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Clothes moths and carpet beetles can be major pests in the hotter, wetter parts of Australia. It is in the larval stage of the life cycle of the moths and beetles that they cause damage in a short time to clothes and carpets.

The life cycle of the moths (egg---larva---pupa---moth) can last from 80 to 240 days and three-quarters of this time is spent as larvae. For carpet beetles, the cycle is from 320 to 360 days and again three-quarters of this is spent in the feeding, larval stage.

Naphthalene and camphor have traditionally been used as a moth repellent. It is an aromatic compound and, as such, its use is not recommended because of its cumulative toxicity.

Many woollen textiles and nearly all carpets are 'permanently' mothproofed by the manufacturers; this enables carpets to be guaranteed for ten years. The proofing is usually applied to the wool in the dye-bath, and mostly consists of long-lasting pyrethroids. In the past organochlorines were more commonly used and hence may still be present in carpets currently in use.

If carpets are infested, the first sign is often that the pile becomes loose, and closer inspection, particularly of dark areas under furniture, will reveal insect droppings, cocoons and cast skins. The carpet can then be treated locally by spraying or dusting on an insecticide. Avoid products containing organophosphates because of their toxic effects on humans.

Health effects
Allergy-prone people may react adversely to any of the mothproofing agents, but the pyrethroids are acceptable to most people. Dichlorvos (an organophosphate) should be avoided because of its toxic effects.

Environmental effects
Effluent from factories where mothproofing is carried out can pollute oceans and rivers and is toxic to fish. The same applies to the wastes discharged, often into the gutter or stormwater drain, by companies cleaning carpets in homes and offices.

Alternatives
Garments can be freed of insects by washing in hot water (50o to 60oC) or by dry-cleaning. If they are to be stored, this should be done before they are put into airtight bags. Furs can be protected by putting them into an air-tight bag with a pest strip.

Carpets can be kept free of moths and beetles by regular and thorough vacuum cleaning, particularly under furniture and along the skirting board. However, it seems that it is not possible to get woollen carpets without mothproofing agents since the agents are already included in the dyed wool.

Acrylic, nylon and other synthetic carpets and clothes are completely mothproof.

 
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