It's not usually a favorite topic of conversation, but conservators can always bend your ear about bugs. As spring approaches, dormant eggs hatch, larvae grow and then pupate, and mature adults emerge days or weeks later capable of mating and creating more eggs. And this is when some of our most important work is done.
The most common insect pest that causes damage to cellulosic textile fibers is the silverfish. Resembling a ½-inch-long shark, silverfish are attracted to starch found in food, building materials, paper, and textiles, as well as mold or fungi. They are often found in damp places, such as bathroom linen closets, and are mostly nocturnal.
The two most common moths that infest household and museum collections are the webbing clothes moth and casemaking clothes moth. Both are frequent pests on wool and silk clothing, carpets, tapestries, upholstery, and craft supplies. Webbing clothes moths grow up to ⅜-inch long and are pale tan in color. They tend to avoid light, however they can be seen
flying around, especially in spring and summer.
Despite their similarities, webbing clothes moths and casemaking clothes moths have key differences. The larvae of the webbing clothes moth will eat for 68–87 days, however the casemaking clothes moth larvae can survive as long as 2.5 years before pupating. The adult case-making clothes moth lives a mere 4–6 days, but the webbing clothes moth has up to one month to mate and lay eggs before dying.
For a more detailed discussion of insect pests that affect textiles, download the latest MTS Handout, Identifying and Mitigating Insect Infestations, from our website.