There are some audience members you’d rather not see in theatres: pests. With old theatre buildings full of clothes and fabrics, moth infestations are a common problem. We spoke to pest control expert Daniel Neves, founder of Inoculand Ltd, about theatre’s most common pest problems, and how to get rid of moths, mice and other unwelcome guests.
What are the most common types of pests found in theatre buildings?
There are two: mice and moths. Mice are a nuisance because they can get at food in the bars – and sometimes the drinks too. But luckily, mice can usually be sorted out quite easily. Call in Inoculand and we will carry out an inexpensive round of treatment. We can also mouse-proof the theatre in the areas they love the most, such as the bars.
By far the bigger problem is moth infestation. At Inoculand, we’ve got extensive experience of moth control in theatre buildings. If left untreated, moths can very quickly become a complete nightmare. Carpet moth infestations are common, as well as clothes moths.
The main issue with moths is the certainty that, over time, the infestation is only going to get worse. Theatres are full of fabric – carpets, seats, curtains – and the moths will have a field day. Theatre managers often decide to take things into their own hands by placing traps or even spraying the affected areas with commercial carpet moth killer. But this usually won’t solve the problem and only makes matters worse further down the line. Call in a moth exterminator such as Inoculand early and the problem is easily sorted and fairly inexpensive. Leave it too long and it can become very costly.
Where are moths most likely to be found in theatres?
There are so many attractive spots for carpet moths and clothes moths in theatre buildings. When they find natural fibres, that’s when things can get out of hand very quickly. They will chomp their way through seats, carpets, curtains, costumes, any fabric covering walls, and even musical instruments like pianos, where there is felt inside. Hair and skin debris accumulate in soft furnishings, which moths love to feast on. Once an infestation has taken hold in one area, moths can easily fly around and find new spots until the whole building is infested.
What damage can moths do to costumes and the fabric of buildings?
Clothes moths can devour costumes until they are full of holes. It’s easy to spot carpet moth damage from the bare spots they leave on floors and seats. If you don’t get rid of moths, the whole place will quickly have a tatty, run-down appearance. As well as the cost of moth treatment, there will be costs to replace fabric and furniture, with most theatre costumes requiring specialist repair. If those costumes are being moved at all – whether that’s to storage, rehearsals or to different venues – the moths can contaminate those places too, potentially spreading the problem to other theatres.
How can people and theatre organisations take precautions against infestation?
The best way to get rid of moths is through strong cleaning standards and a good monitoring routine, with regular checks of moth activity in areas that are most prone to them. That will stop moths from taking hold. If there’s evidence of moths, take action early. That way, you’ll limit the damage they do, and stop them spreading to other areas. So keep checking. Moth traps are useful, as is visual inspection. If there are any early signs of moths, we can just spray and fumigate the immediate area without needing to treat the whole building. The key is to stop an infestation from taking hold. In other words, it’s better to do little and often – which requires minimal resources – than to do nothing and eventually face a hefty bill for treatment and repair.
How do you get rid of a moth infestation permanently?
When it comes to moth pest control, I would rather do too much than not enough. So we normally treat the whole building with chemical or heat treatment. Without this, there may be moths left and they will just build up again. There are various types of carpet moth and clothes moth treatment: insecticides, which last a long time but can’t reach every nook and cranny, as well as smoke bombs and fumigation, which don’t last as long but cover the whole building. We do both. As a last resort in getting rid of moths we use heat treatment, which is as powerful as it gets. Even then, we finish off with a round of spraying and fogging. We always follow up two weeks later to ensure there’s nothing left behind, and we respray and re-fog the building. All it takes is one moth flying in through the window. So be prepared, take the precautions I explained above, and stay on top of things.
What is your experience of pest removal in theatres?
We have extensive experience of getting rid of moths and mice in theatres. Most theatres are old buildings, with gaps under doors, holes around pipework, and undercrofts that are wide open and full of stuff, so we’re careful and strategic about where we lay traps and set baits. We’re always happy to work around performance times, at unusual hours.
Can you tell me more about Inoculand?
We’re one of the leading pest control companies in London. I set up Inoculand in 2008 after working for the council in the Environmental Health department. At heart, I’m a biologist and I believe in doing things properly and thoroughly, as well as providing value for money.
When I was at the council, I noticed that within the same team of pest control officers there were completely different approaches. As a result, there was a huge variation in the quality of work, and in the results. When I set up Inoculand Pest Control, I was clear that we had to work out the best way of dealing with pests – following their set patterns, using the best products and treatments. I was also adamant that every one of my technicians carries out every treatment the way I designed and to the same highest standard. We’re continually improving our protocols, and expanding as a business.
I’m particularly proud of the one-year guarantee we provide on our mouse-proofing service. What’s important about our approach to moth infestation and moth control, however, is our dedication and our focus on quality. At Inoculand we treat our colleagues and our clients with the same respect. We understand that helping them is the same as helping ourselves.