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GSBN:Fwd: CASBA_Mem attn: Richard Fagerlund straw bale, mold and bugs bugs

FYI-- an interesting reply to a good question, and a shockingly uninformed answer.

From: "John Swearingen" johns@...
To: home@...
Subject: CASBA_Mem attn: Richard Fagerlund  straw bale, mold and bugs
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2003 09:30:41 -0800
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Dear Mr. Fagerlund,

Your response to the inquiry about little bugs in a straw home was most likely correct in assuming they were plaster beetles, which live inside the walls, incorrect in most other respects.

Plaster beetles require high moisture conditions to survive. These conditions exist on the surface of the bales (and in wood-frame buildings) for a period of time after plaster is applied, since plastering is a very wet process. After the house is occupied, the walls gradually dry out and the plaster beetle population disappears. (Note that these critters are called plaster beetles not straw beetles , since they exist as a result of the plastering process, not because bales are used in construction).

Likewise, mould, too, requires very high levels of humidity to grow, and we ve had no experience with mold growth in any of our buildings, even in damp coastal climates. For further information and data, I would refer you to the websites of John Straube, PhD, professor of Building Envelope Science at University of Waterloo and an expert on moisture in buildings: <http://www.balancedsolutions.com/>www.balancedsolutions.com and <http://www.civil.uwaterloo.ca/beg/>www.civil.uwaterloo.ca/beg/. His primer on moisture fundamentals and mould may be of particular interest to you. The California Straw Building Association (CASBA) also maintains a web site at: <http://www.strawbuilding.org/>www.strawbuilding.org, and can be contacted for information and referrals.

Yours truly,

John Swearingen

Principal, Skillful Means, Inc.


November 22:

Q: I have a fairly new house. It is straw bale construction with stucco outside and structolite stucco inside. I have been finding a tiny bug. It is about the size of a pin head. It doesn't move much, so it looks like a speck of dust, but when probed, it moves some. They like to gather inside dishes and bowls on the counter, in the sinks, etc. I first noticed them on the sides of a small Mexican ceramic sink in the bathroom. Then I found a bunch in a new set of glass bowls that had white thin foam separating each bowl. They seem to like white things best. Sometimes I see them on the walls.

A: You are finding plaster beetles. These little beetles feed on mold inside the walls of straw bale homes. There is absolutely nothing you can do for them. As long as there is straw, there will be mold, and these beetles will be present. You cannot eradicate them with pesticides because you can't get the pesticides to the source. When you buy a straw bale home, you will have plaster beetles (and probably book lice and other mold-feeding insects). They come with the house. Fortunately they don't do any damage, don't bite and are just a nuisance by their presence.