Conquer those moths – with conkers!

Any knitter worth her salt knows that the biggest threat to her lovely yarn is the clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). Their larvae will eat most natural fibres, including wool, silk, cotton and linen – only your 100% synthetic yarns, e.g. acrylic, are safe. I don’t have a huge stash, but I love natural fibres, especially native ones like Blue-faced Leicester wool, so I need all the protection I can muster. So how do you keep them out?


Photo © 2014 Anne Lyle

Most people use a combination of plastic bags and boxes, often with cedar blocks or lavender sachets as further deterrent. However you don’t need to buy these latter when, at this time of year, you can pick up a free moth repellent that’s probably lying around in your local park. If you’re old enough to remember playing conkers at school, then like me you probably can’t resist picking up these beautiful shiny objects – but now they can be useful as well.

Horse chestnuts (Aesculus hippocastanum), known in the UK as conkers and in the US as buckeyes, contain a chemical, triterpenoid saponin, that repels clothes moths. You can use them to make a fancy hanger for your wardrobe, or just pop a few in each stash box to keep the moths at bay.

I’ve no idea if this really works, but since it costs nothing I’m going to give it a try!

(Note: whatever other precautions you take, make sure you check your stash regularly and air it out. Better to catch a few moths in your yarn than leave their children and grandchildren to munch through the whole lot!)