Although clothes moths may be a pest you normally only worry about in conjunction with sweater storage, they can also attack musical instruments and cases. Horsehair bows, felt pads, silk cleaning cloths, leather straps, and other items made of natural fibers can fall victim to munching moth larvae.
In addition to clothes moths, natural fibers can be attacked by carpet beetles and — less frequently — by other household pests like cockroaches and silverfish. These pests often prefer to attack items that aren't used frequently, which is why you need to be extra careful when putting instruments into storage.
Here are three strategies you can implement to save your musical instruments from munching death by creepy crawlies.
1. Exclude Bugs
One way to prevent bug problems is to exclude them from your house by closing up any chinks and crannies that you can. Still, a moth can flutter in when you open a door or window, and beetles and bugs can even enter through air vents. So you'll want to put a layer of protection around the instruments themselves as well.
A thick, airtight ziploc bag — the giant kind used for storing clothing — can easily keep out insects, so if you're just storing student trombones over the summer, simply slipping a case inside of one of these can do the trick.
More valuable or sensitive instruments (such as those made of wood) might not fare well in plastic, however. This is especially true if they're going into long-term storage. Plastic prevents air circulation, which means it encourages condensation, and this can cause splitting and rot and other problems.
If you need a long-term solution to exclude bugs or protect wooden instruments or antiques, you may be able to modify your instrument's case to keep bugs out. This is often as easy as placing paper tape tightly over the zipper of a fabric case or over the seam of a hard-shell case.
You can also place your case inside another bug-proof container or bag. Look for a container made of tight-weave fabric, such as a large suitcase. It should be made of synthetic fabrics so bugs won't chew through it, and it should zip up tightly. Place paper tape over the zipper for extra security.
2. Repel Bugs
If your instrument already has an infestation, exclusion obviously won't work. If you currently have an infestation, you may need to replace pads and bow hair, clean the instrument thoroughly, and perhaps even treat the instrument with pesticides such as permethrin. You can even remove the old pads and bow hair and wait to replace them after the instrument comes out of storage.
Cedar essential oil can also kill some larvae — for example, it kills clothes moth larvae if they're exposed to enough of it soon after hatching — but you have to use a lot of it and keep it in a relatively airtight space so the odor won't dissipate immediately. Check with your instrument repair experts to see if cedar oil or permethrin might work for you.
3. Monitor Bugs With Traps
If you've had a problem with bow bugs or moths in the past, you can get pheromone traps that help you monitor for a recurrence of the infestation. You can also use non-pheromone sticky traps to monitor general levels of bug populations in the storage facility or closet you're planning to store the instrument in.
You probably won't want to buy pheromone traps for every possible insect that could ever infest your instruments, but if you're particularly worried about one or two possibilities, targeted pheromone traps can be a huge help.
These three strategies will help you reduce the chances of insect damage while your instruments are in storage. If you need help with avoiding or repairing insect damage, bring your musical instrument in to Musicians' Repair & Sales today.