Bow Hair Bugs
Old case with chewed up Horse hair
Did you ever open an old case only to see that there is bow hair all over the place? This is the first sign that your case, most likely, is infested with bow hair bugs. It is very common to see someone walking into my shop with an old beat up case with the hair hanging out of the sides. When I finally show them the bow hair bug culprits they stare with astonishment. These bugs are already in your home buried in the carpets, in the dust under your bed and all sorts of other dark places.
Shell of a bow hair bug - 6 mm long
Here is an example of a 6mm shell of a bow hair bug. The larva can range from 1 to 5mm long. Sometimes referred to as skin beetles or carpet beetles. They are from the beetle family known as Dermestidae (Anthrenus verbasci) . Their main food is protein obtained from different sources. Some of the Deremistids eat the bow hair, hyde glue, dead skin amongst other tasty treats. They also have been known, on rare occasions, to eat tortoiseshell and even whale bone bow grips.
Even though the bow bug has a bad rap in the violin shop they can be quite useful in a museum. They are used to clean off the skin and flesh of specimens, right down to the bone. Now, of course, they are are kept under close scrutiny to prevent them from getting loose and causing problems in the other parts of the museum.
What to do if you have them. Well the steps are straight forward. 1. Clean the case thoroughly. Use a thin tip vacuum nozzle if you have one and a small brush to get into all the narrow places. 2. Leave the case open in the light, it doesn't have to be very bright. They can't stand the light and sometimes if you look closely you will see them moving around. 3. Dispose of any hair that is left on your bow if you are just planning to put it back in the case with out re-hairing it. 4.This should solve the problem, but if you are unsure and want to do a bit more continue to the next step. 5. After removing the bow and the violin from the case place a small bowl filled with ammonia into the case. Make sure the case is set some place were it won't be disturbed. Close the case and let it set overnight. In the morning open the case take out the bowl of ammonia and keep the case open, preferable outside, and let it air out till there is no remaining ammonia odor. This should take care of the problem.