Clothes Moths – We Hate ‘Em!
We absolutely hate clothes moths. No matter what we do to try to prevent them they always seem to be one or two that get through our barricades of protection. In case you weren’t aware of it it’s the larvae – not the adult moth — that feed on your expensive wool, feathers, fur, leather and paper, not to mention an occasional chunk of cotton, linen or silk. By the way, they are especially damaging to any fabric that has been stained with beverages, urine, oil from hair or skin, and/or sweat. Now you know why it’s smart to clean stuff before storing it.
It is important to remember that moths don’t like to be disturbed. They do most of their damage when left undisturbed for long periods of time. Got a closet or storage area that you haven’t cleaned for a long time? That’s literally moth heaven. When was the last time that you tried on your high school sweater, your old military uniform? Shaken out any of your old blankets lately? Wool upholstery, feathered hats, antique dolls and toys, natural bristle brushes, weavings, wall hangings, old furs, and especially wool carpets are gourmet delights to a moth.
OLD WIVE’S TALE: Clothes moths fly to lights at night. Wrong! Some moths love light. Clothes moths hate it – and instead prefer darkness – such as a closet or storage chest.
Any clothes moths fluttering around the house are probably males, because females travel by running, hopping, or trying to hide in the folds of clothing. Female webbing clothes moths lay 40 to 50 eggs that hatch in 4 to 21 days. Larvae like to feed on soiled material, spinning silken mats or tunnels and incorporating textile fragments and bits of fecal pellets. Larvae will wander some distance away from their food source to pupate in crevices. The case is silken with bits of fiber and excrement attached to the outside. The casemaking clothes moth is less common than the webbing clothes moth. Larvae spin a small silken case around themselves as they feed. This cigar-shaped case enlarges as the larva grows. When crawling, the larva’s head, thorax, and three pairs of legs, outside the case, drag it along. It does not spin a web of silk over the food material but eats clean-cut holes, not usually in one spot.
Note: Clothes moth development is greatly influenced by humidity. About 75-percent relative humidity in a heated, dark room is an ideal moth environment. Can you spell dehumidifier? How about “leave the light on”?
Think you may have moths? Don’t worry about it – take a proactive position instead. Examine closets and stored goods for larvae cases, moths, and damage. Larvae prefer to feed in secluded, dark places. Use a flashlight and nail file to check for woolen lint and hair under baseboards, in and under seldom moved upholstered furniture, in air ducts, in carpets at the corners of the room and along edges, in stored clothing, and in other places not readily accessible. Check furs or feathers, such as stuffed birds or animal heads, antique feather beds, or felt in pianos, woolen scrap piles, etc.
Adult moths do not feed in fabrics, but may be seen in darkened corners at night. Good housekeeping is critical to prevent and control damage. Never allow clothing, rugs, or other articles to lie in a neglected pile. Regular use of a strong suction vacuum cleaner with a crevice tool to remove lint, hair, and dust from floor cracks, baseboards, air ducts, carpets, and upholstered furniture is necessary. Keep closets and dresser drawers clean. That means emptying things and washing all surfaces in and around drawers, furniture and cabinets. Regularly clean rugs where they fit close to the baseboards. Inspect stored foods and eliminate bird nests and dead rodents. Launder and dry clean or steam clean clothes and other items before storage. As we noted earlier egg-laying clothes moths are especially attracted to soiled articles. Ironing will also destroy all stages of clothes moths. Sun, brush, and expose clothing to the weather. Outdoors, bright, hot sunlight, and wind will reduce larvae and damage. Frequent use of woolens and other animal fiber clothing almost assures no damage from clothes moth larvae.
Our own Cedar-lined closets have proved NOT to be 100 percent effective. The natural cedar oil evaporates and a fresh treatment of cedar oil should be applied every year or so. Be sure that all cloth gets dry cleaned, washed, pressed with a hot iron, sunned, or brushed prior to storage in an airtight container with an effective moth repellent.
Use tight-fitting doors. Try suspending wall to floor cotton drapes in front of clothing to keep dust and moths away. Fur storage in cold vaults is effective. Moth-proofing when woolens are manufactured may be effective forever, whereas treatments at dry cleaners are less permanent and need to be renewed regularly.
Here’s a chilling idea: Freezing has been successfully used to control clothes moths. Place your article in polyethylene bags, squeeze all air out to minimize condensation, and deep freeze the materials for three days. Infested antique objects should be either fumigated or deep frozen by an experienced licensed pest control operator.
It is best not to treat clothing with insecticides due to possible damage to the garments. However, cracks and crevices in infested areas should be treated with an insecticide. After thoroughly cleaning rugs, rug pads, under heavy furniture, and carpets, especially around the edges, dust with bendiocarb (Ficam D) under the edges of carpeting, cracks in closets, under baseboard, and molding or other hiding places. Any wall void that might contain old rodent, bird, or insect nests should be drilled and dusted and then caulk sealed.
Sprays of pyrethrins (Exciter, Kicker or Pyrenone) and permethrin can be used as spot treatments on and in walls and floors. However, these chemicals should not be used to treat clothing – damage can and probably will result. Infested stuffed furniture and the like should be fumigated by a licensed pest control operator or applicator. Before using any insecticides, always read the label directions and follow safety precautions.
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