For string musicians, the health and maintenance of their instruments are paramount, but sometimes, unwelcome guests can pose threats that many aren’t even aware of. Enter bow bugs – or, more precisely, dermestid beetles, which have an appetite for the horsehair in bows. While the name might sound like a character out of a horror story for musicians, these pests can cause real damage to a precious bow, hindering its performance. If you’ve ever discovered patches of missing bow hair on your bow or a fine powdery residue in your instrument case, you may have encountered these culprits. In this blog, we’ll delve deep into the world of bow bugs, exploring what they are and offering actionable advice on how to rid your instrument case of them, ensuring your bow remains pristine.

What are Bow Bugs?

Every violinist knows their instrument is an exquisite assembly of delicate parts, each critical to its melodic output. But few are acquainted with a tiny, insidious threat lurking in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment to compromise their cherished bow hairs: the bugs. These minuscule critters, often referred to as bow mites or museum beetles, have an appetite for the organic composition of the horsehair in violin bows. As they feast upon it, they not only weaken the hair, causing it to shed or snap, but can also potentially damage the wooden components of the instrument.
But how can one spot these unwanted guests? A standard giveaway is the presence of a powdery residue, much like talcum powder, in the violin case—evidence of their destructive dining.
Guarding against these pests involves regular maintenance and clean storage. Consulting a professional can be immensely beneficial if you fear a dreaded bow bug infestation or need advice on preventive measures to protect your bow hairs. In such scenarios, visiting a reputable establishment, such as the distinguished violin shop in Atlanta, can offer expert bow rehairs and insights on keeping these pests at bay.

Steps to Take When Getting Rid of Bow Bugs:

 Pull Out Your Bow and Other Items from Your Case

If you suspect your violin bow has fallen victim to bow bugs, the first step to mitigate their presence is to pull out your bow and any other items from your case. Bow bug violin infestations are notorious for their silent spread, damaging the bow hair and potentially the wooden parts. You need to prevent prevent bow bugs from spreading. Removing everything creates an environment where these pests can’t hide. Check your violin and cello bows meticulously for signs of the fine, talc-like residue they leave behind. Additionally, inspect other items, like rosin or cleaning cloths, which might be harboring these critters. Isolate these items, preferably in a sealed plastic bag, to prevent any further spread while you address the issue.

Vacuum Your Bow Case

Once your items are safely out of the case, the next crucial step is to vacuum your bow case thoroughly. It removes any lurking bow bugs and their eggs, preventing a future infestation. Using the narrowest attachment of your vacuum cleaner, reach into every nook and cranny of your case, paying particular attention to the corners and under the velvet lining where these pests might be hiding. Post vacuuming, consider placing the case in direct sunlight for a few hours, which can deter violin bow bugs. Remember, prevention is always better than cure. So, even if you’re not currently facing a bow bugs issue, consider this step a routine maintenance practice every few months to ensure your beloved instrument stays pest-free.

 Leave Case Open in Sunlight

One of the simplest yet effective preventive measures against bow bugs in your violin case is to utilize the power of sunlight. Bow bugs thrive in dark, damp environments, so a violin case can inadvertently become a perfect home for them. Periodically leaving your case open in direct sunlight can deter these pests, making the environment inhospitable for them. The ultraviolet rays from the sun can act as a natural disinfectant, killing potential bow bug larvae and adults. However, it’s crucial to ensure that while the case is in sunlight, you keep the violin bows and other sensitive parts safely away to prevent any damage or warping from the heat.

Get Your Bow Rehaired

Routine bow rehairs are about ensuring sound quality and defending against violin bow bugs. As these pests can weaken and damage the horsehair on violin bows, regular rehairs can remove compromised strands and replace them with fresh, strong ones. It also offers the opportunity to inspect the bow for any signs of infestation or damage and address them before they become significant concerns. Visit your local violin shop and get your bow rehaired.

Use an Insect Repellant Spray

While using an insect repellant directly on your violin or bow is not recommended, to prevent an infestation, apply it around the storage areas. Choose a mild, non-toxic repellant and lightly spray it near where you keep your violin case, ensuring a buffer against potential violin bow bugs. Always exercise caution and avoid direct contact with the instrument to preserve its integrity and sound quality. The second option is using a bug-repelling botanical like cedar essential oil. You can find cedar oil at storage supply stores. It is less reliable than the before-mentioned spray and must require periodic reapplication.


In conclusion, bow bugs are a nuisance and a genuine threat to your beloved stringed instruments. Being proactive in recognizing their presence and understanding how to eliminate them ensures your musical equipment’s longevity and pristine condition. Remember, timely action and preventive measures can save you from costly repairs and replacements. Protect your instruments, and don’t let these pests strike a discordant note in your musical journey!