Some might think that the chief enemy of a spinner, knitter, dyer, or weaver, is the family members who keep saying “do you really need that?” Or who protest that two Rubbermaid’s of yarn is more than enough. In reality, wool has a far more insidious enemy. This enemy lurks in the shadows, striking at the exotic and expensive in your stash. Whether it’s tastier than regular wool, easier to digest, or just because it is frustrating, we will never understand. This main enemy of wool is, as you might have guessed, the dreaded wool moth.
If you have had wool around, whether for knitting, spinning, weaving, or in clothing, for any length of time you have probably encountered the plague of all wools, the wool moth. This pesky insect is alike a plague to skeins, roving, raw wool, and even sometimes suit jackets. However, a wool moth’s favorite snack is exotic fiber angora, mohair, llama, and alpaca are among its favorites. An angora, or llama, skein can be completely demolished while the wool next to it is peacefully untouched. Sometimes moths will even go after feathers, to the exclusion of wools.
If you suspect a moth infestation, check your exotic wools first. If these are not infected, check furs or wool/exotic garments that you wear, or wore and then put into summer storage. Moths will infest exotics, and wool or exotic clothing that has been worn but not washed, first.
Three Lines of Moth Defences:
In any campaign, whether wool related or not, there are always first lines of defence that will help prevent the “enemy” (okay, the moths) from gaining a hold on your wool stash. While these steps can help prevent moths getting in, they will not help if the moths, or their depredations, have already been noticed.
Understanding The Enemy:
Wool moths look very similar to grain moths, so if you have lots of tiny moths hanging around, but not in the wool, it could be grain moths instead. Wool moths are also not attracted to light, so they will fly around the middle of a room and not head toward the lights on the ceiling or side tables. If your little moths are attracted to light, they are probably not wool moths (but it’s worth checking the wool anyway).
As mentioned, moths love exotic wools and the finer the better in their minds. I have had a small amount of llama, needle felted into a bear, munched by a moth while the rest of the bear’s wool was completely untouched. In the same line, I’ve had one strand of angora, in a skein, munched on while the silk strand next to it was untouched. Wool moths will sample merino before other wool breeds too.
Front-line Wool Moth Defence One:
Keep all wool clean. Moths are attracted to dirty wool, so wash fresh fleece as soon as possible, and store store-bought wools separate from hand-spun wools. Store wools usually have an anti-moth treatment, which your fresh fleece and hand-spun wools largely won’t. Washing all fleece and hand-spun will make it less likely to attract moths.
If you purchase woolen garments from thrift-stores and other second-hand clothing stores, make sure to wash them as well (if you can). The cleaner the garments are, the less likely they will be invaded by moths.
If you get wool from any non-new source, make sure to check for wool moths before adding it to your stash.
Front-Line Wool Moth Defence Two:
Add an anti-moth essential oil to all wool washing endeavours. Some anti-moth oils are Lavender, rose, and cedar. Adding a few drops of these oils to the rinse water after washing woolen clothing, before summer storage for example, will help it repel moths when in storage.
When protecting against wool-moths remember that an ounce or two of prevention, is well worth the pound or six of wool that would be lost to cure an infestation.
Mid-Line Wool Moth Defence One:
Even if all the wool is clean and fresh, wool moths can still penetrate into your stash confines. The addition of sachets filled with moth repelling herbs can increase the likelihood of your stash escaping a moth infestation. Sachets can be made with single herbs, or a blend of herbs. My personal favorites are lavender, cedar wood shavings, and just a hint of mint or pennyroyal. Cedar is especially effective at deterring moths, so if you happen to have a cedar lined chest hanging around it might be good to store some of your rarer fibers.
Mid-Line Wool Moth Defence Two:
You’ve been given a bag of wool, and a few grains of something sandy in the bottom catch your eye. What are these sandy grains? Not sand, they are a sign of wool moths, likely eggs. If there are no cocoons, you are fairly safe if you act quick. Change the bag or container the wool is in to a clean one, if it is a skein of yarn, or finished garment or garment part, give it a good wash. If it is roving, loose fiber, or something you don’t want to shrink yet, put it in a clean back and pop it into the freezer for a week. You may want to pop garments, even after washing, into the freezer for a few days as well. The freeze kills the moth eggs, and prevents them from hatching.
Note: It is the wool moth larva that does the nasty nibbling. The wool moths once hatched don’t munch on wool. So, if you can prevent the second generation of moths from showing up, your wool should be fairly safe.
The Last Line of Wool Moth Defence:
If all else fails, or you have the right resources, there is one final line of moth defence that will leave none alive and preserve your stash. That line is using an anti-moth poison. Usually found in hardware stores, this little hang-up poison effectively kills moths and a few other insect critters. However, it only works if you can close your stash up with it for a week or more. So, provided your stash is in a non-inhabited room, with a door, this method will work.
What you do is, first, buy the moth poison. Second gather all your wool stash, whether suspected of moths or not, into one closable room. Once all the wool is in there, take the moth poison out of the packaging and hang it up, then leave and close the door. One of the moth poison packets will prevent moths from showing up for at least six months, as long as the wool is kept in the room with the opened packet.
So, if you have a room or really large bin where you can store all unneeded wool, this method will be the most effective at deterring the marauders.
Note: It is safe for you to enter the room. However I have found that a headache starts if I remain in the room with the packet longer than 5-10 minutes. So I would not recommend having the moth poison in a location where people are actively living, keeping it contained and enclosed will also improve the efficiency of the packet.
Back To You:
What encounters have you had with wool moths? What means do you take to protect your valuable wool and other natural fibers from moth attacks?
Leave a comment, I enjoy hearing from you!