The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in UK had to be fumigated following an infestation of the common clothes moth.
The move led to a wave of jokes targeting the department, which has now been dubbed the Ministry for Moths.
After a senior official revealed the problem online one colleague expressed surprised given the number Defra plans that have been mothballed while another suggested it may have been because of the departments woolly policies.
However, the Whitehall building is only the latest in a series of infestations by the night-time pests. Parks have been particularly hit by a growing number of moth caterpillars, whose weblike nests have left them looking like something from a horror film. Experts believe the recent warm weather has been the cause. One web of the bird cherry ermine moth can sometimes cover hundreds of caterpillars and the damage to plants and trees can be severe.
Parts of Essex were also hit by an invasion of the toxic brown-tail moth caterpillars, which can cause breathing problems, skin irritation and allergic outbreaks to people who come into contact with them. It is understood it was the more common clothes moth or Tineola bisselliella that targeted Defras Nobel House headquarters in Westminster. The building was briefly closed last weekend to allow pest controllers to treat the problem. The larvae of moths are often found in the dark corners of wardrobes and drawers and tend to feed off woollen clothes. Martin Nesbit, a senior Defra official, revealed on Twitter: Great all-staff message. Nobel House will be closed to staff on Saturday, May 21 to enable pest controllers to treat ongoing moth problem.
Mr Nesbit, director of EU and international agriculture, joked: I assume this has the all-clear from Natural England [the Governments wildlife experts] and biodiversity policy colleagues.
The problem was first picked up last autumn when staff complained about insects flying out of air vents and swooping around desks, meeting rooms and corridors. Officials had the building fumigated in November, but the problem returned.
A Defra spokesman said: 'There is no longer a moth problem. The building was closed for follow-up treatment after the problem was discovered last November. How any moths came to be here remains shrouded in mystery.
'I am not going to conduct an audit of woolly jumpers at Defra.