When it's time to put furniture into storage, most of us will at least do the bare minimum to make sure the storage space is safe, checking for mould, damp, gaps in security and so on. However, when it comes to soft furnishings, one of the most clear and present dangers to the safety and condition of your stored furniture is the humble moth.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not the adult, flying moth that likes to chew holes in your fabrics -- instead, they prefer to lay their eggs within the warm, safe folds of fabric, which provide shelter for the eggs and food for the moth larvae that emerge from them. As such, preventing moth infestations within your soft furnishings means removing larvae before putting it into furniture storage.
How to recognise moth larvae?
Australia's diverse ecosystem harbours hundreds of moth species, some of which are quite rare and endangered, so it's important not to go on a moth-killing rampage. You are hunting for two specific species of moth larvae:
- Webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) - The larvae of this species are usually cream-coloured with a dark brown head, and grow to less than a centimetre long. Their most distinctive feature, however, is the small mats of silk or 'webbing' they create to hide under while feeding -- these webs are generally left behind when the larvae moves on, leaving a tell-tale trail to follow.
- Case-bearing clothes moths (Tinea pellionella) - The larvae of this species look very similar to webbing clothes moth larvae, but can easily be distinguished by the eponymous 'case' they carry around. This snug package of silk, fabric fibres and detritus is used as a mobile shelter by the larva. In some cases, this makes the larva easier to spot, but if the case is constructed from fibres taken from the furniture it lives on, it can take on the same colour as the furniture, providing very effective camouflage.
How can moth larvae be removed from furniture?
Once you know what to look for, removing moth larvae from your furniture can be achieved in a number of ways:
- Suffocation - If your soft furnishings are small enough to be wrapped airtight, suffocation is a simple, easy way to kill moth larvae. The simplest method is to wrap the furniture in bin bags or other plastic material, and wait for the air supply within to become exhausted (this shouldn't take more than a week). If you'd prefer the process to be speedier, you can call in pest control professionals to quickly suffocate larvae with carbon dioxide. Dead larvae can be removed by vacuuming.
- Chemical sprays - Setting down traps and moth balls can work on adult moths, but when tackling largely-immobile larvae you'll have to take the fight to them. A number of insecticides are tailored towards eliminating moth larvae infestations (avoid formulations containing naphthalene, a potent toxin and carcinogen), and should be applied as thoroughly as possible to eliminate well-hidden larvae.
- Diatomaceous earth - This organic powder consists of microscopic fossils, and can be a remarkably effective larvae exterminator when applied thoroughly to your furniture. The tiny, jagged shards of earth cause catastrophic damage to the exoskeletons of passing larvae, causing them to rapidly dehydrate and dry. Diatomaceous earth is an excellent option for those looking for chemical-free alternatives, but can be very messy to clean up afterwards.