How To Get Rid Of Moth Larvae

Jul 30, 2020

get rid of moth larvae

How to Get Rid of Moth Larvae

Moth Larvae are the actual pest that causes the damage to clothing and precious home textiles, not the adult Clothes Moths, Carpet Moths or Pantry Moths you can see flying around in season. How to get rid of clothes moth larvae involves far more intensive investigation, cleaning and treatment than many people realise. Whilst Moth Traps are a key part of the solution in reducing the population of Clothes Moths in the home, once clothing is damaged, that is the key sign that we need to get to work to protect the investment we have made in wool, cashmere and silk fabrics and other animal-based fibre textiles in the home.

Pantry Moth Larvae can be troublesome in the kitchen because they infest dried foodstuffs (rice, flour, cereals, grains, pasta, birdseed, pet food etc) with their faeces, webbing and discarded cocoons.

cashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvaecashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvae 2

Understanding the Life Cycle and the Role of the Moth Larva

First, a quick guide to where larvae fit into the Clothes Moth life cycle. Adult Clothes Moths do not feed - they only live for about one month and do not even have mouthparts and a digestive system. Their sole purpose at that stage is to breed and lay up to 200 eggs in their short life as an adult. After a week or two those eggs will hatch into Clothes Moth Larvae.

It is the Clothes Moth larvae that does the damage! Clothes Moth Larvae feed on a protein (keratin) that is found in animal-based fibres such as wool, cashmere, silk, fur, soft leather and feathers. They will feed for a month or two and this is the precise cause of damage to your clothes, rugs, carpets and other home textiles. It is very unlikely that they will eat plant based fabrics such as cotton unless they are stored heavily soiled. The adult Moths can identify the keratin in animal-based fibres and will look for that food source and, ideally, undisturbed places (closets, drawers, under and behind furniture, attics and spare rooms) where they lay their eggs.

Some customers ask ‘what do Moth eggs look like’ - they are slightly oval, almost invisible when buried in clothing and food containers (about 1/16th of an inch long) and a creamy color. You can hardly see Moth eggs on clothes.

Pantry Moth Larvae have a similar life cycle but the adult Moths look for dried foods to lay their eggs.

A really important consideration is that larvae will be doing their damage out of season - if you live in a region that has cold winters, you may feel safe in not seeing Clothes or Pantry Moths flying around, but the larvae can live for up to two years before they pupate in warmer weather. That means two years of potential damage to your clothes, carpets or food depending on which species you have (note that Clothes and Carpet Moths are the same species).

However, it can be an all-year-round issue in centrally heated homes and warmer climates.

How to identify Moth Larvae / What do Moth Larvae Look Like

A moth larva is relatively easy to spot in food because they are in a contained space and emptying the bag or container to check carefully will tell you quickly if you have an issue - this may well be the reason you are reading this Blog.

For Clothes Moth Larvae, it is more likely that you will find damage to your clothing or carpets that suggest you have an infestation. It may be that you have reached for that cashmere sweater that has been in your closet unworn through the summer months and discovered that it has damage in the form of little holes. It may be a carpet that you’ve seen damaged under the couch, which rarely sees the vacuum cleaner and is never walked on. Either way, you may have had or still have an infestation and the larvae are an issue.

Other tell-tale signs of Moth Larvae in clothing or carpets are silky webbing spun by the Moth Larvae, cases after pupation and the adult Moth has flown in search of a mate to perpetuate the life cycle, or partly eaten fibres.

Both Clothes and Pantry Moth Larvae are a quarter to half inch in length, usually with a brown head and cream coloured body.

Many of our customers ask ‘what does Moth Larvae look like?’ - these pictures should identify the destructive pest you are looking for:

Clothes Moth LarvaPantry Moth larva

The most common Moth species you may come across are:

If you have seen the adult Moths, you will be more easily able to identify whether you are dealing with Clothes or Pantry Moths using our Moth identification articles above. This is a really important first step because Clothes Moth Traps and Pantry Moth Traps use different pheromones, and both the location and process for dealing with them differs.

Either way, even if you cannot see a larva, we strongly recommend that you act to avoid further infestation and damage. You may have Moth eggs that you cannot easily see (they are tiny, almost microscopic) and are a ‘ticking bomb’ for further Moth damage. Because the larvae are quite small, they may not be easy to see in an over-crowded closet or in an attic for example.

How to Get Rid of Clothes Moth Larvae / Case-Bearing Moth Larvae and How to Kill Moth Eggs

Sorting through light summer clothes before packing away

Assuming you have Clothes Moth Traps in place, the next stage is to thoroughly investigate the potential places the infestation has reached. Let’s assume you have found likely Moth damage in your closet of out-of-season winter clothes in your spare room and you are about to make your seasonal closet changeover, packing away those light summer clothes and getting out your winter woollens.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

To make this easier, we have the right products assembled, with instructions, mask and gloves in our Clothes Moth Killer Kits.

If you need any guidance or support on this process, feel free to reach out to us at help@mothprevention.com

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moth Larvae

pantry foodstuffs

Let’s assume you have found evidence of dried foodstuffs in your pantry or kitchen cupboards infested with pantry Moth larvae.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

To make this easier, we have the right products assembled, with instructions, mask and gloves in our Pantry Moth Killer Kits.

dried foods in sealed containers

How to Avoid the Return of Moth Larvae

The best initial line of defence is always to put either Clothes Moth Traps or Pantry Moth Traps in place. This will alert you to the presence of adult Clothes Moths and can be used as a perpetual form of monitoring.

However, if the Moth infestation has taken hold to the degree that you have damage to clothes or food, and assuming you have taken the steps above, you will need to do what you can to avoid a repeat infestation.

Firstly, look for where the infestation has first come from.

In the case of Clothes Moths, this could be (and we’ve seen all these situations with our customers!):

For Pantry Moths, it is likely to be:

Puppies with dog biscuits in a sealed container

If the original source has been identified and not dealt with through the above process that we strongly recommend, then more work will be required to deal with that issue.

If you are happy that you have dealt with the source of the issue and managed to kill the Moth Larvae and eggs, then we would recommend that you just leave the traps in place until you are absolutely sure they have left you. Moth Traps will indicate the catch rate and a declining catch rate over time shows you are winning the battle.

Please remember that if you need any guidance on treatments, identification of Moths or anything else, we are here to help - Contact Us at help@mothprevention.com


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