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Clothes Moths

Clothes moths belong to a large group of small moths in the family Tineidae. There are two species of clothes moths that are of considerable economic importance.

Clothes Moths

Clothes Moth

The webbing clothes moth is the most common fabric moth. Adults are golden colored with reddish golden hairs on top of the head. Wings, with a span of about 1/2 inch, are fringed with a row of golden hairs. Because the moths are weak flyers and not attracted to lights, they are usually found very close to the infested items, such as in dark areas of closets.

The webbing clothes moth larvae prefer woolen articles, but will feed on hair, fur, feathers and similar animal products. They frequently spin a flat mat of silken webbing, or construct a loose, silken tube and then feed from beneath this protective covering of silk. The larvae will weave small fibers from the food material among the silken strands, making the webbing difficult to detect. The fairly large fecal pellets often accumulate beneath this silken mat.

Since the dyes of various materials are often unaffected by the digestive process, the pellets are frequently the same color as the material upon which the larvae are feeding. The larvae deposit their silk in the folds or weaves of tapestries, beneath rugs, in the areas of clothing beneath cuffs and collars, or between garments when they are hung too close together or tightly packed into closets.

When larvae feed on the underside of carpeting, the silken tubes may extend along the flooring and in the cracks. It is this extensive spinning activity which characterizes an infestation by this moth. Woolens damaged by this species frequently exhibit furrows on the surface of the material, caused by the “grazing” feeding behavior of the larvae. In heavy infestations, the woolens will have long, irregular holes in the material.

Clothes Moths Larva

Clothes Moths Larva

Life Cycle: 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 dislodged. The eggs do not remain dormant for long periods, although hatching is delayed by cool temperatures. It is a myth that eggs can remain dormant for long periods and suddenly produce new infestations.

The caterpillar (larva) stage feeds on wool soon after egg hatch. 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 length of time that the larva feeds varies greatly. It depends on factors such as temperature, humidity and the quality of the woolens as food. Under ideal conditions, this stage may be completed in as little as five weeks; it can take up to two years.When full grown, the larva spins a smooth case of silk and pupates within. It emerges from this stage as an adult moth in about 2 1/2 weeks. Mating and egg laying begins almost immediately after adults emerge from the pupal case. Adult moths do not feed and die within a month.


In the heat of a home, development can occur continuously which produces overlapping generations. Development of clothes moths is slowed on clean wool. Sometimes they are unable to complete their development on completely clean wool. This is because clothes moth larvae require Vitamin B and various salts as essential nutrients, and these are lacking in completely cleaned wool. However, perspiration, and many other kinds of fabric soiling can provide vitamin B and salts. Clothes moth attacks are typically focused on such soiled patches of cloth.

Clothes Moths damage

Clothes Moths Damage

Management : Occasionally cleaning areas where clothes moths are likely to reside will discourage infestations. Examine under furniture, along baseboards and in cracks where hair and debris collect, inside closets, and near and around heaters and vents.

Properly store items in a clean, pest-free, airtightcontainer to exclude females from laying eggs. If you find clothes moth larvae on garments or rugs they should be properly cleaned and stored. Consider replacing fabrics with synthetic materials if available.

Periodically hanging fabrics in the sun and brushing furs will destroy eggs and expose larvae. Larvae dislike sunlight and will drop from the fabrics to find protection. Periodic dry cleaning (>120ºF) of clothing items, since larvae are more likely to feed on soiled fabrics.

Thorough vacuuming will remove dust from floors, shelves, and drawers where adults may lay eggs. Also give close attention to rugs, carpets, draperies, furniture cushions, corners, moldings and hard-to-reach places.Be sure to dispose of the vacuum bag when finished.

Remove any bird or rodent nests in or near the home as clothes moth larvae will feed on feather and hair in the nests.If practical, try freezing infested fabrics for a few days to kill eggs and feeding larvae.

Control: In general, prevention is the best control method for clothes moths. Infestation can be prevented with regular housekeeping, but sometimes infestations may warrant additional management. Options for controlling clothes moth larvae include:

Clothes Moths cocoons

Clothes Moths Cocoons

Moth crystals or flakes containing naphthalene will repel moths in airtight containers. These products leave an unpleasant residual odor and can melt plastic; they are toxic and should be used with caution. Cedar-lined closets and chests have limited value against clothes moths because it is difficult to maintain repellent concentrations over time.

Insecticides should be considered a last resort to reduce clothes moths. Products labeled for clothes moths can be applied directly to the fabrics, if needed. Some insecticides are oil-based and should not be sprayed on silk or other delicate fabrics. Products registered in Utah include: beta-cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, and pyrethrin, Fumigation of furniture and other stuffed items may be required when a surface insecticide application is not sufficient. Place the infested item in a 30-gallon plastic bag (4 ml thick) with ½ lb of dry ice. Loosely seal the bag and let the dry ice evaporate completely. Fumigation will not prevent reinfestation.

Consulting a Pest Control professional should be considered if widespread clothes moth infestations develop.

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