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Clothing moths are a very common household pest. In particular, it is the caterpillar state of this moth that can cause significant damage due to its love for using clothing for food. They tend to prefer wool fabrics but are also known to eat through other natural fibers when they are available. Though less common, they will also infest and eat stored produce items.
Although clothing moths are native to Europe and Asia, global travel has introduced them to the rest of the world so that they are now found almost anywhere. As for habitats, they thrive in dark, moist areas where the newly hatched caterpillars can find moist fabrics to eat. In particular, clothing closets, carpeting with some moisture, attics and similar areas are ideal locations for them to live and reproduce.
After hatching, the larvae begin their quest for food and that is when they cause the damage to fibers and produce items in the home. This stage can last from a couple of months to a couple of years before the caterpillar forms and enters a cocoon to transform to an adult moth in about a month. The larvae of the clothing moth are cream-colored and can be up to ½ inch in length. The adults tend to be slightly darker than the larva with more of a beige color and are about the same length as the larvae.
Because of the adult moths’ preference for dark areas, you may not easily notice a clothing moth infestation. Often the first sign a homeowner notices is the damage to clothing when they are going through their closets or unpacking stored clothing boxes from an attic or basement. If you notice several patchy areas on stored fabrics or holes that are completely through the fabric, it is likely that you have a clothing moth infestation.
Dealing with an infestation may be difficult as the larvae do not always stay near their original hatching point and may have traveled throughout the home to find food sources. A thorough housecleaning and investigation of closets, carpets, and stored boxes may help to identify the sources of your infestation. Rid your home of infected items if they are damaged beyond use or for washable fabrics that must be saved, a thorough cleansing in hot water can kill off the pests at all life stages. If you still see signs of infestation after cleaning, you may require some form of insecticide to rid yourself of the problem. Large scale infestations may require the services of a pest control professional to eliminate the problem. Once rid of the infestation, keep up good housecleaning routines and be sure to store fabrics only after they have been thoroughly washed so that the clothing moth larvae find them less attractive as food sources.
Clothing moths are not germ and disease carriers so pose little health concern. You may be a bit disgusted by the infestation, but it is generally just a nuisance to get rid of in your home and not a source of danger for you or your family.