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PEST PULSE: FABRIC PESTS – A MISSED OPPORTUNITY?

Our Apr/May Pest Pulse survey looked at fabric pests. Are they a bigger problem for homeowners than we think? Data provided by Google would suggest that they are. 

Fabric pests are often classed as ‘minor’ or ‘occasional’ pests. But are they? The low level of response to our latest Pest Pulse on fabric pests may be an indication that dealing with fabric pests is not a major source of business for pest managers. However, that may not be the case for homeowners. So are pest managers missing out on an opportunity?

The survey results told us that pest managers view clothes moths (pictured above) and carpet beetles as the core fabric pests, with silverfish also being recognised as a potential fabric pest by the majority. Psocids (book lice), which feed on starch and mould, and cause damage to paper and stored foods, are considered a fabric pest by a third of pest managers. Neither cockroaches nor termites were viewed as fabric pests, despite the fact that cockroaches commonly damage a wide range of clothing items and fabrics.

The response to the question, ‘How often do you get called out on specific fabric pest jobs?’ suggests that to pest managers, fabric pests are indeed a minor pest. Pest managers were only called out occasionally for a specific fabric pest job, with ‘every now and then’ and ‘around once a month’ being the most common responses, with only one pest manager being called out ‘around once a week’.

In terms of dealing with fabric pests, pest managers do tackle the pests differently. For silverfish, permethrin dusts are the core product, often supported by a pyrethroid spray. Treatments for silverfish are applied in a wide range of locations. Although there is a particular focus on wardrobes, roof voids and subfloors are also treated. Pest managers commonly recommend for owners to focus on reducing humidity and increasing ventilation to make their homes less attractive to silverfish.

Both clothes moths and carpet beetles are generally targeted with pyrethroid sprays, but the areas targeted during the treatments differ. Clothes moth treatments are focused on wardrobes, drawers, curtains and under furniture, whereas carpet beetle treatments are very much focused on carpets/rugs and under furniture, where the beetle larvae can hide without being disturbed. Regular vacuuming, especially under furniture, is recommended as a key preventative measure for homeowners and a couple of pest managers mentioned the use of pheromone traps and glue boards for the ongoing prevention and monitoring of clothes moths.

For specific fabric pest treatments, the majority of pest managers do not offer a service free period, only guaranteeing they will eliminate the problem. However, around a third of pest managers did offer a three-month service free period and one pest manager offered a one-year service free period.

For most pest managers fabric pests are a minor pest, dealt with using a specific treatment. However, just over 20% of pest managers do include silverfish in the pests covered in their general pest treatment.

Although pest managers may view fabric pests as occasional pests, there is evidence that the general public is looking for information and solutions for controlling them. Search volume for keywords on Google provides a good indicator as to pest problems in the marketplace. The number of monthly searches for the specific fabric pests, for example ‘carpet beetle’, is significant and not much behind ‘major’ pests such as cockroaches and ants, especially for silverfish searches (see table below).

Keyword

Estimated monthly searches in Australia

Cockroaches

18,100

Ants

14,800

Silverfish

14,800

Carpet beetles

4,400

Clothes moths
(moths)

720
(9,900)

How to get rid of ants

4400

How to get rid of cockroaches

2400

How to get rid of silverfish

880

How to get rid of carpet beetles

260

How to get rid of clothes moths
(moths)

140
(590)

Looking at the volume of solution-seeking search terms – i.e. ‘How to get rid of…’ – there is a reasonable number of searches per month for fabric pests. This suggests the business opportunity might be bigger than pest managers realise. One way to tap into this would be to provide information about fabric pests on websites, outlining the specific treatments available. It could make for an easy add-on sale to any general pest treatment.