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Pest Spotlight: Clothes Moths

Pest Spotlight: Clothes Moths

Sweater season is upon us in Raleigh, so today we want to highlight a pest you probably haven’t heard of for a while – the clothes moth. The old saying that your grandparents’ house smells like mothballs makes these pests seem like a problem of yesteryear. So, did they go extinct?

Clothes moths are small (about ½ inch) moths with drab coloration. Two different types of clothes moths are Raleigh-area pests: the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth. Both moths lay eggs on certain types of fabrics. When the eggs hatch, larvae (i.e., caterpillars) emerge and feed on the fabric. Both types of caterpillars try to conceal themselves. The webbing clothes moth spins a silken tube in which it feeds. It typically leaves behind a mess of silken webbing and frass, or feces, wherever it has fed. As implied by its name, the casemaking clothes moth creates a more complex tubular case that it drags everywhere that it feeds. Adults moths do not cause any damage to fabric beyond depositing eggs. These moths do not like light and actively seek out dark, undisturbed places. If you think you have a clothes moth problem because you are seeing a lot of moths, it is likely that you have a different type of moth infestation. Damage on stored clothing is typically the first sign of an infestation due to the elusive nature of the adults. 

So why don’t we hear much about clothes moths anymore? It’s likely because the type of fabrics that are now in fashion are less preferred by these insects. Clothes moth larvae prefer to feed on animal-based fabrics such as wool and cannot digest linen, cotton, rayon, or most synthetic fibers, such as acrylic or polyester. Most clothing today is made with these indigestible fabrics. This does not mean you can’t end up with a clothes moth infestation. Any stored wool sweaters, leather jackets, and down pillow and comforters are at risk, so be sure to take them out of the closet and periodically inspect for damage. 

Think you have a clothes moth infestation? Note that clothes moths are not the only fabric pests. Others like carpet beetles may cause similar damage, so call Innovative Pest Solutions today for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.