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I need some help here.  A woman at knit night has asked me to spin some alpaca she was given sometime this winter.  I told her I'd like to take a look at it first before committing to it as I have only recently done a small amount of alpaca and was rather new to it.  I was looking for second cuts, as that is what I ran into with the small amount I had.  It was quite a bit of work to get them out. 

She dropped off the two bags at the yarn shop last week, but was unable to stay, so I did not get a chance to look at them with her or to talk to her.  Upon opening the larger of the two bags, a smallish silvery/gray moth flew out!  YIKES!  I immediately tied up the bag to prevent anymore flying into the yarn shop.  When I got home, I tossed them out onto my covered porch to keep any from getting into my house.  I finally had time today to take a better look at the fleeces.  One is a dark brown, almost black and appears to have no moths or other bugs in it.  Phew!  But the other one, weighing in at 6 oz. had two more moths climbing around on the top of it, and I found several dead moths and a carcas of some other type of bug.  YUK!  ( I feel like I have little critters crawling around on my skin right now - lol)  Both of these fleeces are dirty, very dusty which is normal for alpaca, and have bits of VM in them.  I was so concerned with the bugs, I forgot to look for second cuts.  One is a baby alpaca, the other is a grand prize winner, although to tell the truth, I can't tell which is which. 

What I would like help with is - should I attempt to clean and then spin the fleece with the bugs?  Is there anything special that needs to be done to this because of the bugs, or will washing take care of it?  Should I even do this?  I'm sure that fleeces have had bugs before, I'm just not sure how to handle this.  Does washing kill any eggs that may be in there?  I sure don't want them in my house, and I sure don't want to produce a skein of yarn that has them in there either.  What to do?  Help please!


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Replies to This Discussion

I have NO experience with moths in fiber... that being said, I do have a friend who got a moth infestation in her fiber closet.  This was all yarn, BTW... she took all of the yarn and put it into very large bags, and put them in a freezer... not sure for how long, but this kills all bugs, moths, eggs, etc.  She had to actually borrow the freezers of a few friends because this lady has a killer stash. 

You will probably need to card all of the alpaca prior to spinning, and this will remove some of the dust.  I'm sure others will have their own methods to this type of madness.

I recently heard that putting it in the freezer will just put them into a hibernation state rather than actually kill them. I haven't researched this to find out if that is true or not.

Cheryl- that's what I remember from the article I read, too.  I can't find it again though.  I thought it said freezing doesn't kill the eggs.  They recommended you freeze the wool- take it out and 3 days later the eggs that were in there will start to hatch.  Then freeze it again to kill the hatched ones.  But that's just going by memory. 

I spent a good amount of time on ravelry yesterday trying to find more info.  I also read a post where someone said to freeze it for 72 hours, place it in direct sunshine for a day or so, freeze it another 72 hours, out in the sunshine, and freeze for a 3rd time for 72 hours.  Maybe this is what they were referring to.  One person suggested camphor, although I don't know where to get that. 

I contacted two ladies from spinning guild who raise alpacas, and heard back from one who suggested spraying the bag with bug spray, put the fiber in, close it up tight for a few days and then proceed with cleaning it.  My biggest concern here is, what kind of side effects can one have by using bug spray, or moth balls? 

I went to knit night last night, told the owner of the alpaca what was going on, and she was horrified!  She said she had them in her car trunk for a few weeks and then in her house for 3 more weeks. 

I think you could find camphor in a drug store with other essential oils.

Is that what camphor is, an essential oil?

That is where I found it... I googled it.. LOL 


Camphor is the essential ingredient in Moth Balls or Moth Flakes.  I have alpaca from a local farm, and she stores all her fleece, roving, yarn, etc. in Moth Balls.  But the smell of camphor is somewhat off-putting.

Does the smell wash out?  Does she do what Frances says she does for storage?  Does she have any tips or advice she could share with me on what I should do? 

It disappears after a few days of airing out, but it was strong when I first got them.

Does washing remove the harmful toxins to humans? 

Yes, I think one needs to freeze wool a longer time to kill the eggs.   Moth balls will though.  I have done the old fashioned metal trash can thing I described for, gee, I guess, 32 or so years now and have NEVER had any moths or larvae in my fleeces.   I have found dead ticks during picking.  After treating the fleeces this way I pick and wash them really well after which there is NO moth ball smell left in them.  I really don't like the idea of using a bug spray.  I am confident, too, that thorough washing will eliminate any residue of sheep dip left in the wool.  I wash  them in very hot water a few times.  When I want lanolin in the yarn I keep my hands greased with clean lanolin and spin it back in.


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