Clothes moths were once more common in homes. During the 1950s and through the 1970s, wool was treated with long lasting residual insecticides which prevented damage to natural fibers. However, due to the phasing out of these products, organic fabrics such as wool are once again susceptible to clothes moths. Thus Clothes Moths are making a reappearance.
Clothes Moths go through complete metamorphosis: egg, larvae (crawling stage), pupae (cocoon) and adult (moth). However, it is the larval stage that damages fabric. Organic materials such as wool, hide, fur, etc. contain keratin, a protein that the Clothes Moth and Carpet Beetles, another fabric pest, can digest.
Clothes Moth larvae are cream colored and grow to up to 1/2" in length. All moth larvae possess three pair of legs just behind the head, but also have a set of short, stubby feet behind the legs called prolegs. Prolegs define the larvae as moths (and not beetles).
The moth (adult) is about 3/8" in length and is the wing color is evenly beige. Since there is an Indian Meal Moth that is the same size, you may want to look at our photo of the Indian Meal Moth to be sure that it is not that insect.
The Indian Meal Moth is a common food pest. But because they're most active at night and are phototropic (fly toward light), they are likely to be found in other rooms.
Where To Look for Damage
As the cycle begins, adults (moths) lay eggs in cracks or crevices near a food source or sometimes directly on it. When the eggs hatch, the larvae begin to feed on the fabric, frequently eating areas that have been stained with food or beverages or that contain body oils, sweat, or urine. This explains why carpet is often damaged where people sit and where food particles or stains may be found.
Also look for larvae on wool sweaters, natural bristle brushes, fur (including pet hair) and other organic fabrics. Clothes moths have been known to damage non organic fabrics as well, but this is incidental to feeding on nearby organic fabrics.
Resolving a Clothes Moth Problem
An important component in dealing with a Clothes Moth infestation is sanitation. Sanitation refers to vacuuming to remove food sources such as pet fur or hair which may keep the moth larvae well fed. In other cases, it may be a matter of removing affected garments and having them dry cleaned. If you have a large number of garments, ask the cleaner about a bulk rate for cleaning your clothes rather than paying per article.
Moths flakes or moth balls or cakes containing paradichlorobenzene or naphthalene may be somewhat effective as repellents, but the odor of these products is obnoxious and may be a respiratory irritant to some individuals. Garments may be packed with these products into tight sealing plastic bags. However, with the newer plastic totes available that use tight fitting lids, it is possible to shield garments from a moth infestation without any chemical repellents.
Insecticide sprays such as Allpro Bug Killer Spray, the product that we offer, are labeled to treat cracks and crevices for Clothes Moth larvae. You would apply this product along the corners of clothes closets and around the edge of shelves above and below it. You may also wish to treat around the baseboard moldings in rooms where carpets have become affected by Clothes Moths. In some cases, if carpet is installed over a hardwood floor, it may be necessary to treat between the floorboards where the larvae may hide. In addition, a total release indoor fogger such as Pro Control Plus, may be used in a room or area to help to quickly kill moths. You may use a vacuum cleaner to remove moths as well (be sure to throw out the vacuum bag as a precaution, afterward).
Another option is to use pheromone based insect glue traps. We sell a Pheromone Insect Trap for Clothes Moths which is specific for that moth species. Placing these diamond shaped traps in a room or closet with a suspected moth problem will monitor for insects and help to capture adults. Note that the lure is for male moths only and may not attract egg laying females. Larvae that are active in the area may continue to do damage to organic fibers until they pupate and then hatch as adults. This is a very conservative approach and is the least toxic (non toxic) solution, but may not solve a Clothing Moth problem.
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