Help fight the ‘rise of the clothes moth’ at English Heritage sites including Framlingham Castle

English Heritage's historic properties steward Helena Bacon with one of the moth traps at Framlingha

English Heritage's historic properties steward Helena Bacon with one of the moth traps at Framlingham Castle. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

They have seen the passing of centuries and making of history but now some of the region’s most important artefacts could be lost for ever due to a new danger – moths.

English Heritage's historic properties steward Helena Bacon with one of the moth traps at Framlingha

English Heritage's historic properties steward Helena Bacon with one of the moth traps at Framlingham Castle. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

English Heritage, whose historical sites include Framlingham Castle, Bury St Edmunds Abbey and Audley End House, is today warning that its important collections are at risk from pests.

The charity says monitoring by expert conservators has revealed clothes moth numbers have doubled in five years, with a new species, the pale backed clothes moth, appearing for the first time.

To combat this threat, Operation Clothes Moth is calling on people to help measure how prevalent the destructive pests have become.

From today, anyone visiting a participating English Heritage site will be invited to take a free “clothes moth trap” to use at home and help map the insects’ spread across the country.

Clothes moths have been monitored since 1995. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS

Clothes moths have been monitored since 1995. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant


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Amber Xavier-Rowe, head of collections conservation for English Heritage, said; “At English Heritage we regularly monitor insect pest activity to ensure our collections get the best possible care, but any sudden change in species behaviour or increase in numbers is a concern.

“Many people around the country will no doubt know the exasperation of finding clothes moth damage in a much-loved jumper or coat, so we want people to come to our sites, collect a free clothes moth trap, and get involved.

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“While we suspect factors including warmer weather and the increased use of heating inside homes is partly to blame, we hope this campaign helps us to better learn how to combat the rise of the clothes moth.”

Clothes moths are a threat to interiors as their larvae feed on woollen carpets, clothing, upholstery, fur and even taxidermy.

English Herigate collections conservator Caroline Rawson takes a look at some of the damage caused.

English Herigate collections conservator Caroline Rawson takes a look at some of the damage caused. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant

English Heritage has been monitoring the spread of clothes moths since 1995, with the aim of preventing damage to the 500,000 artefacts in its care. It found 2,469 of the common webbing clothes moth at its sites across the country compared to 1138 in 2015 and 800 in 2014.

Traps are available locally from: Framlingham Castle, Saxtead Green Post Mill, Orford Castle, and Audley End House & Gardens and other staffed properties,

Visitors are asked to place them in their homes and report their findings later this year.

Visit here for information.

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant

Moths throughout history

Clothes moths thrive in people’s homes - making them a pest throughout history.

English Herigate collections conservator Caroline Rawson takes a look at some of the damage caused.

English Herigate collections conservator Caroline Rawson takes a look at some of the damage caused. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant

The Romans are thought to be responsible for the spread of moths in Europe as they expanded their empire across the continent.

There is evidence of moth infestations in wool in Roman archaeological material.

The household of Queen Elizabeth I also struggled with insect pests – likely to be clothes moth.

Records from 1590 reveal eight men were employed for a full day to beat the furs at Windsor Castle, while in 1598 six men spent four days beating and airing the robes at Whitehall Palace and the Tower of London.

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant

A number of species of moth will attack textiles and animals, with the common or webbing clothes moth one of the most aggressive. Their larvae are hatched in wool, fur, feather and skin and feed on the material’s fibres, which results in holes in clothes and fabric, or in loss of pile in patches on carpets.

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS

Damage to a tea cosy caused by the moths. Picture: ANTHONY CHAPPEL-ROSS - Credit: Archant

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