William F. Lyon
|Webbing Clothes Moth
Tineola bisselliella (Hummel)
|Casemaking Clothes Moth
Tinea pellionella (Linnaeus)
|Carpet or Tapestry Moth
Trichophaga tapetzella (Linnaeus)
Clothes moth larvae feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, leather, lint,
dust, paper, and occasionally cotton, linen, silk, and synthetic fibers.
They are especially damaging to fabric stained with beverages, urine, oil
from hair, and sweat. Most damage is done to articles left undisturbed for a
long time, such as old military uniforms and blankets, wool upholstery,
feathered hats, antique dolls and toys, natural bristle brushes, weavings,
wall hangings, piano felts, old furs, and especially wool carpets under
heavy furniture and clothing in storage.
Damaged fabrics have holes eaten through them by small, white larvae and
often have silken cases, lines of silken threads, and fecal pellets over the
surface of the materials. Moths are destructive during the larvae stage.
Adult "millers" or moths are entirely harmless.
Adult webbing clothes moths have a wingspread of about 1/2-inch. The body
is about 1/4-inch long with wings folded and golden-yellow with a satiny
sheen. A tuft of hairs on the head is upright and reddish-gold. Eggs are
oval, ivory, and about 1/24-inch long. Larvae are a shiny, creamy white with
a brown head, up to 1/2-inch long. The larvae spin long threads and
construct tunnels of silk.
|Webbing Clothes Moth and Eggs
||Webbing Clothes Moth:
Larva and Larva Damage
Adult casemaking clothes moths have a 1/2-inch wingspread. Forewings are
yellowish-brown, and there are usually three distinct, dark dots on the
outer third of each wing. Hind wings are smaller, lighter, and fringed with
hair and scales. Eggs are whitish, and larvae are opaque-white with brown
heads. The larva spins a small silken case around itself and carries it
|Casemaking Clothes Moth: Adult and Larva
Adult carpet or tapestry moths are larger than webbing or casemaking
clothes moths at 1/3- to 5/12-inch long with a 3/4-inch wingspread. Adults
have white heads, with the first third of the front wings black and the
lower two-thirds creamy white. Hind wings are pale gray. Larvae are small,
creamy white caterpillars with dark heads.
Life Cycle and Habits
Clothes moths rarely fly to lights at night and instead prefer darkness,
such as a closet or storage chest. Any clothes moths fluttering around the
house are probably males, because females travel by either running, hopping,
or trying to hide in the folds of clothing. Female webbing clothes moths lay
40 to 50 eggs that hatch in 4 to 21 days. Larvae like to feed on soiled
material, spinning silken mats or tunnels and incorporating textile
fragments and bits of fecal pellets. Larvae will wander some distance away
from their food source to pupate in crevices. The pupa case is silken with
bits of fiber and excrement attached to the outside. The life cycle is about
65 to 90 days.
The casemaking clothes moth is less common than the webbing clothes moth.
Larvae spin a small silken case around themselves as they feed. This
cigar-shaped case enlarges as the larva grows. When crawling, the larva's
head, thorax, and three pairs of legs, outside the case, drag it along. It
does not spin a web of silk over the food material but eats clean-cut holes,
not usually in one spot. Females live about 30 days and lay 100 to 300 eggs.
The larva stage lasts 50 or more days, and the pupal stage is passed in the
case or cocoon. There are about 2 generations a year.
Adult carpet or tapestry moths are rarely found. Females lay 50 to 100
eggs in a lifetime, and the larva develops in about 3 months as it builds
silken tubes or burrows through infested materials, such as hair-stuffed
furniture, tapestries, old carpets, furs, and feathers.
Clothes moth development is greatly influenced by humidity. About
75-percent relative humidity in a heated, dark room is ideal.
Locate the source of infestation before treatment. Examine closets and
stored goods for larvae cases, moths, and damage. Larvae prefer to feed in
secluded, dark places. Use a flashlight and nail file to check for woolen
lint and hair under baseboards, in and under seldom moved upholstered
furniture, in air ducts, in carpets at the corners of the room and along
edges, in stored clothing, and in other places not readily accessible. Check
furs or feathers, such as stuffed birds or animal heads, antique feather
beds, or felt in pianos, woolen scrap piles, etc. Adult moths do not feed in
fabrics, but may be seen in darkened corners at night.
A new pheromone for the webbing clothes moth is available through Insects
Limited Inc., 1-800-992-1991 or 317-846-3399, fax: 317-846-9799.
Good housekeeping is critical for preventing or controlling clothes moth
damage. Never allow clothing, rugs, etc. to lie in a neglected pile. Regular
use of a strong suction vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool to remove lint,
hair, and dust from floor cracks, baseboards, air ducts, carpets, and
upholstered furniture is necessary. Keep closets and dresser drawers clean.
Regularly clean rugs where they fit close to the baseboards and under the
quarter round. Inspect stored foods and eliminate bird nests and dead
rodents. Launder and dry clean or steam clean clothes and other items before
storage. Egg-laying clothes moths are attracted to soiled articles. Ironing
will also destroy all stages of clothes moths. Sun, brush, and expose
clothing to the weather. Outdoors, bright, hot sunlight, and wind will
reduce larvae and damage. Frequent use of woolens and other animal fiber
clothing almost assures no damage from clothes moth larvae.
Cedar-lined chests and closets are not 100 percent effective. The natural
cedar oil evaporates and a fresh treatment of cedar oil should be applied
every two years. Be sure that all cloth goods be dry cleaned, washed,
pressed with a hot iron, sunned, or brushed prior to storage in an airtight
container with an effective moth repellent.
Constant light illumination in the closet may discourage moths. Use
tight-fitting doors. Try suspending wall to floor cotton drapes in front of
clothing to keep dust and moths away. Fur storage in cold vaults is
effective. Moth-proofing when woolens are manufactured may be effective
forever, whereas treatments at dry cleaners are less permanent and need to
be renewed regularly.
Freezing has been successfully used to control clothes moths. Place
fabric in polyethylene bags, squeeze all air out to minimize condensation,
and deep freeze the materials for three days. Infested antique objects
should be either fumigated or deep frozen by an experienced licensed pest
It is best not to treat clothing with insecticides due to possible damage
to the garments. All cracks and crevices in infested areas should be treated
with a residual insecticide. After thoroughly cleaning rugs, rug pads, under
heavy furniture, and carpets, especially around the edges, dust with
bendiocarb (Ficam D) under the edges of carpeting, cracks in closets, under
baseboard, and molding or other hiding places. Any wall void that might
contain old rodent, bird, or insect nests should be drilled and dusted.
Sprays of pyrethrins (Exciter, Kicker, Pyrenone) and permethrin can be
used as spot treatments to kill any moths that might alight or wandering
larvae. Do not treat clothing. The licensed pest control operator or
applicator can use sprays of bendiocarb (Ficam W), bendiocarb + pyrethrins (Ficam
Plus), cyfluthrin (Tempo), or tralomethrin (Saga) in such places. Infested
stuffed furniture and other salvageable commodities should be fumigated by a
licensed pest control operator or applicator. Before using any insecticides,
always read the label directions and follow safety precautions.
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