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Woodwind and string instruments are very susceptible to BUGS!

Flutes and clarinets are particularly prone to harbor these little creatures, and when they inhabit the pads of your instrument, you are almost certain to need a complete re-pad and a new case.  What causes these little hellions, and where in the world do they come from?

The little bug found in most clarinet and flute pads is the same little larvae that eat holes in your favorite wool sweaters and fine wool carpet.  Most of the time, they infest your case while it is being stored.  When you start a beginner on a clarinet or flute that has been stored in the closet or attic for a bit, you can expect to find bugs.  You can tell he has paid you a visit, by many signs.

First of all, your instrument will begin giving you problems.  Some notes will become difficult to sound, or the entire range will seem stuffy.  If you look at the pads, you may see a perfectly shaped little hole or tunnel in the wool pad under the skin.  It really does look like someone took a bite out of it!

Most of the time, this damage will be very evident from the edge of the pad.  Here are two pictures, though, of a pad that was eaten from the center.  This was a particularly troublesome leak to find.  This is a bassoon pad.

Buggy Bassoon Pad 1Buggy Bassoon Pad 2

Sometimes the skin will be gone, other times, it will still be still intact.  Usually there is at least one entry hole of some kind.

One of the other ways you can tell if bugs have paid you a visit, is if they left you a little dried skin shell in the fuzzy lining of your case.  Look very closely, perhaps with a magnifying glass.  At first glance, the shell will just look like a bit of dirt or beige fuzz.

Also, if bugs have been eating your pads, they leave a little white powdery residue on the case lining.  Usually this is only if the bugs are pretty bad.

If you find this powdery residue in your case, the culprit is probably a type of carpet beetle.  For more reading on carpet beetles, check out this website:

String instruments rarely get bugs in the wood, but frequently get them in the bow hair.  If you open your case, and your bow has that “bad hair day” look, with bow hair loose everywhere, you probably have bugs.  You will have to get the bow rehaired to be rid of them, and you will want to replace your case.

These little creatures are more than likely a type of lice.  Suspect them if you frequently open the case to find a few loose hairs.  They love old cases, and also eat bookbinding.

What can you do to prevent these pesky creatures?  Well, there are several precautions you can take.

1. Always keep your instrument in the house where you are more likely to have sprayed and cleaned.  NOT out in a storage room or in the attic.
2. Vacuum your case regularly.
3. Get some of the little cedar balls, sold as products to put in your dresser drawers to prevent bugs.  DON'T GET THE MOTHBALLS UNLESS YOU NEVER WANT TO USE YOUR CASE AGAIN, BECAUSE THEY REALLY STINK.  Always get the wood products, not the white chemical mothballs, even if they say “cedar-scented.”  Just drop a couple of the fresh cedar balls in your case every 6 months or so.
4. If you have a cedar-lined closet or drawer, keep your instrument there.
5. Play your instrument regularly.

When buying a used instrument, especially clarinet or flute, be sure and check the pads carefully before you buy.  It would probably be a good idea to have a competent instrument repair tech give you an assessment.

And, of course, here at Johnny Paul's Music Shop we always perform this service for free.  Just drop by and see us anytime.

Thanks for reading,

Jeanan Paul

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