The Webbing Clothes Moth - A Homeowners Guide
The Webbing Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella) is also known as the Common Clothes Moth or simply Clothing Moth.
The caterpillars of this moth are considered a serious pest, as they can derive nourishment from clothing – in particular wool, but many other natural fibres – and also, like most related species, from stored food.
Olaf Leillinger, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
This moth prefers moist conditions, although low humidity will merely slow development. Webbing Clothes Moths are small moths whose adults grow to between 1 and 2 cm in length. Their eggs are tiny, most being under 1 mm long and barely visible. A female will lay several hundred during her lifetime; egg placement is carefully chosen in locations where they will have the best chance for survival.
The eggs are attached with a glue-like substance and can be quite difficult to remove. After the egg hatches, the Clothes Moth larva will immediately look for food. Clothes Moth larvae can obtain their required food within two months, but if conditions are unfavorable they will feed intermittently for a long time. Whether it takes two months or two years, each larva will eventually spin a cocoon in which it will pupate and change into an adult Webbing Clothes Moth. Clothes Moth larvae stay in these cocoons for between one and two months and then emerge as adults ready to mate and to lay eggs.
This species is notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibres; they have the ability to turn keratin (a protein of which hair and wool mainly consist) into their food. The moths prefer dirty materials and are especially attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains sweat or other liquids that have been spilled onto them. They are attracted to these areas not for the food but for the moisture imparted to the fabric: the Clothes Moth caterpillars do not drink water; consequently their food must contain moisture.
Adult Clothing Moths and their larvae prefer low light conditions. Unlike many other moths, which are drawn to light, Clothes Moths seem to prefer dim or dark areas. Handmade rugs are a particular favourite, because it is easy for the larvae to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. The Clothes Moth larvae will also crawl under baseboards in search of darkened areas where debris has gathered and which consequently hold good food.
Guido Gerding, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The eggs hatch into moth larvae, which then begin to feed. Once they have completed their larval development, the clothes moth larvae pupate and after metamorphosis emerge as adult Clothes Moths). Adults do not eat; males Clothes Moths look for females with whom to mate, and females look for places to lay their eggs. Once the reproduction is complete, the adult Clothes Moths die. Contrary to what most people believe, adult moths do not eat or cause any damage to clothing or fabric. It is the clothes moth larvae which are solely responsible for damage to clothing and carpets, and which spend their entire time eating and foraging for food.
Control measures for Clothes Moths include the following:
- Webbing Clothes Moth Traps – this step can help monitor the current infestation and prevent males from mating with females
- Dry cleaning – kills moths on existing clothing and helps remove moisture from clothes
- Freezing – Freezing the clothing for several days at temperatures below 0 °C
- Heat (49 °C for 30 minutes or more) – these conditions may possibly be achieved by placing infested materials in an attic in warm weather, or by washing clothes at or above this temperature. Specialist pest controllers can also provide various methods of heat treatment.
- Sunlight – has a limited effect in dealing with clothes moths issues once the clothes moth larvae are established
- Vacuuming and general cleaning / airing of carpets and clothes – Since the moths like to hide in carpeting and skirting boards, this is an part of the process in achieving total eradication of clothes moths and their larvae
- Treatment of clothing and carpets as a preventive measure before their use, as well as simply for storage, has a long history and conventional (toxic and carcinogenic) moth balls were a traditional solution
- Modern treatments include less poisonous (to humans) chemical treatments, together with natural scented deterrents. You will find a comprehensive range of both types of clothes moth treatments at MothPrevention.com
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.