Surprisingly, adult clothes moths or “millers” are harmless and do not cause damage to fabrics. It is the larvae that wreck havoc on fabric, fur, feathers, wool, carpet and drapes. They also feed on upholstered furniture, animal-bristled brushes, hair, spices, stored tobacco and fish meal found in fish food. In addition, they can dine on synthetics, leather, lint, dust, paper, stuffed animals, blankets and mounted animals. They prefer feeding on items stained with beverages, urine, oil or sweat.
Larvae can be recognized by their shiny white body and brown head. Clothes moths can be distinguished from pantry-infesting moths because of their smaller size of one-quarter-inch long compared to one-half-inch long. Clothes moths prefer darkness and are weak flyers.
Webbing and casemaking clothes moths are the most common, and their damage usually appears in hidden locations such as in cuffs, the folds of clothing or in upholstered furniture. To prevent damage, consider these tips.
• Clean areas where clothes moths are likely to gather. Examine under furniture, along baseboards, in cracks, in closets and around heaters and vents.
• Properly store items in a clean, pest-free, airtight container to exclude females from laying eggs. If you find larvae on garments or other items, the items should be properly cleaned and stored.
• Periodically hang fabrics in the sun and brush furs to destroy eggs and expose larvae. Larvae dislike sunlight and will drop from the fabrics to find protection.
• Keep clothes clean since larvae are more likely to feed on soiled fabrics.
• Frequently vacuum areas where adults may lay eggs. Pay close attention to rugs, carpets, draperies, furniture, cushions, corners, moldings and hard-to-reach places. Dispose of the vacuum bag when finished.
• Remove bird or rodent nests near the home since clothes moth larvae will feed on feathers and hair in the nests.
• If practical, freeze infested fabrics for a few days to kill eggs and feeding larvae.
• If controlling larvae becomes necessary, try moth crystals or flakes containing naphthalene. Use caution, since they are toxic and can melt plastic. They also have an unpleasant residual odor.
• Be aware that cedar-lined closets and chests have limited impact on clothes moths since it is difficult to maintain repellent concentrations over time.
• Attract male webbing clothes moths with pheromones on a sticky trap. Place traps in closets and other areas where fabrics are stored.
• Consider insecticides as a last resort. Products labeled for clothes moths can be applied directly to fabrics. Some are oil-based and should not be sprayed on silk or other delicate fabrics. Products registered in Utah include beta-cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin and pyrethrin.
• Fumigate furniture and other stuffed items when a surface insecticide application is not sufficient. Place the infested item in a 4 ml. thick, 30-gallon plastic bag with one-half pound of dry ice. Loosely seal the bag and let the dry ice evaporate. Be aware that fumigation will not prevent re-infestation.
• Consult a professional if widespread clothes moth infestations develop.
By: Erin Hodgson - Jul. 10, 2008