FURNITURE Destruction by Insects

The vogue during the last few years for furniture upholstered with mohair has placed in thousands of homes throughout the country favorable breeding places for a group of com- mon household pests. Although this furniture, if properly constructed by the manufacturer and intelligently cared for by the retailer and housewife, need not suffer more than other furnishings of the home, the fact remains that lack of information has brought about a condition throughout all the States which has increased tremendously the calls upon the department for information concerning insects in upholstered furniture. To meet these demands a special investigation has been started and has progressed sufficiently far to date (September, 1926) to warrant a general statement regarding the insects involved, their methods of attack, and the means for controlling them.

Taking the country over, the most destructive pest on mohair- covered furniture is the webbing clothes moth (Tineola biselliella). A very large percentage of real loss is due to this common fabric pest.  This moth is present in nearly all homes, and if mohair-covered furniture is not properly manufactured or cared for the newly hatched “worms” work down through the pile, become established underneath the warp, and feed upon the woolen threads of the pile where they pass beneath the warp. By thus severing the pile they are responsible for the development of bare spots on the covers resulting from the falling out of the severed pile when the infested furniture is brushed or is treated with a vacuum cleaner. Although these bare spots do not injure the usefulness of the furniture, they destroy its aesthetic value and are responsible for the expenditure by the American public of a sum exceeding half a million dollars annually for fumigations, various other treatments, and the upholstering charges for repairing or replacing covers.

The second most serious pest on upholstered furniture is the furniture carpet beetle (Anthrenus fasciatus). This insect causes its greatest injury by establishing itself within the furniture, where it brings about a condition of flabbiness and shabbiness by devouring the curled hair used in the upholstering. In Washington, D. C., this carpet beetle is the most important furniture pest.

Two other insects often reported as infesting furniture are the ordinary tobacco beetle (Lasioderma serricorne) and book lice or psocids. These two pests are frequently spoken of as “tow bugs.”  They feed normally upon dried vegetable matter, and when in furniture they feed upon the flax or other straws or Spanish moss used in the upholstering. They cause practically no real injury to the furniture, although the adult tobacco beetle sometimes does eat small round holes in the mohair or leather covers in an attempt to escape.  Both the tobacco beetles and psocids annoy the householder by crawling over the furniture and by dropping from it and crawling to all parts of the house.

Facts regarding the life habits of furniture pests and their control have been published and are available for distribution to those applying for them to the Department of Agriculture.