Are Moths Dangerous? Do They Bite?

a close up of a moth’s head

Since moths live broadly across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, many people are familiar with their aggravating activities. Most people can relate to the disappointment of finding dead moth larvae in a flour canister or moth holes in a favourite blanket, set of drapes, or wool sweater.

Moths are certainly a nuisance, but are there any types of moth that are dangerous? After all, we know that they are often flying around houses where they aren’t wanted! Can moths bite? Do they do damage to things besides clothes, carpets, or pantry goods? Luckily, that’s what we are here to talk about.

Are moths dangerous to humans?

While it’s true that essentially any type of fabric made using natural materials is susceptible to Clothes and Carpet Moth damage, moths aren’t usually dangerous to people. Some moth larvae chew tiny holes through natural fibres (wool, silk, etc.) after hatching. Other moth larvae feed on dry goods and leave behind lots of appalling evidence. Still, in most cases, moths are not harmful to your health.

a Case-Bearing Clothes Moth Larvae on a woolen fabric

With that being said, there are a few rare but unlikely exceptions to this rule,and let’s stress that these are not pestilent moths or moth larvae that you find in your home. The exceptions involve moth caterpillars that sting, and adult moths that are mildly toxic if ingested, and the Calyptra genus of moths.

Are moths poisonous?

In general, no. Moths are not poisonous. Only a few species of moths or butterflies are poisonous. Even then, most are only dangerous when they are ingested. This means that to suffer any harm from a moth of this kind, you would have to eat one (or more than one). Therefore, if you accidentally ingest a moth, you probably do not need to panic.

The only moths that are poisonous are the ones that eat poisonous plants as larvae. Then, the toxins they ingest remain in their bodies as adults. These types of moths are still generally only mildly toxic. So, to suffer any adverse effects, you would have to eat them in large quantities.

We should also mention that some types of moth larvae/caterpillars are dangerous. Usually, poisonous moth caterpillars will be spiny, brightly coloured, fuzzy, or striped. Also, butterfly caterpillars are more likely to be poisonous than moth larvae/caterpillars. Furthermore, no known moth caterpillar (or adult) species can endanger human life.

Do moths bite?

Typically, no. Moths and butterflies do not bite. Both of these insects are classified in similar orders (Lepidoptera), and most are harmless to people. Additionally, the vast majority of moths do not sting. Adult moths don't even have what we would recognise as mouths.

With that being said, moths and butterflies must begin life as larvae. These larvae (caterpillars) definitely have mouths, which they use to chew holes in clothing or eat through dry goods.

As moth larvae/caterpillars age and turn into adults, their small mouths begin to atrophy and disappear. When mature, adult moths possess a long, strong-shaped orifice that they used to drink nectar from flowers and fruits. For this reason, almost all types of adult moths aren't physically able to bite people.

Nevertheless, some caterpillars will bite, while others can sting. It all depends on the type of moth larvae. Currently, there are around 160,000 species of moths in the world. However, only about 150 of these species can sting. In the United States, about 50 species of caterpillars can cause a painful sting.

What moths are dangerous?

So are there any moths that can be dangerous to people? Yes, but only slightly, and definitely not the pestilent kind that you find in your home, such as Clothes Moths, Carpet Moths and Pantry Moths. Notable exceptions to the “harmless” rule are moths from the Calyptra genus, moth larvae that sting, and moths that feed on toxic plants in the larval stage.

Calyptra moths are also known as fruit piercing or vampire moths. The moth straw of this insect, also called a proboscis, has tiny protrusions that are capable of penetrating the skin. These types of moths are native to Asia, Africa, and some areas in Europe. Most of these moths prefer to use their spiky proboscis to extract nectar from fruits.

FAQs On Moths and Whether They Can Harm You

Are moths dangerous in houses?

a Clothes Moth (Niditinea fuscella)

Generally, no. Moths are not dangerous in your home. Most moths that fly into houses are either Clothes and Carpet Moths, common millers, or Pantry Moths. None of these types of moths are toxic, have stingers, or can cause harm to people in general. However, Clothes and Carpet Moths and Pantry Moths both produce very destructive larvae. While not dangerous to people, these larvae can ruin clothes or eat through your dry goods.

What happens if a moth touches your skin?

Pestilent Moths are safe to touch but some types of moths have spiny hairs that can become lodged in your skin if you touch them. These small hairs are harmless but may cause an allergy-like reaction similar to hives. This agitation reaction may be accompanied by a stinging, itching, or burning sensation. Think of it like touching fibreglass insulation, but milder. Even so, most moths do not cause irritation to the skin when touched unless you already have some kind of pre-existing allergy. So, while touching moths probably won’t cause you any problems at all, it’s probably better to avoid doing it.

Is it OK to touch a moth?

It depends on the type of moth but most of them, including Clothes, Carpet and Pantry Moths are harmless. If you are unsure about the species of moth then do not touch them ,because, as stated above, irritation is possible. Also, the moth may be subjected to some damage. When you touch a moth, the delicate scales on its wings fall off. This can be problematic.

Sometimes, children (and even adults) come across large, beautiful moths in gardens. In many cases, these intricately patterned moths are great pollinators and won't cause any trouble in your household. With bold patterns, moths like the Actias luna (Luna Moth) can be tempting to pick up. However, these moths are very delicate. So, you should avoid touching them.

a close up of the scaly wings on a Clothes Moth

Can moths make you sick?

Theoretically, eating any insect could make you sick under the right circumstances. Normally, eating a moth by accident (say you were riding on a motorbike or shaking out a blanket and then you accidentally swallowed one) would not cause you any harm. Unless you ingest large quantities of moths, there is nothing to worry about. Even if you did make a habit of eating moths (why would you?), most types are not toxic.

Are moths in the house a problem?

Clothes and Carpet Moth Larvae can damage your expensive clothes. So, it would be best if you prevented them from entering your home. Similarly Pantry Moths will make a meal of your unsealed dry food stuffs and pet food. Adult moths lay eggs, which hatch into destructive larvae. As such, all-stage moth prevention is the best solution if you want to keep your favourite outfits and your food moth-free. Placing Moth Traps in your home will attract the adult male moths and help break the breeding cycle.

Can you leave moths in the house?

Though Clothes Carpet and Pantry Moths aren’t dangerous, you should still do everything possible to prevent an infestation. If you uncover evidence of these moths in your home, solve the issue right away by positioning Moth Traps where you suspect moths are present. After all, nothing is worse than pulling clothes out of storage only to find them moth-eaten and damaged. Finding Clothes Moth Larvae in your wardrobe can be an awful and disappointing experience as well. Since moth larvae are so destructive, it is best to take measures to prevent them as soon as you can.

How to keep moths out of the house?

It can be hard to prevent moths from entering your home. As such, moth deterrents will help keep moths from wanting to come into your home in the first place.

Here are a few things you can do to make your home less attractive to moths:

  • Keep any doors and windows without screens closed when possible.
  • Avoid leaving bright lights on at night in the spring and summer months.
  • Use sprays to moth-proof natural fibre carpets and furniture.
  • Store fabrics and furs in sealed plastic boxes with moth-deterrents or sachets.
  • Hang anti-moth pouches with herbs like thyme, lavender, clove, cedar, and mint
  • Opt for cedarwood in your closets or storage chests.
  • Only put clean clothes back in your closet
  • Use moth balls or for a natural alternative Moth Traps
  • Store recently worn garments on a hanger and air them out for 24-48 hours outside the closet before putting them away
  • Store dry food in sealed containers
dried food stuffs in sealed containers

About MothPrevention

MothPrevention® speak to customers every day about their clothes moth issues - clothes moths are a species that are ever increasing and that can cause significant damage to clothes, carpets and other home textiles.

To date, we’ve helped over 150,000 customers deal with their moth problems. We have developed professional grade solutions including proprietary pheromones engineered in Germany to the highest production standards.

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