Clothes moths are invasive pests.
Clothes moths are found across Australia and worldwide
Clothes moths eat wool and wide range of fabric and are primarily a residential pest. However, and establishment that has susceptible fabrics (eg. museums and historic buildings) need to be on their guard.
The clothes moth larvae will chew holes in the fabric, which in many cases will mean the item has to be thrown out, as they often cannot be satisfactorily repairs (without the repair being noticed).
The challenge from a pest control point of view is making sure all sources of infestation are identified and controlled.
Clothes moth larvae:
Clothes moth larvae are almost invisible when they hatch (1 mm long) but as they grow they become more visible – a white caterpillar-like larvae with a brown head.
Webbing clothes moth larvae often hide underneath webbing as they feed.
Case making clothes moths build a case of silk which they hide in and drag around whether they feed. It gets covered in fibres and dropping which can make it difficult to see.
Clothes moth adults:
Webbing clothes moth: A small moth up to 7 mm long. Pale beige, slightly shiny forwings, which are folded over grey rear wing at rest.
Case making clothes moths: Small moths up to 7 mm long. Silvery grey / brown moth, sometimes with feint dark coloured spots.
Adult moths live for a bit over a month and the females will lay between 50-100 eggs in their life-time.
The eggs will hatch 4-10 days later depending on the temperature.
The larvae move through between 5 – 45 instars over a period of between 1 month and 2 years, depending on food availability and temperature.
The larvae form a cocoon when ready to pupate and emerge as adults between 10-50 days later.
Clothes moths feed on animal fibres such as wool, fur, silk, feathers and leather, for the keratin (protein) they contain.
Damage: They will chew irregular holes in clothing., with the size of the hole increases over time. They can create bare areas in woollen carpets and rugs.
The adult moths are hard to spot and actually prefer dark areas. They are poor flyers and are normally only seen when clothing is disturbed.
Apart from damage to fabric, the presence of webbing (from the webbing clothes moth) can be more readily noticed than the well camouflaged larval case of case making clothes moths.
Getting rid of clothes moths is a time consuming process, as it is necessary to locate all sources of infestation and it is important to treat all the clothes in the areas (as you need to assume all clothes could contain eggs or larvae).
This can be a challenge for homeowners, so often it is better to engage a professional pest manager.
Pheromone traps for clothes moths can be a useful monitoring system and help prevent infestations becoming established.
For more information on clothes moths, check out our magazine article, Clothes Moths – All you need to know!