February is a great fly-tying month for many of us otherwise weather-bound northerners. And as you drag out bags and boxes of furs and feathers, be sure to check that your materials aren’t bugged.
No, not hidden microphones. Dermestid beetle larvae, which very possibly have been chomping away on your expensive dry-fly necks during long months of storage. This is a huge and very common problem, although one that seems to get little notice.
You might see a few odd-looking small holes on the skin side of a rooster neck or a few hackle feathers that look oddly chewed. Another tell-tale is fine black particles that look like finely ground pepper accumulating at the bottom of a dubbing-fur storage bag. These are, literally, beetle crap.
If you find evidence of beetle damage, seal the material in a plastic bag and throw it away right now. Dermestid beetle larvae spread easily and quickly to other materials, so if you don’t get rid of them the rest of your fly-tying collection will likewise become infested.
Beware when accepting gifts, trades, or purchase of “used” tying materials, which is probably how you got a beetle infestation in the first place.
Although I have a long acquaintance with these little buggers, I’m still not sure how to get rid of them, other than outright discard. I’m tempted to say hot water and a detergent, but I’m not sure even that will work.
I do know that the tiny larvae can even be transferred into fly boxes by tying flies with infested materials. I’ve seen–years later–complete dry-fly collections stripped partly naked by these infernal creatures.
When it doubt, throw it out….