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Biology and Identification of Clothing Moths


Webbing Clothes Moth damage.Textile-infesting moths, or clothing moths, are economically important household pests. They annually cause millions of dollars in damage to stored woolens and furs, leather goods, tapestries, valuable artifacts, silk products, hunting trophies, and occasionally musical instruments. They also are capable of infesting some stored foods, especially dried meats.

Clothes moths can also damage synthetic fibers that are stained with human or animal by-products; as well as blended textile products that are woven from different materials, of which one is an animal-based fiber (for example, a fabric that contains both wool and polyester). In either case, the damage occurs when they consume the animal-based component of the textile product. No specie of moth actually eats synthetic fibers.

As is the case with most stored-product pests, it is the larvae of clothes moths who do the actual damage by feeding upon the animal-based components of the products they infest. The adults do not feed. Their sole job is to reproduce, depositing as many eggs as possible on or near a suitable source of food.

Identifying Clothing Moths

Although clothes moths cause similar damage, do-it-yourself clothing moth control begins with properly identifying the specie of moth that is infesting your home or business usiness. Proper identification will enable you to more effectively and permanently treat the moth infestation.

Many moth control treatment methods rely at least in part on the use of traps such as the Safer: Clothes Moth Alert that simulate pheromones, which are chemicals that the moths emit during the mating process. These traps are highly effective, but many are very specific with regard to which species they attract. A trap formulated to attract and trap one specie of moth might not be effective at attracting another. (Some pheromone traps, however, are broader-spectrum and will attract several species. Check the product label to be sure.)

Other traps utilize food-based scents that are designed to mimic the preferred food sources of various moths. Once again, these tend to be specific to certain moth species (although not as much so as pheromone traps), so a trap designed to control one kind of moth may not be as effective at attracting and trapping others.

Common Clothing Moth Species

Webbing Clothes Moths

Webbing Clothes Moth.Adult webbing clothes moths are about 1/2" in length and are buff in color with some reddish coloration on the head. The males are very strong fliers, but the females cannot fly very well. Adults usually live for between 15 and 30 days after they emerge from their cocoons.

Larval webbing clothes moths are creamy white in color and about 1/2 inch in length. They construct silken feeding tubes and patches, which have the appearance of webbing (hence the common name webbing clothes moth).

Casemaking Clothes Moths

Casemaking Clothes MothAdult casemaking clothes moths are darker in color and slightly smaller than Webbing clothes moths, and usually have three dark spots on the wings.

The larvae have a distinct habit of constructing a silken "case" around itself and carrying it about. When it is time to pupate, the larva pulls itself into the case, seals both ends with silk, and pupates inside of it.

Casemaking clothes moths are much less common than webbing clothes moths and are encountered primarily in the Southern United States.

A useful guide to identifying and treating clothes moths and other textile pests can be found here.

Next: Clothes Moth Prevention and Control