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The moth Common Clothes moth, Tineola Bisselliellatitle

Clothes moth larvae feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, leather, lint, dust, paper, and occasionally cotton, linen, silk and synthetic fibres.

They are especially damaging to fabric stained with beverages, urine, oil from hair and sweat. Most damage is done to articles left undisturbed for a long time, such as old military uniforms and blankets, wool upholstery, feathered hats, antique dolls and toys, natural bristle brushes, weavings, wall hangings, piano felts, old furs and especially wool carpets under heavy furniture and clothing in storage.

Damaged fabrics have holes eaten through them by small, white larvae and often have silken cases, lines of silken threads, and faecal pellets over the surface of the materials. Moths are destructive during the larvae stage.The adult has a body length of between 6 and 8 mm and a wingspan of 9 and 16 mm. The upper side of the fore wings is buff, nearly golden, in colour. Both pairs of wings have fringed margins. The larva yellowish white in colour with a brown head and measures around 10 mm in length when fully mature.

Biology

Eggs hatch into larvae, which then begin to feed. Once they get their fill, they pupate and undergo metamorphosis to emerge as adults. Adults do not eat: male adults look for females and adult females look for places to lay eggs. Once their job is done, they die.

Contrary to what most people believe, adult clothing moths do not eat or cause any damage to clothing or fabric. It is the larvae which are solely responsible for this, spending their entire time eating and foraging for food. Both adults and larvae prefer low light conditions. Whereas most other moths are drawn to light, clothing moths seem to prefer dim or dark areas. If larvae find themselves in a well-lit room, they will try to relocate under furniture or carpet edges. Hand made rugs are a favourite because it is easy for them to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. They will also crawl under moldings at the edges of rooms in search of darkened areas which hold good food.

The most common clothing moth is the Webbing Clothes Moth. It prefers moist conditions, although low humidity will merely slow development. Webbing Clothes Moths are small moths whose adults grow to between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. Their eggs are tiny, most being under 1 millimeter long and barely visible. A female will lay several hundred during her lifetime; egg placement is carefully chosen in locations where they will have the best chance for survival.

The eggs are attached with a glue-like substance and can be quite difficult to remove. After the egg hatches, the larva will immediately look for food. Larvae can obtain their required food in less than two months, but if conditions are not favorable they will feed on and off for a long time. Whether it takes two months or two years, each larva will eventually spin a cocoon in which it will change into an adult. Larvae stay in these cocoons for between one and two months and then emerge as adults ready to mate and to lay eggs.

Control

Locate the source of infestation before treatment. 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 woollen 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, woollen scrap piles, etc. Adult moths do not feed in fabrics, but may be seen in darkened corners at night.

Control is not always easy because the larvae hide in amongst clothes (which should not be directly treated with insecticides) or within carpets (which are difficult to penetrate). Thorough cleaning deters moth but once you have a problem you will probably require chemical application to gain control.

Care should be taken to select a non-staining insecticide if soft furnishings are to be treated. Although some may prefer the moth pheromone trapping approach. You can use the Moth Pheromone Traps to determine where the problems are but these will attract only the adult male moths, which may have already laid eggs on material, it is essential that a thorough treatment be carried out and that every possible larva development site is treated. They may be found in association with birds and mammals nests, therefore these possibilities should be checked when tracing the source of the infestation.

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