Identification and Life Cycle
There are two species of clothes moths that commonly infest homes; The casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella), and the webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella). Clothes moths are sometimes mistaken for Indian meal moths, which are known to be a pest of pantry items such as cereal products, nuts and herbs, not cloth.
The Webbing clothes moth is a light golden color, black eyes and a coppery tuft of hairs on the top of its head. It has a wing span of approximately 1/2 – inch and is a poor flyer that rarely leaves dark closets or other storage areas.
The Casemaking clothes moth, is similar in size to the webbing clothes moth, with the exception of dark specs on the wings and a slightly darker shade of color.
Males actively seek out female moths in order to mate and can surprisingly both find their way through narrow cracks in storage cabinets, boxes, bins, etc. Once they mate, the female searches for a suitable food source to lay her eggs.
Female moths will lay their eggs in clothing, furniture or other items that are made from animal-based materials. A single female can lay up to 57 small, pinhead-sized , white eggs on or near the fabric, clothing or furniture they infest. The eggs will hatch in one to three weeks during the summer months. Once hatched, it is the larvae which feeds, not the adults. Clothes moths go through four stages; egg, larva, pupa and adult
Habits and Damage
Clothes moths are well-known pests of stored woolens, but they will eat a wide range of other fibers including hair, linen, silk, felt and feathers. Serious infestations can become undetected in a home, causing significant damage to clothing, bedding, floor coverings, blankets, etc.
Infestations can often start if woolens are improperly stored in dark places, and left undisturbed for a long period of time. The eggs and larvae can also unknowingly be carried into homes on items containing wool or other animal-based fabrics such as on secondhand furniture, new upholstered furniture, or rugs.
They are seldom seen because they avoid light. They prefer dark, undisturbed areas such as closets, basements, and attics, and tend to live in corners or in folds of fabric. They are poor flyers and will attempt to hide when disturbed by hopping, running or flying short distances to escape.
Common Signs Of Clothes Moth Activity
- Visual Sightings. This moth flies slowly and avoids light. If you attempt to catch one, it will fold its wings and drop to the floor.
- Damaged Fabrics. The feeding larvae may leave bare spots in a rug or a hole in a garment.
- Fecal Droppings. These look like small, tan or brown sand-like particles down in the fabric.
- Moth Larvae. They are slender, worm-shaped and white in color, about 3/8- inches long. Can be seen just after hatching from the egg.
- Moth Cocoons.They are approximately 1/2 – inch long, cylinder shaped and slightly fuzzy to camouflage itself.
Prevention and Management
The best strategy for managing clothes moths is prevention. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program can help identify the pest and maintain a moth-free environment.
Prevention. Most problems start from infested materials brought into an area where other woolen items are stored
Inspection and Detection. Maintain a regular inspection routine. Use a flashlight to inspect for holes, larvae or droppings.
Control.Infested articles can be brushed and cleaned outdoors in the sunlight to rid clothes moths, or traps can be placed in closets where clothing is stored to reduce the infestation. If you have a large infestation, it is advised to use a pest management professional.
The following steps can be taken to help prevent or reduce a potential problem with clothes moths
- Vacuum & clean often to prevent lint, dust or hair from accumulating on floors, rugs, under furniture, etc., and empty the vacuum after use.
- Thoroughly clean garments and rugs before storing.
- Wash & launder all clothing affected by moths. Dry cleaning, heat from a dryer, and freezing the garment for 30 minutes in a freezer will kill moth larvae.
- Tightly wrap heavily infested, damaged clothing in a plastic bag & dispose of in trash.
- Use storage containers with tight fitting lids. New cedar chests may be used to repel clothes moths, but the oils wear off within a few years.
- Clean garments before storage to prevent infestation. Moths are attracted to articles soiled by food, beverages, perspiration or urine.