How to Identify Clothes Moths

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Clothes moths are usually blamed for any insect damage to clothes or fabrics in form of small eaten holes. However, the carpet beetle is as often the cause of this kind of damage as the clothes moth. The larvae of both species feed on naturally-occurring fabrics with animal origins. Synthetic fibers, which include nylon, acrylic and polyester are usually not affected by the larvae. Follow these steps to figure out if the clothes moth is responsible for damage to your garments.

  • Look for 1/2-inch long buff-colored moths with narrow wings that have hairs along the edges. These are adult clothes moths. The adults do not eat fabric, but their presence means that eggs will be laid that will produce fabric-eating larvae.

  • Check for the clothes moth larvae if adult moths are present. The larvae are creamy-white colored caterpillars, which can be as much as a 1/2 inch in length.

  • Identify webbing clothes moth larvae by their feeding tunnels of silk, or webbing patches left behind on the fabric as they move around.

  • Look also for tiny fecal pellets that will be a color that is similar to that of the fabric to identify the webbing clothes moth as the culprit.

  • Look for a small portable case that the casemaking clothes moth larvae use to encase themselves. They haul this portable case around with them as they forage on the fabric.

  • Seek out caterpillars on adjacent walls or ceilings close to infected fabrics. These could be casemaking clothes moth larvae looking for a suitable place to spin a cocoon.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep all places where animal-based fabrics (silk, fur, feathers, leather, wool) are stored as clean as possible by vacuuming regularly.
  • Clean all household pets regularly, as their hairs are a favorite place for these pests.
  • Do not spray clothes or fabrics that will be close to a person's skin with an insecticide. These chemicals can be extremely harmful to humans.
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