Where did these blighters come from all of a sudden – I don’t remember them as a child, featuring only occasionally in bedtime stories that had old ladies who smelled of mothballs – in fact they never impinged on my consciousness until about six years ago; and why do they only like expensive jumpers and new carpets?
Wherever they came from, we didn’t realise we had a huge clothes moth problem until, all of a sudden, one early summer evening the house seemed full of them – only we didn’t know what these tiny narrow brown fluttering things were, in that we didn’t realise they hadn’t come through open windows, attracted by the lights. It was a long time before I extracted a blanket from the back of a cupboard and unfolded it to find a hole that could have been made by shotgun at close quarters. Some months later, Hoovering where I had moved a piece of furniture, several square inches of wool carpet pile pulled away from the backing and shot up the vacuum cleaner.
Over the years we tried various things recommended in places offering remedies for household problems: vacuumed inaccessible bits of carpet, washed all the jumpers several times a year (until I realised that as it is heat that kills moth eggs and as you can’t wash a wool sweater in hot water, it was more logical and less effort to put them dry into the tumble drier on hot), smeared cedar and citronella oils on the insides of clothes drawers and on the drawer underneaths (to keep moths away from the clothes in the drawer below). Pheromone moth traps were purchased from Historyonics twice a year and placed under beds and beneath wardrobes that caught unfeasible numbers on the sticky cardboard – but still everything got chewed by the progeny of the ones that had ignored the sticky traps. True, the Historyonics web site does point out that the traps are designed to indicate where the problem is, but as that appeared to be all over the damn house, it didn’t help much! Every evening the house rang to the sounds of hands clapping and sighs of exasperation yet another one got away, or thuds as something very large was thrown at a very small target on the wall.
Finally, we seem to have cracked it. This summer we bought insect-killing smoke-bombs. These are in little tins the size of a 35mm film canister. Close all the windows, take the batteries out of the smoke alarms, check the cat is outside and the cat-flap locked (they kill all insects and are not at all good for cats or fish). Open the wardrobe and cupboard doors, take the drawers out and put them on the beds, make sure no overhanging throws or duvets will impede smoke from getting under the beds.
Unscrew the lids and stand the canisters on the lids to prevent the hot tin burning what it is standing on. Light the blue touch paper inside and smoke plumes out for a minute or so. Set off one or two per room, another in the loft, a couple at either ends of the stairs, shut the doors and go out for a few hours. Come back and the house smells of fireworks and mosquito coils until all the windows have been open for an hour or two, and it is all over. That night, not a moth to be seen. It is almost eyrie.
Anything that was flying around will be lying on its back. Most of the eggs and grubs will also be caught, but if things are really bad some just-laid eggs may have survived, requiring the same again in a few weeks. Having said that, these survivors will be very few in number compared to the original problem, and if any appear again I doubt that any would survive after a third fumigation.
Fortefog P insect killer mini fumers, for dealing with clothes moths, bed bugs, fleas, ants, cluster flies (according to the blurb). £9.61 each from Hygiene Supplies Direct, 0800 091 3171, http://www.hygienesuppliesdirect.com/th/moths
(If this seems expensive, these are the professional size smoke bombs, more than twice the size of those sold for smaller rooms. To do our three storey, four-bedroom house costs far less than one John Smedley jumper…)
Post script I
A year after writing the above and we waited with baited breath to see if any would appear the following spring. However, in about March we put all the jumpers in the tumble drier (on hot; jumpers were dry) to kill any eggs, i.e. before they had chance to become grubs that would chew holes.
In May a very few moths appeared, though not in the bedrooms. We fumigated the house. A few weeks later, a few more appeared in a bathroom of all places. The penny dropped – a small loft space is above. We had put smoke bombs in there on each occasion, but it was packed with clothes in boxes and carpet off-cuts. We didn’t want to turf everything out and effectively shake moths throughout the house. We fumigated it again and hundreds of dead moths fell through the light fittings set into the bathroom ceiling. Martin emptied the loft and we found the source: several ancient wool rugs in the farthest corner, rolled so tightly that moths had survived in the centre. We sealed them in bin bags before moving them out of the loft. I am in the process of going through the boxes of children’s clothes that are waiting to be grown into, putting the contents into the tumble drier. Only one live one so far, but the tumble drier should see to any eggs.
Post script II
We have only seen the odd single moth in the year or so since. There is one corner of living room carpet, under a cupboard, where they have been hardest to shift. We bought an aerosol spray of stuff that will kill anything with more legs than you and treated the local area, which seems to have worked.