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Don't let beetles get better of your sweaters
Extension advice
Richard Evans
Richard Evans is UGA Extension Service agent in Bryan County. - photo by File photo

It is really starting to warmup outside, and it seems like it is really time to finally put away the cold weather attire. If you are like me, you’re ready to put away your winter clothes.

Here are some pointers for storing clothes from Dr. Nancy Hinkle with the University of Georgia’s Department of Entomology:

It’s important to remember that woolen garments should be cleaned (washed or dry-cleaned) before summer storage. Why? Most of us have experienced that sensation of pulling out our winter clothes when the weather turns cold in the fall, only to find one of our favorite sweaters with tiny holes.

Historically, clothes moths have been blamed for the holes found in woolen clothes. But the vast majority of this damage is produced by carpet beetle larvae.

Every house has carpet beetles in it. The larvae feed on hair (mine and my pets’), dead insect carcasses (overwintering lady beetles behind the bookcase that died and I never vacuumed up), the carcass of that mouse that died behind the cabinets and wool – even woolen carpets (from which they get the name carpet beetles).

Less than an eighth-inch long, carpet beetles are one of the few insects that can digest keratin, the material composing hair, wool, fur and feathers.

Carpet beetle larvae thrive on stained cloth, fabric soiled by sweat, spilled food, soil and other materials. Cleaning the garment removes these stains, as well as carpet beetle eggs that might hatch in storage.

If woolens are not stored in airtight containers, there is a good chance that carpet beetles will get to them and damage them before next fall.

No, cedar will not repel carpet beetles. No, moth balls will not protect clothes from carpet beetles. No, essential oils will not protect clothing from carpet beetles (and vapors will stain clothing). No, treating clothing with insecticides will not keep carpet beetles away (not to mention it’s illegal and hazardous to health).

The only way to protect my woolens from carpet beetles is to clean them thoroughly, either by washing or having them dry-cleaned, and then store them in airtight containers.

So you can imagine how I spent my weekend. I went to the store and purchased several airtight plastic storage containers, picked up my dry-cleaning and packed it away for the summer. The washable items have been washed, dried and put away.

Now my favorite woolens are safe until I pull them out and put them on this fall.

If you have any questions about insect invaders in your home or yard, contact Bryan County Extension at 912-653-2231 or

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