We’ve all heard of “Bed Bugs.” But did you know there are also “Bow Bugs?” Indeed there are — little arthropods (related to moths) that live inside your violin case and munch horse hair. How do you know that your case is infested? There are certain tell-tale signs. One is an accelerated rate of horse hair breakage on your bow(s). Another is the appearance of broken bow hairs in a spidery pattern inside your case. You may even see crawling or dead insects, or discover the exoskeletons they leave behind when the molt.
These bugs like to live in the dark. They are most likely to live in cases that are left closed for long periods of time. Because they abhor the light, they are seldom found in cases that are opened frequently. Fortunately, they do not like to eat violins and, aside from destroying horse hair, they are otherwise harmless. However, once they have taken up residence, they are difficult to eliminate and can be transferred from case to case.
How to get rid of them? It is usually a good idea to buy a new case and to re-hair any affected bows. However, if this is not an option, another alternative is to expose the case and bows to sunlight over a period of several days, which should kill the insects. You may also opt to spray the case with moth insecticide. However, you must then keep the violin in a safe place until the chemical dries, to avoid harm to your violin.
For dealing with “Bow Bugs,” prevention is the best cure. Try not to allow your case to sit unopened or in storage for long periods of time — violinists who practice regularly rarely experience this problem.