Ask the Expert: Pseudoscorpions, Clothes Moths and Termites

|  June 25, 2015

Q. I’m emailing you a photo of a strange-looking creature. What is it, and what do I need to know about it?
FRANK I., ALABAMA

A. It’s a pseudoscorpion. It looks like a scorpion, but without the tail and the stinger. It’s harmless. It feeds on small insects and lives in dark, undisturbed places. Almost any labeled insecticide will kill it.

Q. An upscale residential client had a clothes moth problem. We believe we solved the problem last year. He just called again to say two new sweaters have holes in them. He spoke with the store that sold the sweaters, and they told him they’ve had several similar problems. They said their wool is from the underbelly of sheep and is much more attractive to clothes moths. I didn’t think clothes moths could survive on new, clean wool. Can they? We’ve placed monitors out, but haven’t captured anything.
JOANNE T., KANSAS

A. You’re correct. Young clothes moth larvae can’t survive on clean wool. However, once the larvae have molted several times, they can attack clean wool. If your customer’s sweater has holes, either he has an existing infestation, or the sweaters had holes when he purchased them. The store might have the problem. I’ve never heard that wool from the underbelly of sheep was more susceptible.

Continue to monitor and have your customer check any new wool products at the store. He might be bringing in the problem with new wool. Obviously, if the monitors collect moths, all wool needs to be inspected and discarded or dry-cleaned to resolve the problem. Because the larvae tend to remain on the infested wool, there’s little need for treatment, except for a space spray to knock down existing adults.

You also should inspect the damaged sweaters with a hand lens to see whether any silk exists. If no silk exists, the damage could be mechanical or caused by carpet beetles, whose larvae usually leave shed skins behind. Carpet beetle infestations require crack-and-crevice or spot treatments in the infested area, because the larvae tend to wander from the food source.

Q. An elderly family member in Florida told me a pest management professional said she had termites. Little particles are appearing near a baseboard. It sounds to me more like pavement ants. How can I be sure? Do Formosan termites produce the same type of pellets as drywoods? She was told they could spot treat to solve the problem. Is that true?
JOHN O., NEW YORK

A. First, you need your family member to send you some of the particles in an envelope. If it’s because of drywood termites, it will contain small, six-sided pellets. If there are no pellets, the problem is because of something else. Formosan termites don’t produce pellets. Their indicators are about the same as native subterraneans.

Drywood infestations can be controlled with spot treatments using borates or another termiticide registered for this use. Be sure the applicator has experience performing this work. 

Email your questions about insect identification and pest management technologies and techniques to Dr. Doug Mampe, an industry consultant, at dentomol@aol.com. Your questions most likely will be printed and answered in one of Pest Management Professional’s upcoming Ask the Expert columns.

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