Signs of Moths
The first thing most people notice is the damage caused to clothes, fabrics or carpets but there are other indicators of a moth infestation:
- Small maggot like larvae (moth caterpillars)
- Silken tubes or ‘cases’ in which the moth larvae live
- Pupae (silk cocoons) from which larvae eventually emerge as adult moths
- Adult moths that are often crawling rather than flying
In the UK there are four species of moth found in homes that can cause problems and these moths have differing preferences for materials, which means their larvae cause slightly different damage to fabrics and materials, for example:
- Common Clothes Moth larvae – cause irregular shaped holes in natural fabrics. Adults lay cream coloured eggs, which hatch into creamy white larvae.
- Case Bearing Clothes Moth larvae – create smaller, more regular shaped holes in garments and textiles. The larvae are white with a brown head.
- Brown House Moth larvae – tend to prefer animal based materials like feathers and leather. They are the most common type of house moth.
- White Shouldered House Moth larvae – scavenge on a wide range of food, so are a little less damaging to textiles, they will make small circular holes in natural fibres. These moths tend to be rarer than other species.
There are two clothes moth species found in the UK that are the main culprits for nibbling on your garments – the Common Clothes Moth and the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth. Both are small and seldom seen, as they prefer to dark, undisturbed areas such as little used:
- Spaces under beds
They also prefer to avoid light, opting to hide in folds of fabrics, corners, cracks and crevices in quiet forgotten areas.
Adult clothes moths don’t feed, but females can lay between 40 and 50 eggs onto fabrics which can hatch within 10 days if warm enough, but can take longer to hatch at colder temperatures. It’s this larval stage of clothes moths that feed on the ‘keratin’ within natural fibres, causing surface damage and generating holes in the fabric. Sometimes the larvae can be seen crawling slowly, moving from the material they hatch on, particularly Case-Bearing Clothes Moths which can travel a considerable distance from the originally infested area to find secure cracks and crevices in which to spin cocoons to develop into adult moths.
The larvae will happily feed on a variety of animal based items including:
- Feathers & Fur
There are a variety of possessions that can potentially be infested by clothes moths:
- Carpets & rugs
- Down filled pillows
- Soft toys
- Upholstered furniture
It’s even been known for moth larvae to feed on the felts within pianos and organs as well as feeding in air ducts containing lint, shed pet hairs and other organic debris. Synthetic fabrics such as rayon and polyester are rarely damaged, unless they are blended with a natural fibre such as wool.
Carpet Moths (Trichophaga tapetzella) are also known as Tapestry Moths. They are a similar size to Clothes Moths and their larvae have the same taste in fabrics, furnishings and garments, the ‘keratin’ in natural fibres. They happily munch their way through wool carpets and silk rugs. The adult moths live only a few months, but females can lay up to 200 eggs in this time – in quiet, dark, undisturbed areas. Favoured locations for the moth larvae are:
- Under sofas
- Behind heavy curtains
- Along skirting boards
- Beneath heavy, rarely moved furniture
The larvae can live for up to two years eating away at the natural fibres leaving balding patches at the corners or edges of carpets and rugs. Often the larvae will be the same colour as the carpet fibres they are consuming, as they have digested the dyes in the carpet pile. In ambient temperature they can produce several generations in one year.
Tapestry / Carpet moths such as (Trichophaga tapetzella) use to be prevalent, but have become relatively rare in the UK these days. If you find small bald patches at the edges or corners of carpets and rugs – containing natural fibres like wool and silk (even blended wool pile that contains synthetic fibres can be affected). Any damage is much more likely to be caused by Clothes Moth larvae or Carpet Beetle damage than by Carpet Moths.
Please call for solutions and treatment possibilities.