Clothes Moths

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Clothes moths are a bane to people because they feed on valuable clothes and property made of natural fibers such as wool, cashmere, and fur.

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE CLOTHES MOTHS?

  • Clothes moths are usually found in closets, basements, attics and other dark, undisturbed areas.
  • Moths flying about in the kitchen, pantry area, and other open spaces are probably not clothes moths. More likely they are grain-related moths coming from infested flour, cereal, or other stored food item. (Link to Indian Meal Moth)
  • Clothes moths do not fly quickly so they are easily noticeable.
  • They tend to live in corners and folds of fabrics.
  • The first indication of a clothes moth infestation may be little holes in clothing or draperies.
  • Another indication of a clothes moth infestation is hardly detectable, mostly white threads on the fabric that look like very fine cobwebs.
  • You may also find small, maggot-looking larvae in clothes drawers or silken cases or tubes where moth larvae live.

 

WHAT DO CLOTHES MOTHS LOOK LIKE?

  • There are two common indoor species of clothes moths:
  • Webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella)
  • The webbing clothes moth is the most common clothes moth in the United States.
  • The webbing clothes moth larvae are small white grubs approximately 1/24” in length
  • Webbing clothes moth larvae produce patches of silk webbing. When webbing clothes moths larvae move on to new feeding locations, they leave the webbing behind.
  • Adult webbing clothes moths are uniformly buff-colored or gold in color with fluffy pompadour of reddish-gold hairs on head
  • Adult webbing clothes moths are approximately 1/4”- 1/3” in length, with a wing span of ½”
  • Feathered or “fringed” wings

Casemaking clothes moths (Tinea pellionella)

  • The casemaking clothes moth is less common and also of far less economic importance than the webbing clothes moth.
  • Casemaking clothes moth larvae are not exposed; they are inside open-ended a “silken case” about 3/8” in length which they carry about
  • The case takes on the color of the fabric the larva has eaten.
  • Pupal stage often suspends vertically from ceilings and closet shelves.
  • The wing span of Adult casemaking moths are smaller than webbing clothes moths at 3/8”- ½” in length.
  • Case making clothes moths are more brownish in hue with 3 faint dark spots on feathered wings
  • Hairs on the head are lighter colored than those of the webbing clothes moth

ARE CLOTHES MOTHS DANGEROUS?

  • No, clothes moths are not dangerous to your health but they can damage your personal belongings, including clothing and furniture.

CAN MY HOUSE BE DAMAGED BY CLOTHES MOTHS?

  • Clothes moth larvae damage fabrics and materials by feeding on the fibers. (Adult clothes moths do not feed.)
  • Larvae of both clothes moth species feed on wool, cashmere, feathers, fur, and hair.
  • Clothes moth larvae will feed on synthetics or cotton blends if these fabrics also contain wool, but will not feed on materials made only from cotton or synthetic fibers.
  •  Anything made of natural fibers is susceptible to clothes moth larvae, including wool sweaters, coats, blankets, decorative items, down pillows and comforters, carpets and rugs, drapes, leather and upholstered furniture, lint, paper products, even animal bristle brushes.
  • Damage often occurs in concealed places such as beneath collars or in cuffs of clothing, in crevices of upholstered furniture, and carpeted areas under furniture.
  • Fabrics with food, perspiration, or urine stains are more subject to damage.

WHY DO I HAVE CLOTHES MOTHS?

  • The most common cause of a clothes moths infestation is bringing clothes moth eggs or larvae into your home on an article of clothing, a piece of furniture, or rug.

WHAT IS THE LIFECYCLE OF CLOTHES MOTHS?

  • Clothes moths have a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, adult
  • Female clothes moths lay an average of 40 to 50 eggs during a 2- to 3-week period and die once they've completed the egg-laying process.
  • Eggs are attached to fabric threads with an adhesive, secreted from the female.
  • Eggs hatch in 4 -10 days in warm conditions, but can take up to a month if the environment is cooler.
  • The larval period lasts 35 days to 2 1/2 years depending on the species, temperature, and food availability.
  • During the larval period, clothes moth larvae will molt 5 - 45 times.
  • Webbing clothes moths pupate inside a silken cocoon, usually on the fabric.
  • Casemaking clothes moths pupate inside their case away from their food source in a nearby crevice.
  • Pupation lasts 8 - 10 days in summer and up to 3 - 4 weeks in heated buildings during winter.
  • The clothes moth life cycle takes 4 - 6 months and there are typically 2 generations per year.

6 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT CLOTHES MOTHS:

  • Clothes moths are one species of moths that are not attracted to light; in fact, they avoid light.
  • They are reluctant flyers and may be seen scurrying across the surface of infested materials, especially when you turn on a light.
  • Clothes moths will not eat vegetable products or food kept in the kitchen
  • Clothes moths don’t drink water; they get the moisture they need from human sweat left on the clothing they eat.
  • Perspiration, and other fabric soiling, also provides Vitamin B and various salts and other essential nutrients the clothes moths require.
  • Pianos can become infested with clothes moths and the wool felt hammers so badly damaged that the tone and action of the instrument is affected.