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Signs of clothes moths will present themselves as either damage to clothing, the eggs, larvae or adult moths themselves, or both.
Clothing damage will most frequently occur in knitwear (commonly wool, cashmere, alpaca or angora), silk or leather garments. The damage will present itself as irregular ‘holes’ in clothing and the size of the holes will depend on how long moth larvae have been left undisturbed to eat the protein based fibres and whether there are any stains or moisture (e.g. residue from perspiration) present on the garments. Clothing moth damage can occur in drawers, wardrobes and cupboards – moths are indiscriminate.
Spotting the actual presence of moths in their 3 different forms requires vigilance – the eggs are tiny (typically c0.5mm long) and the moth larvae several millimetres long at first, but growing as they develop. The adult moth form is usually 1.5cm long and is obviously easier to spot in flight, but because it is also very small it is able to get into tight crevices in your clothing storage areas. Moths prefer to lay their eggs in dark, undisturbed areas – check corners of drawers and wardrobes, skirting boards and architraves etc. We have a number of photographs and detailed descriptions in our moth identification guides to assist you.
With central heating being so common, signs of moth problems may present themselves at any time of the year with the breeding cycle being extended all year round. If the weather or your house is particularly cold at a particular time, it is merely likely to slow the lifecycle stages but extend the damaging larvae stage.
To understand the best approach to controlling clothes moth damage, please read our 5 Steps to Moth Control.
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Similarly to clothes moths, signs of carpet moths may be in terms of damage to rugs and carpets, or the moths themselves, probably most likely at the larvae stage.
Carpet moth damage will be more prevalent in the softer pile rather than the hard webbing that holds the carpet together – ‘threadbare’ patches or holes will be the consequence. The most likely targets will be wool carpets or rugs and silk rugs. Moths prefer darker and undisturbed areas to lay their eggs and for larvae to feed. Consequently, under furniture or along skirting boards are the most common locations to find carpet moth damage. Likewise, rooms that are used infrequenty are also at a higher risk of moth infestation.
The moths themselves have similar lifecycles to clothes moths – see our carpet moth identification guide for more details. The larvae may be difficult to spot in coloured carpet pile because they can take on the colour of the fibres that they have eaten.
Signs of a food moth infestation may be difficult to spot at the egg stage, but the larvae will be more evident, as will adult moths flying in the kitchen.
Food moths will typically find open packets of dried foodstuffs such as flour, cereal and grains and the larvae will be white or pick, possibly with a dark head depending on the particular variety of food moth (there are 3 types!) – see our food moth identification guide.
Moth pheromone traps provide a way of detecting signs of adult moth activity in your home:
Clothes Moth Traps – either disposable traps or moth boxes where the sticky pheromone strips can be replaced to extend the life of the traps
Food Moth Traps– special pheromone traps that are safe to use in the kitchen
Adult moths present an obvious sign of moth presence but do not do the damage themselves – clearly they have the potential to start the infestation though with hundreds of eggs being laid at a time.
Moth traps also act to break the breeding cycle by attracting and trapping the male adult moth so they offer more than just monitoring.
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More tips and information from around the web.
Some clothes moth larvae build a case made of silk and bits of whatever the larva is feeding on (see photo below). This is the casemaking clothes moth and the case is carried wherever the larva goes, while other species do not make this case.
Clothes moth larvae are especially damaging to fabric that has been stained or soiled; food stains, sweat and urine are especially attractive. In fact, there is evidence that clothes moth larvae will not develop on clean fabric because it lacks certain necessary nutrients. Therefore, always launder or dry clean clothes before putting them into long-term storage.
Damaged fabrics have holes eaten through them by small, white larvae and often have silken cases, lines of silken threads, and fecal pellets over the surface of the materials. Moths are destructive during the larvae stage. Adult "millers" or moths are entirely harmless.