Insect damage to shotshell!


I was very disappointed tonight when I discovered this while re-arranging my collection. This is one of the first nice old shells that I ever got, a Winchester Leader loaded with Infalliable powder. You can’t tell that now! The shell was stored flat, inside a tool drawer. It’s the only shell I have found this way.

It appears that some kind of insect has chewed up the top wad and used it to make what I assume is an egg case, which is now glued to the wad.

Here’s your chance Ron to indulge in your ‘other’ expertise! How would you prevent this from happening again?


Shotmeister–It appears that the damage was caused by some type of small solitary wasp. The scraping action is typical of this type of insect. Most beetles would have bored into the shell and laid their egg inside. Their are very few other types of insect that would cause this damage. Where is the cabinet this shell was stored in located. My guess is in your garage. Be sure to inspect all the other shells stored in this location and to remove any egg masses you find. Most likely there will be only one egg per scraped mass.

It is most likely a one time event, but as far as preventing it again I can make two suggestions. The first would be to put all the non-plastic shells inside small zip-lock bags. This of course would prevent access by insects. If this is not possible, then the addition of some moth balls (2 or 3 per drawer) or better Naphthalene Flakes, which are more effective than the moth balls.

Hope this helps. I have seen insect damage to a lot of things but this is the first time I have seen damage to a cartridge. Interesting.

Just curious, but how did you know I was an entomologist?


Thanks Ron,
My shells are in an atmosphere controlled out-building but certainly an insect could get in. The drawers are not always closed but I think they will be!

As to how I knew that you are an entomologist… you told me. We’ve had discussions before on fireants and mole crickets, if not more.

Why couldn’t that nasty little critter have scrapped on something else, like a plain ol’ Western shell or something!


Shotmeister–As to why the insect choose one of your favorites to damage is simply one of Murphy’s Laws: Given the choice to damage the cheap item or an expensive item, it will ALWAYS be the expensive one.


Hey Antman - Everyone knows your chosen profession. It used to be in your email address and it’s still for all to see over on the “Meet The Members” forum. :)



Ray–It isn’t any secret. I just didn’t remember talking to Shotmeister about it before. Glad to help anyone with an insect problem if I can.


Sometime back, a friend gave me some old Western shotshells with paper cases and rolled crimps, not of any particularly rarity. Anyway, they sat in my garage for years inside a paper bag. When I finally re-discovered them, all the paper bodies were chewed virtually to shreds by some kind of insect. I guess there’s a storage lesson there.


Empty brass cases, likewise, make a good home for wasps. They will plug up both the mouth and the primer pocket.

Off on a tangent - rifle bores are a favorite spot for wasps to build their nests of mud. I had a very good 308 W barrel ruined because I left it on the bench in my garage and did not notice the mud plug until I went to clean it one day. There was a big rust pit where the plug had dried.



Might it have something to do with glue or sealant used on the box or cartridge? Old books that are bound with animal glue will be damaged in similar fashion. On a trip to Africa some years ago we put cellophane tape over the muzzle of rifles to prevent mud wasps from sealing the bore.


Spiders also like to lay eggs inside brass cases. I have seen this quite a few times.


spiders don’t do any damage though and you can scrape out their nests without loss. They love warmth.


I remembered this thread today when I noticed what looked like an un-hatched spider nest in the base of a British 6 Pounder projectile. I had this projectile delivered from Greece earlier in the week, so it was likely to be a non-native spider. I poked the nest out and burnt it with a cigarette lighter so as not introduce any invasive species if it had hatched.


Falcon–Good idea to have destroyed that spider nest. It is just such accidental introductions as yours that has caused untold damage to local environments. A good example here in the U.S. is the accidental introduction of the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle about 10 years ago. It was brought in inside dunnage (packing creates and bracing) in the hold of a ship. It has since killed about 90% of the ash trees in the U.S.