Clothes Moths

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Moths may look small and harmless, but they can cause surprising amounts of damage to your clothing and textiles and stored products in general.

Fast Facts

Color Casemaking clothes moth: Body is grayish yellow with a dark head. Forewings are silvery-buff with 3 dark spots.
Webbing clothes moth: Wings are dark yellow to golden and the head has reddish hairs. Wings are uniformly gray, without dark spots.
The caterpillars of both species are yellowish white.
Size Casemaking clothes moth: Adults are 7-10 mm long. Larva grow up to 10 mm long when full grown.
Webbing clothes moth: Adults are 8-10 mm long. Larva grow up to 12 mm long when full grown.
Appearance Casemaking clothes moth: The front wings have three dark spots on the middle, and the hind wings are yellowish brown without spots.
Webbing clothes moth: Wings are fringed with no markings and have a 1″ wingspan.
Casemaking Clothes Moth
Casemaking Clothes Moth
Webbing Clothes Moth
Webbing Clothes Moth
Clothes Moth Caterpillars
Clothes Moth Caterpillars

Diet

Fabric moths tend to target clothing stores, museums, and coat closets, attics, and furniture in homes to feed on wool clothes, natural carpets, furs, stored wool and piano felts. Casemaking clothes moths will also feed on stored plant materials, such as spices and tobacco.

Habitat

Casemaking clothes moth
Usually protected in case made of silk and fibers of feeding material.

Webbing clothes moth
Often found in a network of silken tubing. Larvae may be difficult to spot as they hide in a network of silken tubing.

Casemaking Clothes Moth Life Cycle

The female deposits 37-48 eggs singly or in small groups. Hatching occurs in four to seven days. Caterpillar development is complete in 68-87 days, and pupation takes places in the larval feeding case after both ends are sealed. The life cycle is complete within three to eight months, and there are three to four generations per year.

Webbing Clothes Moth Life Cycle

The female lays 40-100 eggs in her lifetime in batches of about 25. Eggs are deposited singly or in batches between threads on cloth surfaces. Hatching occurs in about seven days. Caterpillar development includes 5-45 stages (molts), and can last from 35 days to 2.5 years. Caterpillars make cocoons for pupation. Males live 13-79 days; females 10-48 days. The entire life cycle completion usually takes three to eight months.

Signs of Infestation

One of the first signs of a clothes moth infestation is likely to be the telltale holes in clothing, wool carpets, curtains, and furniture. That’s because moths like to lay their eggs in places where the larva will hatch and then devour fabric such as clothing, upholstery, carpeting and other fabrics. The adult moths do not eat fabric and clothing, but they will reproduce and create more larvae that will.

While the first thing most people notice is the damage caused to clothes, fabrics or carpets, there are other indicators of a moth infestation:

  • Small maggot like larvae (moth caterpillars)
  • Silken tubes or cases in which the moth larvae live
  • Pupae (silk cocoons) from which larvae emerge as moths
  • Adult moths often crawling rather than flying
  • Insect debris (droppings and/or silk threads) around the damaged area

Damage

Fabric pests are usually attracted to natural fabric items such as carpets, tapestries, rugs, leather book bindings, upholstered furniture, silks and feathered items. Casemaking clothes moths do extensive damage to woolens, felts, upholstered furniture, and clothes. Webbing clothes moths damage a variety of animal products, including wool, fur, skins, clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture, and felt.

Rugs

The most common item that gets damaged by fabric pests are woolen rugs. As woolen rugs can be expensive, it is strongly recommend you check them frequently for signs of fabric pests.

Woolen Products

In general, untreated woolens stored unprotected in cupboards for several months are more prone to insect damage. Wool textiles in frequent use and regularly washed or dry cleaned are unlikely to suffer damage from fabric pests unless infestations occur nearby.

Knitted Goods

Insect damage to fabrics and fine knitted goods usually takes the form of irregular shaped holes where yarns have been completely severed and eaten, much like the damage small caterpillars can do to leaves of plants.

Other Items at Risk

Other items include pillows, mattresses, cushions and furniture with traditional fillings such as feathers or horse hair. Brushes and paint brushes made with natural bristles and pads and felts in woodwind instruments (especially if stored for long periods of time) may also be found with damage.

Prevention & Control

Moth Prevention

To reduce the risks of a clothes moth infestation, follow the steps below:

  • Depending on the species, simply vacuuming regularly can make the home environment unsuitable for the pests.
  • Promptly launder all clothes and fabrics stained with food products or bodily fluids.
  • Additionally, storage bins containing products that moths like to feed on should be carefully cleaned between uses.
Moth Control

We can help you with our full range of effective solutions to treat infestations and eliminate your moth problem. Our effective treatment is suitable for eliminating moths, eggs and larvae in delicate items that cannot be laundered.

Prior to recommending a moth control solution, your specialist will properly identify the species affecting your property. Correctly identifying the invading species is key to removal. Different moth pest species require different treatment methods to effectively control them. For the fabric moth pests, vacuuming, sanitation, proper storage, liquid sprays, and dusts are commonly used.

  • In the case of fabric moths, dry cleaning the affected garments may effectively kill adults, larvae, and eggs.
  • Where possible, regularly washing fabric items and carefully storing clothes, will also help to keep your items safe from damage.
  • Extreme cold or heat kills any moth species, so freezing or heating food items to do away with stored product moths remains an option.
  • Non-chemical solutions include the simple act of vacuuming. This plays an important role in removing cast skins and eggs, which helps to break the natural life cycle of fabric pests and reduce their population in your property. Ensure you vacuum upholstered furniture and underneath items of furniture, not just carpets and rugs. Carpet edges next to skirting boards and pet bedding should also be carefully vacuumed. It is important to immediately discard the content of your vacuum cleaner outside of your property.
  • If you intend to store clothing for a long time, you should ensure all items have been washed and are clean. Wrap up items in plastic to keep them safe from fabric pests.

Monitoring using various traps including pheromone traps where applicable is done thereafter to ensure moth problems do not persist.

For unusually persistent infestations of moths, count on a professional pest management service to take care of the problem knowledgeably and successfully.