Clothes moths are a nightmare according to various newspaper articles, but realistically they can be controlled with care and diligence. At Vale Pest Control we carry out a full inspection of the property, pulling back beds, cupboards, heavy furniture, rugs, the edge of the carpet at the wall juncture, whatever is necessary.
In the UK we have two types of clothes moth, the common clothes moth (Tineola bissellialla) and the case bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) as far as you are concerned it is not important which you have as they both create a lot of expensive damage but for purposes of control and elimination identifying them is important.
When the infestation has been found they are easily treated, but until the source of moth infestation can be found any mated females will produce upto 150 eggs over a 3 to 4 week period, so the removal of any visible or hidden moth can potentially save you from a lot of additional damage.
To assist in identification between the common webbing clothes moth and the case bearing clothes moth we have summarised the main identifying features and habits.
The case bearing clothes moth has as its name suggests a case that it carries around, best described as a miniature rolled up rizla paper made of hair and other debris, the common clothes moth spins a mat for itself to live under, and will move away from the covering to feed.
They can also be identified by the damage they have caused, the case bearing clothes moth creates more regular holes in fabrics and the common clothes moth creates less regular holes in the damaged property.
The two clothes moth are similar in size, between 6 & 8mm in length, as adults the main distinguishing physical features are that the common clothes moth is a golden straw colour with no markings and has a a strongly fringed tailing edge on the wing, the case bearing adult clothes moth has dark buff forewings with 3 faint spots (they often appears as just two).
As larvae they both reach a size of approximately 10mm, main difference being the colour of their heads and the fact that the case bearing clothes moth larvae carries its livinq quarters with it. The common clothes moth larvae is creamy white as is the case bearing moth larvae but has a dark/brown head.
Surprisingly the adult common clothes moth far prefers to scuttle along than fly about. Any clothes moths flying or fluttering around the house are probably males, females tend to travel by running and hopping and tend to hide in the folds of clothing.
The female lays 100-150 white eggs on the surface of the fabric which will hatch into larvae in approximately 5 days
There are inexpensive pheremone traps that can be used to detect and monitor the common clothes moth, and more recently a new product has been introduced to monitor the case bearing clothes moth. These are useful to assist in the search for the source of the moth infestation as well as to monitor the moth infestation post treatment.
The case bearing moth rarely flies to lights at night but prefers dark spaces such as wardrobes, closets and storage chests.
If you have a case bearing clothes moth infestation it is worth having your roof space checked for signs of old bird nests, previously treated bee colonies, wasps nests, or old rodent bodies.
Because of central heating the clothes moth is not a seasonal pest and we get calls all year round for them. Once they get into your property they can produce two generations a year if not stopped – each female clothes moth can lay up to 200 eggs on the surface of a natural textile, though they have been known to damage man made fibres. So a small unnoticed problem can escalate into an expensive clothes moth infestation problem if not treated early.
Unlike most moths, clothes moth prefers dark conditions under furniture, carpet edges, rugs and under the skirting boards around the rooms.
Treating for clothes moths
Providing you keep samples of the clothes moths and some photos of what you have found we recommend that you vacuum the area and the rest of the property as thoroughly as you can before we arrive. If you are not able to do so please advise us so that we can arrange to include this in the treatment.
We will on confirmation of the pest carry out an insecticide treatment which will involve us spraying the wall floor juncture, pulling back the carpet and spraying where necessary, moving beds and heavy furniture (where practically possible) and spraying the areas beneath them, spraying beneath all rugs, and in all other areas we can identify as having a problem.
We will also offer a ULV (ultra low volume) insecticide treatment to knock down any flying moths that are not visible to us. This reduces the opportunity of an adult female clothes moth laying eggs in an area not sprayed during the treatment such as a clothes cupboard full of silk dresses and wool suits.
As pest controllers we are not able to treat your clothes against clothes moth, our advice on this is to wash what you can (check the washing label) at as hot a temperature as possible and place them in a hot dryer after they have dried (so as not to shrink them). The objective is to reach and sustain a temperature of 50 centigrade for a minimum of 30 minutes. For the rest you need to visit the dry cleaners. If you have a large quantity of expensive clothing we may be able to offer a more economic and practical solution.
Post treatment for clothes moths
After we have carried out the insecticide treatment we recommend that you don’t vacuum the property for as long as possible (at least 2 weeks preferably). This allows the insecticide to stay in situ doing its job against the clothes moth for as long as possible.
It may also be wise to invest in a monitoring system to ensure that the treatment has been successful and to allow you to act quickly in the future against any new clothes moth infestation.
Dependent upon the type and severity of clothes moth infestation you have had we can advise on the most appropriate type of pheromone trap and where best to place them and how many to use.
It is worth noting that post treatment there is the probability that clothes moths will be caught on the traps in reducing numbers over the first month.
Clothes moth life-cycle and general info
Clothes moths tend to go after your most expensive clothing and carpets, this is because they live of keratin which is found in wool fibres and silk. The female clothes moths prefer dirty fabric for egg laying and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or have had some other organic matter spilt on them.
The female clothes moth will lay anything between 30 & 200 eggs which they glue to the chosen surface. Dependent upon temperature these will hatch after 4 to 10 days. At this point the caterpillars can only be seen using a microscope. Over the next month too as much as two years (dependent upon temperature and humidity) the clothes moth caterpillars will develop thru multiple growing stages until they reach the pupal stage when they spin themselves a cocoon. They remain as pupae for a period of between 10 and 50 days before emerging as adult clothes moths.
Upon emerging they can live for as long as a month and will begin their search for the opposite sex to mate with and to start the process again. Shortly after mating the male clothes moth will die and shortly after laying her eggs the female clothes moth will die.
It is only as larvae that they cause damage to property, as adults they do not feed, living of the stores created as caterpillars, however each adult you see has the potential of laying up to 200 eggs for a new batch of hungry larvae.
People often say that they have not observed any moths flying, this is quite possible as both the male and female clothes moth prefer scuttling to flying, and some clothes moths may never fly at all.
It is possible that a complete life cycle can take place within one month (75 °F /24 °C and 70-75% relative humidity) or may take as long as several years (larvae will hatch and grow at temperatures as low as 10 °C /50 °F and can survive up to 33 °C /91 °F).