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.
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 unfavourable 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.
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: