Entomology (Study of Bugs)/Moths?

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Question
We recently moved to a new apartment. We have installed new wardrobes which are regularly cleaned. My wives cashmere cardigans are stored in the wardrobes, some in plastic boxes. Many of these cardigans have developed small holes. Never more than two holes per item, always in the same place, at the midriff. We have used all manner of moth traps and have had the bedroom fumigated. We have washed them and stored in the freezer.This has not solved the problem. We have never seen any evidence of moths or larvae but everyone tells us the problem is moths. We are becoming desperate. Can you advise please?

Answer
Dear Colin - When you say "new apartment," I presume that you mean new to you, and not newly constructed. If that is so, there might be a pre-existing carpet beetle (Coleoptera: Dermestidae) infestation. Not only can these beetles survive for extended periods of time without feeding, they are not particularly fussy eaters, and can get along quite well on the bits of organic material (such as dead insects) that can accumulate in cracks and crevices in a building. If your problem is caused by carpet beetles, treatment either with cold or heat may work. However, unless you have a true deep freezer (capable of maintaining -20 F (-29 C), the exposure time required for a complete kill may be quite lengthy (at least a fortnight). Exposure to temps of 130 F (55 C) for at least an hour also should result in a complete kill, but care must be taken to ensure that the fabric(s) are not of a type adversely affected by such temperatures. In either case, the items to be treated should be placed in sealable plastic bags with as much air as possible squeezed out. For more details, see http://tinyurl.com/k6rmsh4
  Finally, I suggest thoroughly vacuuming the premises on a routine basis, as this may pick up any strays. The adult beetles are quite small, and may easily be overlooked unless they happen to be on a windowsill or the like.

Hope this helps,
Saugy

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad

Expertise

Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.

Experience

21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Organizations
Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

Publications
American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

Education/Credentials
B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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