Are Moths Active in Winter?

a woman sitting on her couch, drinking tea and wrapped in a warm blanket

Moths are often associated with the spring and summer months. This is for many reasons, including the fact that when annual and perennial flowers are in bloom, numerous insects and pollinators begin to emerge. As such, most people expect to see insects buzzing around the garden when the weather warms up. However, did you know that many types of moths can actually be active throughout the entire year? It’s true! Depending on the type of moth and climate in your area, moth life cycles and seasons can vary dramatically. This begs the question, are moths active in winter?

Many species of moths are indeed active in the cold winter months. For one thing, moths can easily make themselves at home inside warm places like attics, garages, basements, wardrobes, and even chimneys. In addition to this, many types of moth larvae have the ability to feed on materials that are entirely inedible to other animals or even other insects. For instance Clothes Moths Larvae will devour feathers, leather, silk, wool, fur, stained synthetic cloth, and cashmere. Therefore, moth larvae can keep their energy stores replenished and grow regardless of the weather outside.

Bearing this in mind, you are presumably wondering how these insects can even get into your home when the weather is cold, freezing, or damp. More importantly, you probably want to know what you can do to prevent moths from getting into your house in the winter months. Below, we will cover everything you need to know. That way, you can keep pesky, damaging moths out of your home in the winter and throughout the rest of the year as well!

Can moths live in the winter?

Just like many (if not most) other insects, moths can not survive in freezing temperatures. In fact, it is for this exact reason that freezing your Clothes moth-infested items for 72 hours can be such an effective extermination method. When the weather cools down or even gets very wet, moths have to seek shelter or they will die. So, you are not likely to see moths flying around outside during the winter. However, this does not mean that moths cannot survive during the winter months.

the back view of a woman with long hair, throwing snow in the air on a cold winter day

Most people are already well aware that moths don't fly around outside in the winter. But then, how can there be moths in your house when it’s snowing outside? How can these frustrating pests still bother you when “moth season” is long over? The most probable answer is that they infested your home before the weather got chilly. Indeed, you may actually be looking at moths that have never even been outside! Instead, a clutch of hidden moth eggs could have hatched into larvae, which matured into adults, who are now flying around your house.

How do moths get into your house in the winter? Here’s what to know!

Okay, now that you know moths can live and be annoyingly active during the cold months of the year, let's go over how common pestilent species of moths (such as the Clothes Moth or the Pantry Moth) can actually get into your house in the winter. After all, it is not likely that these pests are simply flying in through an open window. Well, the good news is that they probably are not coming in through your doors and windows. The bad news is that you might accidentally bring moths into your house unknowingly.

Many people are not aware of how easy it is to accidentally carry moths into the house. When these insects hitch a ride in the larval or egg stage, they can infiltrate your home without your knowledge. Here are some common ways that moths get into your house in the winter.

Hitching a Ride on Infested Pet Food or Grocery Items

One unfortunately common way that Pantry Moths can infiltrate your home in the winter is through grocery items. This is especially true if you have purchased dry goods which were sold in bulk packages. Sometimes, these items are shipped from warmer places far away where local moth populations are still highly active outside throughout the entire winter.

For instance, bags of dry dog and cat food are often sold in large quantities and kept in plastic-lined paper bags. These bags tend to sit on store shelves, in warehouses, or at packing facilities for lengthy periods where they become infested. Other dry goods that are commonly infested with Pantry Moth Larvae or eggs include bird seed, bulk bags of flour, bulk bags of rice, pancake or bread mixes, and boxed cereals.

sacks full of wheat, flour and pasta

Pantry Moth Larvae and eggs are very small. Pantry Moths such as the Indian Meal Moth spend most of their lives in the larval stage. In storage and packing facilities, female Indian Meal Moths love to lay their eggs on food item packages. After all, this is prime real estate near an abundant nutrition source. Moth eggs can be hidden inside packaging crevices, corners, or other places that are incredibly hard to detect. Eventually, these eggs will hatch into larvae. Usually, the larvae will be pale white, light brown, or yellow. In the larval stage, Pantry Moths basically exist to eat and grow until they can mature into adults and breed.

Pantry Moth Larvae love to live near (or even inside of) food sources like cereals, pasta, flour, and other dry goods. In time, these little larvae can eat their way through soft plastics, paper, cardboard, and other packaging materials. This makes it easy for them to spread from one infested item to another. Once Pantry Moth Larvae manage to burrow inside a dry good item’s packaging, they can even munch their way right into the middle of the food substance itself.

Clothes Moths Can Be Carried In From Garage and Attic Storage Areas

Many people have garages that are jammed packed with all sorts of things. After all, these areas are the perfect spots to store decorations, bedding, clothing items, and all of those other things that you have been meaning to donate to charity. Unfortunately, cluttered and rarely disturbed locations like this are the perfect places for Clothes Moths to set up shop.

Adult female Clothes Moths like quiet and undisturbed places. In these dark and rarely visited areas, they will lay eggs that can take weeks to hatch. Once Clothes Moth Eggs hatch, they turn into hungry larvae that can eat through things you’d never imagine. Common nutritional sources for Clothes Moth Larvae include wool, feathers, fur, silk, cashmere, and leather. However, these unsettling little pests can also eat through baskets, rugs, contaminated polymer blends, or any other materials made of natural fibres.

This means that the rarely touched corners of your garage could be the perfect places for Clothes Moths to grow and spread. Eventually, the infestation could spread to the rest of your home as well. This is especially true if you happen to carry Christmas decorations from that part of the garage into your living room.

Moth Eggs and Larvae Can Live on and Inside of Used Furniture and Fabric.

a close up of a moth-eaten carpet and two Case Bearing Carpet Moth pupae

Clothes and Carpet Moth Larvae are also notorious for infesting used furniture, luggage, bedding, clothing, and an array of other second-hand goods. Moths can even infest pianos and other high-end instruments! For this reason, it is incredibly important to inspect all items that have been stored in questionable locations for moth larvae and eggs before bringing them into your house.

No matter what time of the year it is, you never know if an infestation has been thriving indoors somewhere. Flea markets, thrift shops, and second-hand stores are common infestation destinations for moth eggs and larvae.

Tips for Winter Moth Prevention

There are many things that you can do to prevent moths from wreaking havoc throughout your home in the winter. Here are some of the top moth prevention tips to use in the winter months and during the rest of the year as well, for that matter.

Always inspect, and if necessary, treat used items for moths, before bringing them inside your house.

Since Clothes Moths love to lay eggs on animal based fibres and natural fabric materials, used goods like couches, rugs, throw pillows, and even wreaths can become infested with moths easily. To keep from accidentally carrying moth eggs or larvae into your home, check for signs of moths before bringing anything inside. If you suspect that an item could be harboring hidden moth eggs or larvae, you might want to freeze it for at least 72 hours wrapped in a plastic bag.

This should take care of the problem, as eggs and larvae can not survive in freezing temperatures. If an item is too large to fit in the freezer, you might want to consider cleaning and then treating it with a Moth Prevention Killer Kit which includes a moth-killing spray before allowing it to enter your house. Anything that can be laundered or dry cleaned should be. That way, you won’t be bringing home more than you bargained for at the thrift market!

Clean out your garage/attic/shed every spring and put Clothes Moth Traps or natural sachets in place.

a MothPrevention Moth Trap

Clothes Moths seek out undisturbed places where they can lay their eggs on animal based fibres in peace. Something as simple as cleaning out your storage areas annually can help keep moths from wanting to settle in. Spray things down, sweep them out, and remove cobwebs and dust. When you are done, put some Moth Traps out to catch any active adult male moths before they can mate and the Moth Life Cycle repeats again. Moth-repellent sachets can also be very effective and are usually natural and safe around kids and pets. You can make your own moth-repellent sachets with rosemary, cedar, thyme, mint, and lavender.

Winter Month Behaviors and Life Cycle Facts

So do winter moth eggs take longer to hatch? What do these moths prefer to eat in the winter months? What is a winter moth's life cycle like, anyway? Here are some helpful facts about moths and their cold-weather tendencies.

Some moth species are active all year.

Pantry Moths, Clothes Moths, and many nordic moth species are active no matter what time of year it is. These moths don’t survive well outside but can thrive in indoor places. In nature, these moths tend to live in places like caves where they can eat decomposing animal based fibres. However, in North America and Europe, the pests have benefited from the invention of central heating, giving them warmer climes all year round.

The absence of flying moths does not indicate inactivity.

Since many types of moths spend most of their lives in the larval stage, they will often eat through your goods, spin cocoons, and then hatch into the next generation in the spring. The absence of adult moths flying around outside does not mean that these insects are inactive. Rather, it could indicate that they are still in an egg or larval phase.

Many moth generations can survive inside a house.

If a female moth lays eggs inside of a home, many generations of moths could continue an infestation for years to come. The larvae grow into adults that then mate and start the cycle over. In places where there is enough food, multiple generations of moths could take up residency throughout the years.

What else should you know about dealing with moths in the wintertime?

Even though many people are used to seeing moths in the spring and summer months, these insects can definitely still be active in the winter. Since they spend most of their lives in the larval phase, they can easily go undetected in the winter. For this reason, it is important to treat your home for moths and practice appropriate moth prevention techniques all year round.

a diagram of the Life Cycle of the Clothes Moth

Winter Moths: FAQS

Now that you know all about winter moths and what to do to prevent an infestation in your home, here are some frequently asked questions on the subject.

Why do I have moths in my house in the winter?

Moths could be in your house in the winter for many reasons. Eggs, larvae, or adults could have accidentally been carried into your home from somewhere far away. Or, you could simply be dealing with a generation of moths that was born in the spring, spent the summer as larvae, cocooned in the fall, and has now finally matured into adulthood in the winter. Ergo, the moths could have been there all along, but since moth larvae are hard to see or notice, you only are seeing them now because they are flying adults.

Do moths come out in the winter?

Moths are generally most active in the spring and summer months when the weather is warmer outside. However, due to central heating inside homes, certain species of moths (like the Clothes Moth) can remain quite active in the winter.

How do you get rid of winter moths?

If you notice moths inside of your home in the winter months, there's a good chance an infestation exists elsewhere in your household. So, search everywhere to find the source of the problem. Then, treat your house thoroughly to eliminate moths,eggs and larvae. Clean using moth-killing sprays, such as the one included in our MothPrevention Clothes Moth Killer Kit, sweep, mop, wipe down shelves, and vacuum exhaustively. Most importantly, identify the source of the infestation and remove it far from your home.

a woman cleaning her kitchen shelves

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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