Bow Bugs, Eww!

What are Bow Bugs?

“Bow Bugs” are carpet beetles that find their way into your case. They prefer this dark and undisturbed location where things like the hair of your bow are stored for long periods of time. Like butterfly, the carpet beetle has a complete metamorphosis, with the same life-cycle of egg, larva, pupa, and adult; and it is at the larva stage that these beetles attack your bow hair. You can see one on the move on facebook, which was posted and shared by Christopher R Burndrett.

Identifying Bow Bugs

If you find several broken hairs in your case, it is likely the sign of these carpet beetle larva. A closer examination with slight magnification at the ends of the hairs will be frayed appear to be chewed on.

Getting Rid of Bow Bugs

Avoid bug repellent as we definitely want to keep these products away from our instruments and bows. Additionally, insecticide sprays tend to not work anyway since the bugs are within areas of the case where the spray cannot reach. Always consult your local shop before attempting the following on your own. Cases can be disinfested utilizing the following steps:

  1. Vacuum the case thoroughly using attachments to get in the corners and crevices of your case
  2. Place your open case, without your instrument and bow, in direct sunlight for a day or two*
  3. Expose your case to plenty of ventilation
  4. If the infestation still persists, seal your case in a plastic bag** and place it in a freezer for 72 hours
  5. Vacuum one last time to remove any of the deceased larva.

* Be sure to not let the case get too hot as a wood or veneered case can warp or the case cover can shrink.
**This prevents ice from forming on your case during chilling and condensation after removal. After freezing, the case should be allowed to return to room temperature before handling and being unwrapped.

Only get your bow rehaired after you’ve eliminated the bow bugs.

Bow Bug Prevention

Bow bugs tend to stay away with regular practice as the open case is exposed to light and air circulation. So yeah, practice more! If you need to store your instrument, bow, and case for a prolonged period of time, check with your local luthier for some additional advice.

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