The adult stage of the webbing clothes moth has a uniform pale golden color and measures approximately ¼ inch with the wings folded back on the body and ½ inch with the wings spread. The eyes are black, and the top of the head is covered in a reddish golden tuft of hairs. The larvae’s head capsule is brown to black, and the body creamy white; eyes are absent in this stage. As it feeds on the surface of a fabric, the larva spins long threads and builds tunnels made of silk, excrements, and scraps of whatever fabric is available for feeding during this stage. Larvae are commonly found in the hidden parts of clothing, such as under cuffs and collars.
Due to the similarity in size and appearance, webbing clothes moths are often confused with casemaking and grain-infesting moths. It is, however, possible for homeowners to differentiate between them by looking closely at their size at rest (clothes moths are approximately 1/2 inch while food-infesting moths are 1/3-1/2 inch in length) and color (the casemaking clothes moths are brown with colored spots and have lighter colored hairs on their heads than webbing clothes moths).Unlike the webbing clothes moth larvae, the larvae of casemaking clothes moths aren’t exposed – they live inside a tube made of silk and wool, where they feed until they reach maturity.
(Image source: Flickr Commons)
Typically, if conditions such as room temperature, humidity, and the quality of food are favorable, the clothes moth goes from egg to adult in approximately 45 days. The eggs are glued on fabrics so that they will not be easily dislodged. Within 1-2 days of pupation, moths are ready to mate and lay an average of 40-50 pinhead-sized eggs, usually on the surface of or near fabrics and furnishings. Adult moths do not possess a mouthpart and cannot feed, and so they die within one month.
The webbing clothes moths’ primary diet contains woolens, fur, leather, hair, mohair, and even dead insects and dried animal carcasses. Their typical dwelling places include clothing, carpets, blankets, stored wool garments, upholstery, piano felts, fish meal, mounted animals, and other dark and isolated places where they can feed and mate. Synthetic and cotton fabrics are usually avoided, unless they are mixed with organic fibers, in which case the larvae may feed on them and use the remaining ones to build their tunnels. Fabrics that are not of animal origin cannot be digested.
The home provides the ideal environment for clothes moths to grow and reproduce. They especially thrive on dirty and stained fabrics, from which they can obtain the vitamins, salts, and essential nutrients they need for survival. Clean wool, which lacks vitamin B and salts required by the larvae, will delay and even stop their development into adults. Clothes damaged by the webbing clothes moth display furrows on the surface of the fabric, a direct result of the grazing activity of the larvae. The presence of long, differently-shaped holes is usually the sign of a heavy infestation.
(Image source: Flickr Commons)
Exclusion. A moth infestation typically begins when infested garments are brought inside and stored with other clothes made from natural fibers. Therefore, in order to eliminate current infestations and prevent future ones, all clothes should be inspected prior to storage. Woolen fabrics should be dry cleaned and laundered at high temperatures in order to eliminate all moth life stages. Hanging clothes in direct sunlight and brushing them thoroughly will expose larvae and cause them to drop from the fabrics in order to seek protection. Using airtight containers to store items for longer periods is also useful in preventing and controlling infestations.
Freezing/heating treatment.Exposing infested garments to lethal temperatures (lower than 0 degrees F) will almost always kill pests after a minimum of 72-hour exposure. A sudden change of temperature is most effective in repelling moths because it prevents the insects from acclimating to the room and developing resistance to freezing. High temperatures between 110 degrees F and 120 degrees F maintained for at least 30 minutes will also eliminate moths from woolen materials.
Chemical control.There are several chemical options available for the management and control of moth larvae, including:
Preventing a clothes moth infestation is always easier than eliminating an existing one. In order to minimize the risk of infestation, homeowners must ensure: