Clothes moths are not harmful to people but are considered a serious pest as they may damage clothes and soft furnishings beyond repair!
It is not the adult moths that cause the most damage, but their larvae!
In Australia, there are 2 species of clothes moths: the common clothes moth and the case bearing clothes moths. The case bearing clothes moths are identified by the larvae, having a protective silk case, in which they live while feeding.
The adult moths are weak flyers. They are likely to hide and hence are not found until damage is already done. Adult moths are not attracted to light. They prefer dark undisturbed areas, such as wardrobes, cupboards and under furniture. Wardrobes, with temperature above 20 degrees, are an ideal environment for clothes moths to start laying eggs.
Female adult moths lay up to 150 eggs on surface of fabric. These eggs are attached to the fabric with the sticky secretion. After 5 days the eggs hatch and larvae emerge. This is the stage where these pests do the most damage as it may last for up to 2.5 years. The larvae moult up to 45 times as they grow. When the larvae is ready to pupate, they move away from the food source and find other spaces to live in. (Refer to the picture, right)
Signs of clothes moths infestation
There are certain signs that you should look out for inside your home to determine if you have a clothes moths infestation.
Spotting the flying moth: the common clothes moth is about 7 mm long, pale, plain golden buff wings, edged with hair and a reddened tuft of hair on their head. The case-bearing clothes moth is duller and has three dark brown spots on each of its wings. The clothes moth folds its wings and drops to the floor, before it can be caught!
bare spots in the textile materials
webs the cover patches of food sources
cocoons: fuzzy cylinders that harbour the larvae
sand like particles which are the larvae droppings
Larvae: creamy-white caterpillars with a dark head
The larvae of clothes moths will feed on keratin, which is a protein found in natural fibres of wool, cashmere, feathers, silk, cotton, human hair and leather. Damage occurs to clothes (sweaters, coats), pillows, carpets and floor coverings, comforters. Synthetic fabrics such as: polyester and rayon, are not commonly attacked.
Control and Management of Clothes moths
The best control of clothes moths is prevention.
Regularly check cupboards, wardrobes and other dark places that could be a home to these pests.
Look for larvae cases, adult moths and damage.
Maintain regular cleaning regime. Clean thoroughly by vacuuming areas at risk such as: edges of carpets and under furniture. Vacuuming removes larvae.
Seal cracks and crevices within the home that may be a potential home for the moths. Maintain regular washing or dry cleaning of clothes. Any textile materials that are stored and not used ensure they are stored in air tight containers.
Maintain low humidity and low temperature as this is not a suitable environment for cloth moth development.
If you find damaged materials by clothes moths, attempt to locate the source before applying any treatments.
There are a variety of products and insecticides available use to control these pests. Do not spray clothing and bedding with insecticides.
Seek professional pest control expert advice for most suitable control method of clothes moth for you.