Bugs that attack violin, viola and cello bows are a nuisance but a simple problem to treat and prevent.
If you play violin or viola or cello long enough it will eventually happen. You will open your case and retrieve your bow. And even though you know for sure that you have been properly caring for and maintaining your bow, several hairs on your bow are broken off and hanging loose. This is a sure sign that you have a case of the bow bugs.
That is, your violin, viola or cello case is infected with an actual bug that is feeding on your bow hair. Also named “bow mites” and “carpet beetles”, these bugs are common in homes. When the home in question has a violin case on the premises, it’s likely that the bow bug is going to find that case and move in. Why? Because it thrives in dark, unventilated places and it finds the hairs on a bow a delicious feast.
The presence of bow bugs are less of a sign of uncleanliness and much more of a sign that you haven’t been playing and practicing enough! They’ve exposed you! Bow bugs tend to be present in cases where the inside of the case hasn’t seen the light of day for long periods of time.
Bow bugs attack violin bows, as well as the bows of violas and cellos alike. It does not discriminate. If more than a few bow hairs have been eaten, the best thing to do is to take your bow to a professional violin shop to be re-haired. Do not only bring the bow. Take the case with you. Most violin shops will be able to do a thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the case for you for a reasonable price. They will also check the instrument and bow for the presence of live bugs.
If there is no professional shop nearby, you’ll have to take care of the problem yourself. You can accomplish this by using the fine, narrow attachments on your home vacuum. Start by vacuuming your case, including all compartments as well as the top of the case where the bows are stored. Follow that up by using a high pressure air duster to blow out any possible bugs, alive or dead, as well as their waste that can accumulate in the case.
Once this is completed, it is advised to open your case – without the instrument or bows inside – and expose it to the bright sun light for a few days or longer. Light is like Kryptonite to bow bugs. The ventilation, too, will help get rid of them. Never… never… use any sort of insect spray repellent in your case or around your bows or instruments.
The instance of bow bugs has less of a chance of occurring with regular practice and playing schedule. It’s a good idea to leave the case open and exposed to light when you play. Perhaps every quarter, make an attempt to remove the instrument and bow from your case and expose it to light four times per year. While one should never spray insect repellent into an instrument case, some mothballs may be helpful, but unnecessary by keeping constant vigil and attention to what is happening in your case.