) Then you freeze again! It hasn’t been above freezing on my porch yet this month – so I’m almost done with this freeze thaw cycle and I haven’t had to plug in an extra chest freezer yet!

Luckily the majority of my spinning stash is perfectly safe. Why is that?

moths 8

Because apparently I’m much better about storing it… When the yarn all comes back inside I’m going to have a zipper-baggy party. Then my yarn stash will look like this too!

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8 responses to “Moths

  1. I’ve encountered moths a few times, enough so that I’ve done research and an article for my guild http://chchweavespin.blogspot.co.nz/2014/05/the-dreaded-moth.html
    Btw, zip loc bags are not sufficient, they will chew their way through. The good thing is that the holes they make are fairly distinctive so you can tell if something’s had a go or not.

    • This is an excellent write up, and you’ve gone into way more detail than I did on the actual process of cleaning.

      I do have a quick note on freezing the fiber to kill moths. I’ve got a biology friend who knows a lot about moths and she told me that you need to freeze for TWO weeks unless you can keep the temperature below -20C the whole time. If your deep freezer goes to -20C then yes, one week will be fine.

      So that’s 2 weeks below 0C (32F) or one week below -20C (-4F). Then warm the fiber up for 4 days just like you said. Then back to the freezer.

      I suspect that going through the freeze thaw cycle 3 times instead of just two would easily make up for any problems with not getting cold enough :-)

      Around here some of our really old farm houses are insulated with wool fiber between the walls. I’ve got a friend who’s whole house has clothes moths. She just has to do her best to protect her stash and she accepts a certain amount of loss as inevitable.

      On Tue, Feb 24, 2015 at 10:59 PM, Ramblings wrote:

      >

      • Thank you, I’m not sure what temperature my deep freeze goes down to, but it is a proper chest freezer and not the one on top of the fridge. I haven’t had any recurrence in any of the fibre I’ve frozen though so it seems to work. I’m in the habit of checking the stash fairly regularly too; that helps.

  2. Also be on the lookout for carpet beetles – they tend to make single, clean holes – the pic of the skein looks like a carpet beetle munch! Look for their dead bodies on windowsills, or other tiny shed beetle parts at the bottoms of containers, etc.

    This info is from California, but still applicable – the black carpet beetles are quite common in the Northeast:
    http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7436.html

    Good luck!!!

    • Interesting! I knew there were beetles that ate fiber as well, but I didn’t see any signs of them when I cleaned out my craft room. And I cleaned it very thoroughly…

      The good news is that the freeze/thaw cycle is going to kill any insects, so hopefully I’m safe either way.

      On Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 9:25 AM, Ramblings wrote:

      >

  3. Oh No!!! Good thing we’ve had such a cold winter this year! Good luck on the thaw out~

    • Right? This is the one good thing I can think of to that 40+ day stretch of below freezing weather…

      On Thu, Feb 26, 2015 at 1:02 PM, Ramblings wrote:

      >

  4. Thank goodness you caught it! I’d be panicked if I found moth damage anywhere near my yarn/fiber. Though keeping it out on open shelves probably isn’t the best storage method, I actually go through it regularly when I pull yarn for a new project, but I should invest in bins of some kind.

    I can’t decide which is worse. Months or cat urine (I’ve had the latter not the former), both seem equally bad for different reasons.

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