Clothes Moths have been significant in economic distress in the past, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for treatment; however, they are not as big of a problem today as they were in the past. Although they may not be a great problem recently, if there is an infestation of clothes moths, they may be a great nuisance and can cause significant damage to the inside of a home.
There are two important species of Clothes moths: the Webbing clothes moths and the Casemaking clothes moths. Both are very similar in physical form and there a minor differences in their biology and commonality.
Clothes moths go through a complete metamorphosis during their entire life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The life cycle will range anywhere from 2-6 months. The cycle would of course depend on environmental situations.
The cycle of metamorphosis begins as the adults lay their eggs in the cracks and crevices that are found near a food source. Sometimes, the eggs are laid directly on the food source. Eggs are barely visible because of their tiny size; they are about 1mm long. In a female clothe moth’s lifetime, she will lay several hundred. Each location for placement of eggs is carefully chosen which will maximize their chance for survival. Also, the eggs are laid and attached with an extremely sticky substance that acts almost like glue and so removal of the eggs are very difficult. Close to 2-4 generations of clothes moths can be formed per year if the environment allows for it.
After the egg hatches, the larvae will immediately look for food. A common misconception is that adult clothes moths are what are creating so much damage, but in actuality, the larvae are what cause the damages. Larvae are white in color and can feed for up to 2 years or however long it will take to make a cocoon to cover themselves. Larvae go through 4-6 instars before they make a transition into the pupa stage. Larvae feed on fabrics that have been frequently stained with food, beverages, or body oils including sweat and urine. This is why it is common to find damages to areas where people sit often. Clothes moths are also known to feed on non-organic fabrics, but these are mostly fabrics that have been mixed and rarely are found feeding on full synthetic fabrics. As larvae feed, they will begin to spin a web around themselves and prepare for the pupa stage of the life cycle.
Larvae will begin to remove themselves from their food source to find small cracks and crevices and prepare to pupate. The pupa stage will last 8-10 days in the summer and longer, 3-4 weeks, in the winter time. Despite cold temperatures, the heated buildings and homes will allow the pupa to continue to develop during the cold months of winter.
After they emerge from their cocoons, adults will be ready to begin mating as soon as they emerge. The Webbing clothes moth is a light brown color that has a wingspan of about ½ an inch. They have fluffy, reddish hairs on its head. The less common of the two species is the Casemaking clothes moth. They are slightly smaller in size and darker in color. Like stated before, mature clothes moths do not cause damage. Their sole purpose is to reproduce. Males generally live longer than females. Females will lay eggs for the rest of her life and males will continue to find mates and mate until they die. In fact, adult clothes moths do not even eat.
Both adult clothes moths and larvae avoid lit areas and prefer dim or dark areas. They tend to be found in areas like closets, basements and attics, and may also be found in corners or the folds of fabrics. If they are exposed to light, clothes moths quickly hide and may be found flying to cover themselves in areas like under the bed or couch. If moths are spotted flying around in open areas, it may be a different species of moths like the grain moth that are often found in food pantries.
Proper identification of clothes moths and the correct products are key to treatment and control of clothes moths.