If you have ever noticed moths flying out of your closet and discovered that some of the clothes stored there had developed holes, you may have assumed that the moths were responsible for the damage. If the moths belonged to one of two species, you could be correct. However, the flying moths were adults and did not cause the damage directly. Instead, it was their offspring that used your clothes for food while in their larval stage.
Why Do Moth Larvae Feed on Clothing?
Moth larvae feed on keratin, a protein found in wool, silk, fur, cashmere, feathers, leather and even pet and human hair. Without a keratin-rich diet, the larvae would not be able to develop into adults. The holes in your clothes show where the larvae have been feeding on the fabric. Incidentally, these moth larvae will also feed on furniture, rugs, carpets, drapes, bedding and virtually anything else made with fibers that contain keratin. However, since the types of moths that thrive on keratin prefer dark environments, they are more likely to infest closets, attics, basements and other locations that have little light.
Which Moths Eat Clothes?
In the United States, the two species causing most of the damage to clothes are the casemaking clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth. Both species lay their eggs on a material that is rich in keratin. Each deposit can contain as many as 1,000 eggs or as few as 50, but the average clutch contains between 200 and 300 eggs. Whenever possible, they prefer to lay their eggs in the darkest, most remote corner of the closet. Therefore, you can have a significant moth infestation before you notice the first damaged garment.
Webbing clothes moths are the primary culprit behind damaged clothing. Their offspring spin tiny tunnels that they can use for travel as they eat their way across the fabric. Excrement and fabric particles are the building blocks for these tunnels, so they frequently match the color of the material upon which the larvae are feeding. This can make it difficult to tell that larvae are present on the article.
The larvae of casemaking clothes moths have cases that move with them and grow as the larvae grow. These cases — much like the tunnels built by the larvae of webbing clothes moths — tend to match the color of the food source, making them virtually invisible to the naked eye.
Both species are typically no more than 0.25 to 0.5 inch when fully grown. This is about half the size of the light-loving food moths found in kitchens and pantries. If you were to use a magnifying glass to compare their heads, you would find that food moths are almost always bald, but clothes moths typically have tiny hairs that grow in tufts or clumps.
How to Eradicate Clothes Moths
The first step is to have a professional conduct an inspection to make sure that moths are responsible for the damage. Some types of beetles and an assortment of other pests also feed on fabrics. Once the pest has been identified, your technician can tell you the best ways to eliminate the infestation and protect against future damage.
At Addison Pest Control of Texas, we can help you control moths, ants, spiders, rodents, termites and a host of other unwelcome invaders. To learn more about our services, use the online form to contact us or give us a call at 866-928-9845.