Bugs in materials

Discussion in 'Fly Tying' started by Dave Evans, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. Funny how I seem to post here when starting a new project. Yesterday it was how do you store your thread. Well, while continuing to organize my materials I found a cape invested with bugs. I had all of my materials hanging on peg board so kind of worried about it spreading. From what I have read I should move my feathers to containers with (moth ball crystals, cloves, cedar chips, pick one or more). I put the infested cape in the freezer, then in a sealed jar with moth crystals. So today's questions are how do you store your feathers and what do you put in with them to deter bugs, and how do you get rid of infestations? Boy, a small project turned into a nightmare, but hopefully it will not spread.
  2. I use the cut ends from flea collars for my cat. The moth balls cause the material to stink and I'm not so sure fish like the smell. Flea collars are basically insecticide and fer-sure, bugs don't like that. Since I started using the bits of flea collar, I have no problems with bugs in my materials.
  3. Thanks Gene, appreciate the advice, do you store all of your feathers and fur in containers? All of mine was hanging on the wall (two walls actually) so was going to move anything attached to a skin into containers, but was wondering about free feathers like schlappen, pheasant feathers, etc.
  4. Good idea Gene! I like it as I hate the smell of moth balls and I think it affects my breathing in a negative way.
  5. I haven't had bug/moth issues since I containerized my stuff years ago, but I like the "flea collar" idea in the event that my 5+ decade collection is ever attacked. 'Course then again, a guy could always just keep a Gecko in the tying room in order to remain politically-correct & "green" . . .
    Jamie Wilson likes this.
  6. Dave, most of my fur and feathers (complete necks and saddles) are stored in my tying desk drawers (this is where bugs would have the best access but the flea collar bit works). Packaged marabou and saddle hackles are stored in stackable containers.
  7. You can kill bugs one of two ways; freezer or microwave.

    When you put them in the freezer, keep them there for a week or two, take them out of the freezer for a few more days, and then put them back in for another week. This 'cycle' first kills what is living and then ensures that you catch any further activity that happens after the defrosting.

    The microwave will also kill bugs but may be more damaging to the feathers. Trick is to nuke it enough to kill things but not damage the material. About 30 secs is a good starting point.

    The other key is to keep your material quarantined. I don't have any "wild" items or those bought from a unknown supplier anywhere near my good material. Just because you don't see damage or living bugs doesn't mean you don't have eggs.

    Also, keep things individually sealed. Pretty much everything I have is in its own ziploc and then in its own storage container. Items left out in air, without barriers is a prime environment for a infestation.

    Lastly, deterrants. Like Gene mentioned, something that provides a vapor. Lavendar, cedar, mint, cloves, etc. I used to use moth crystals in some of the containers that I keep material in when I was just starting out and didn't have that much. The material doesn't smell because it is in their own ziplocks. Now that I have a room full of containers, I'll be going the cedar route. Tried lavendar but it gave me a headache and smelled like old lady.
  8. Eat them. Free protein. Then store all the materials in sealed containers.
  9. My wife would take exception to me putting hair and feathers in the freezer and using the microwave for killing bugs is out of the question.

    She's odd that way.
    Old406Kid and Kcahill like this.
  10. Thanks everyone. Spent the day moving stuff into containers. First stop was Joann's web site to get on their list and the discount coupons, then off to Joann's. Everything now is sealed in its own bag with a few cloves in it. Put that in larger containers. Ended up using 10 big containers. Put a layer of cedar chips on the bottom of the large container, then added a packet of moth crystals and about 1/3 of a flea collar. I also put the infested cape in sealed glass jar with some moth crystals and put that in the freezer for a while. We have a -40 freezer and work so I will transfer to that in the morning.
  11. I store my materials in inexpensive, clear plastic shoe boxes in a cheap, upright, particle-board cabinet. Its four shelves hold twenty-four stacked shoe boxes. I label the boxes generically (necks/capes, dubbing, strung hackles, etc.) and add a few moth balls where appropriate.
  12. Dave, sounds like you have it covered! If that doesn't keep the critters out of your pieces of animal parts I don't know what will. :D
  13. If you continue to have bug infestation after following the recommendations above the final solution is to use Hot Shot No-Pest Strips. You can find them at home depot and other hardware/garden stores. The strips contain 2,2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate also known as Dichlorvos, DDVP, Vapona. This chemical is also found in some flea collars. Read the active ingredients on the label. This stuff is harmful to humans, pets and just about anything that walks, crawls, swims or flys. The EPA has tried to ban it a number of times and will probably succeed eventually. The best they have been able to do is to change the package label so as not to recommend using it in a continuously inhabited home.

    The best way I have found to use it is to put infested materials in a large Rubbermaid bin and hang a small piece of pest strip under the lid. The bin goes in the garage and the lid stays on for about a month or two to insure the egg cycle is complete. The bins I use are the largest I could find. About 50 gallons or more. I would not use this stuff inside my home and would never expose my cat or dog to it. The strips are generally sold inside of a ventilated plastic container to prevent the user from touching it. Using a whole strip in a Rubbermaid bin is extreme overkill so I cut open the plastic cage and cut the strip into pieces about 1 1/2" square and use one per bin. Use gloves when you do this to avoid contact and do it quickly to avoid the vapors as much as possible. If you touch it you will feel your skin tingle. If you then touch another part of your body with more delicate skin (face, etc) it will tingle. Once the quarantine is complete I take the treated materials out and put them somewhere outside protected from rain and let them air out for a few days before bringing them inside. You can store the unused portion of the strip by wrapping it in many layers of aluminum foil. They will store for quite a long time if you keep them well sealed.

    Our home is full of wool in all stages of processing from raw to finished knitwear. It is a bug magnet. The bugs that infest wool are the same bugs that can infest feathers and fur. Moths, mites and beetles. We keep a constant vigil and treat as needed.

    If it sounds like I am afraid of this stuff, I am. I treat it with a great deal of respect as a serious health risk and regard it as the final solution.

    Dave Evans likes this.
  14. Geezus, Tim, I think I'd wear a hazmat suit if I planned to use that Hot-Spot No-Pest stuff. :eek:
  15. Tim, Thanks for the nuclear option! I had a hard enough time getting the flea collars in the house. We almost lost our young lab last year because of an allergy to tick meds, so I don't think the hot shot option is going to fly with the boss. But it does sound very effective! Dave
  16. Dave -
    I'm sure all of the above advice is good, but overkill for the most part (sorry, Tim, I'm sure your feathers are now VERY clean of bugs). I think you will be fine if you use freezing as your only bugicide. Virtually all natural history museums now use freezing only for bugs, and museums get just about every kind of critter in, with various birds, mammals, herps, plants, etc. No need to use naphthalene or any other harsh insecticides.

    Keeping them out once the feathers are clean is the critical step. I store every skin or piece of fur in its own ziplock bag and these are stored in plastic bins with snug fitting lids. I keep some silica gel desiccant in the bottom of the bins to keep the humidity down (be sure to re-dry your silica gel in an oven or microwave every so often), which is good for the skins and also a bit of a deterrent to bugs or mold.

  17. Yes, You are right Dick. Freezing and thoughtful storage is a good first line of defence and will take care of most bug problems. That is why I offered my solution as a final solution to be used if other techniques failed.

    I had a nagging bug problem in one of my fly boxes (my lake box) for a few years running. I had put it in our chest freezer repeatedly for a few months at a time during the winter. Still I had visible bug eggs and deteriorating flies. Particularly some of the natural fur dubbed bodies. Some bug eggs can survive extended freezing. Some even require it to hatch. What to do?

    My regimen comes from a friend I consulted about the problem who had spent a considerable part of her career as an independent textile conservator and restorationist being hired by museums, private collectors and a few governments of Middle Eastern countries were ancient textiles are an important part of their national heritage. Her advise for ongoing infestation that freezing did not cure was to go straight for the nuclear option before it spread. It made sense to me and it certainly worked.

  18. Freezing is not an option for me. The spouse type unit forbids bits and pieces of feathers and fur in the freezer. She claims it contaminates her ice cream.
  19. Adam's Flea and Tick spray from a pet store.

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