Clothes moths can be very destructive pests of wool, furs, and other natural or blended fabrics. There are two species of clothes moths that are commonly found in homes in the U.S.: The Webbing Clothes Moth and the Casemaking Clothes Moth.
Clothes moths are often confused with Indian meal moths, but the two are actually very different, primarily in the materials on which they feed and the places they are found. Indian meal moths are pantry pests while clothes moths—as their name indicates—feed on fabrics. Read on for more information on clothes moths, their identification, the difference from stored food moths, the damage they cause, and their control.
Adults are about 1/4-inch long with a wingspan of about 1/2 inch. They are gold/yellowish-gray in color with reddish-gold/coppery hairs on the head. Their wings have a fringe of golden hairs.
Larvae are creamy-white with a dark-colored head. They are about 1/3- to 1/2-inch long.
Adults are also about 1/4-inch long with a wingspan of about 1/2 inch. They are gold in color with light gold hairs on the head and brownish wings with spots. This moth makes a silken, tube-like "case" around its body, which it carries with it. It feeds from both ends of the tube and uses it for shelter when disturbed.
Larvae are about 1/3- to 1/2-inch long, with pale yellow to white bodies and a brown head. Its case is the color of the fabric on which the larva feeds.
Differences From Indianmeal Moths
At about 1/4-inch long, clothes moths are smaller than Indianmeal moths (about 1/2-inch long). Unlike the smooth-headed Indianmeal moth, the clothes moth has a tuft of hair on its head and clothes moths are usually lighter in color than Indianmeal moths.
Clothes moths do not fly well and are not attracted to lights. Indianmeal moths fly well and are attracted to light. When clothes moths do fly, it is very fluttery. The flight of the Indianmeal moth is strong and steady. A clothes moth at rest is much easier to catch than an Indian meal moth.
Clothes moths are found in dark areas close to the fabrics they are infesting. Indianmeal moths and other pantry pests will be found in and around pantry and foods and will fly farther from their food source.
Although usually found on clothing, clothes moth damage will also be found on furniture and carpets of natural fabrics and fibers of animal origin, such as wool, fur, mohair, hair, and feathers, and on fabrics blended with such natural fibers. They will also feed on dead insects.
The moths lay their eggs on the fabrics, gluing them in place. The hatched larvae then feed on and spin webbing on the items, causing further damage. The larvae leave holes as they feed and may even use the fibers to build their cases. Clothes moths are usually are carried into the home on infested articles that are placed near another feeding source, e.g., wool clothing. This then becomes infested as well.
Clothes moths are most attracted to fabrics that are stained, have perspiration spots or urine residue. This is because these stains provide the larvae with the nutrients that they need, such as Vitamin B and salt.
Since clothes moths stay in dark places and hide if disturbed, they often are not noticed until after they have damaged the fabric which they infest. The most obvious signs of clothes moth presence are holes, webbing, or dried larval cases.
Ideal conditions for clothes moth growth, activity, and egg-laying are warmth and humidity. So they are less common in dry climates. The moths are most active above 40 F, but lower temperatures will not necessarily kill them, it just slows them down.