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Summary: If you find insects in valuables, here's an easy way to fumigate without harming the items. Usually, fumigation requires a professional, but using certain products and a plastic bag will work.

Holly; Brighton, MA

Question: I have a bug infestation that is shocking; carpet beetles, centipedes, millipedes, silverfish and millions of gnats. I can't get rid of them and now have found them in all my photo albums. How can I protect my photos and albums without doing damage to the photos?

Ask the Exterminator:

You have several issues to work on. The carpet beetles probably arrived in your house via a bird's nest or a squirrel. Often, carpet beetle find abandoned bird nests and feed on left behind feathers. Or, a squirrel might get into an attic and die. The carpet beetles are drawn to the carcass and feed on the remains until nothing is left. Nature's little clean up machines! Once their original food source is depleted, they go out in search of new food sources which, in a home, are your woolen sweaters and suits, furs and leather goods.

Their control will require lots of vacuuming of carpets in affected rooms. You'll need to check all your clothing for signs of damage. Treat baseboards with a pesticide dust like Tempo 1% and use a residual spray for cracks and crevices in dressers and drawers. Tri-Die is a good product for that job. Lastly, put out lots of insect monitoring traps to watch for new activity.

Centipedes and millipedes are present due to moisture. These pests need water to survive. Most times they die fairly quickly after gaining entry into a home. They mistake cool, escaping interior air for the presence of water. Silverfish also need water and can often be found in bathrooms. Water pipes inside walls will œsweat and drip enough water to support lots of silverfish. Sometimes the application of a pesticide will take care of the problem, but more often than not, a plumber is required to fix the problem with the water.

The millions of gnats are also moisture related. They like decaying matter, so if you have moisture leaking into nice, dark voids, you can quickly get a big population of small flies such as Phorid flies, fungus gnats or drain moths.

Now for the photo albums. It's actually the easiest part of all. Put the albums into a super-sized Zip Lock bag and toss in one Nuvan ProStrip. This is a homemade fumigation chamber. The Nuvan ProStrip gives off a vapor that will kill insects. Leave everything in the bag for a couple of weeks. When you open the bag, do it outside in fresh air and allow the items to release any built up vapors from the strips. Your insects should be toast by that time.

If you have any concerns about doing damage to an item, I recommend you call the Nuvan hotline to speak to the manufacturer (1-323-264-3910). Since you know the exact description of the photo albums, it will make things a lot easier for you. They are set up to answer those types of questions. Just tell them exactly what you want to fumigate and they will tell you if it can be done without harming your photos.

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