Clothes Moths

General Facts

The caterpillars (larvae) of this moth are considered a serious pest, they spend their entire time eating and foraging for food. They derive nourishment from clothing such as wool, fur, feathers, and other natural fibers. They will not normally feed on cotton, silk or synthetic fibers but may attack fabric blends of wool or will feed on fibers soiled with perspiration, or dirt. This moth prefers moist conditions as it doesn’t drink and gets its water from its food source. So it prefers damp and soiled fabrics, in fact it requires minerals from soiled garments for optimal growth and will avoid cleaned garments in very low humidity environments.

A common type of clothes moth is the webbing moth. It is a small moth with a wing span of about 1/2 inch. It is uniformly pale golden in color with no unusual markings other than black eyes and a coppery tuft of hairs on the top of the head. Webbing clothes moth is a weak flier and rarely leaves dark closets or other storage areas. Female moths lay their eggs within one to three weeks after they emerge. Eggs are glued to woolen threads so that they are not easily removed. After the larvae hatch they feed immediately and often they construct a silken tube and feed in the vicinity of this shelter. Other times the larvae may continue to move across the fabric and only produce scattered patches of silk on which it rests. The larvae is a creamy white color and may reach 1/2 inch in length.



Proper diagnosis of the pest is the first step in gaining control. Woolens damaged by the clothes moth exhibit furrows in the surface, which is caused by the larvae’s habit of “grazing.” Occasionally, and during heavy infestations, the woolens will have holes. When larvae infest furs or hairbrushes, they clip off the individual hairs close to the surface. Larvae can infest cast pet hairs that are trapped under baseboards or in the air return vents of heating systems. They also have been found in vacant wasp nests and feed on insects that have died in wall voids or attics. Because of this, it is important to practice thorough cleaning of the home using a good vacuum cleaner. In many instances clothes moths can be prevented and/or controlled solely by vacuuming. Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag when finished.

The webbing clothes moth will feed on hair, wool, fur, feathers, and similar animal products. Synthetics, cottons, and other plant materials are not attacked by the webbing clothes moth larvae unless these items are stained with food or body oils. The casemaking clothes moths will attack any of the following: felts; dried carcasses or taxidermy mounts; wool clothing, carpets, or tapestries; feathers; furs; and plant-derived materials such as dried herbs, tobacco, tea, hemp, pharmaceuticals, and seeds and seed products.

If infested, clothing, blankets, and tapestries should be laundered or dry cleaned, and stored in an airtight container or bag. Small carpets and throw rugs can be beaten and brushed while hanging from an outside line to remove most, if not all, eggs and larvae. Large area rugs and carpets should be treated by professional pest management companies (pest control companies). Never apply pesticides to clothing or bedding. Before using any pesticide, thoroughly read the label and do not apply to any carpet, upholstery, or other site unless it is specifically listed in the directions for use.