Identify 8 Insects That Eat Holes in Clothes

Beside Moths, Crickets and Silverfish Are Often Culprits

Person wearing a vest with two holes in it.
Peter Dazeley/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images
  • 01 of 09

    Identify Eight Insects That Eat Holes in Clothes

    Moths flying around a drawer of sweaters.
    Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

    When an insect chews a hole in your favorite sweater, chances are there will be more holes to follow. That is unless you can identify what type of insect made the hole. Moths are always the first insect blamed, but crickets, cockroaches, or beetles could also be the culprits. Once you know what is causing the problem, you can get rid of them using specific insecticides or organic methods.

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  • 02 of 09

    Carpet Beetle

    Carpet beetle crawling.
    Matt Bertone, North Carolina State University

    There are three species of carpet beetles that look very similar; the only difference among them is their coloration pattern.

    • Variegated carpet beetles: These beetles have either ​solid or splotchy coloring of black, white, brown, and yellow and are only 1/8-inch long. The larvae are oval or elongated in length and have brown or black bristles.
    • Black carpet beetles: Attagenus have solid black bodies and brownish legs as an adult and vary in length from 3/36 to 1/8-inch. The larvae can vary from light yellow to golden to dark brown. The larvae bodies are tapered from the head to the posterior.
    • Common carpet beetles: These beetles have black, white, red, and orange scales. Their larvae are reddish-brown and covered in fine hairs.

    The female beetles lay soft, white eggs in concealed places on clothing, furniture, cracks in flooring, and carpet. The eggs hatch in eight to 15 days and hatch more quickly in warmer weather. Most carpet beetles typically produce four generations within a year, which is a lot when compared to black beetles, which only produce one generation per year.

    It is not the adult insect but the larvae that feed on fabric. They begin feeding as soon as the egg hatches. The larvae consume natural fibers such as wool, mohair, fur, and feathers and can crawl from place to place. They are most often discovered on fabric but can live in any dark crevices including air ducts, closets, and behind baseboards.

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  • 03 of 09

    Case-Bearing Clothes Moth

    Close up of sweater with a hole in it.
    John Downer / Getty Images

    If you see a worm-like insect with a hard shell, it is the larvae of the case-bearing clothes moth. The larvae carry a flattened case about a 1/4- to 1/2-inch long. It is this creature that cuts holes in your clothing and other fabrics. It feeds on fur, flannel, wool, soiled fabrics, and hair. The adult moths are very small and are rarely seen.

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  • 04 of 09

    Cockroach

    Two cockroaches crawling near the baseboard.
    Jan Stromme / Getty Images

    The cockroach is a serious pest: its droppings can cause asthma, carry disease, and stain clothes. Also, the cockroach will damage clothes and any fabric in the home. Cockroaches are attracted to perspiration and body fluid stains, food and drink spills, and laundry starch. As the cockroach eats away at these stains, it can cut holes in the fibers or weaken them so that holes appear.

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  • 05 of 09

    Cricket

    Cricket on a piece of fabric.
    Rene B. Olesen / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Crickets are not commonly thought to be an insect that eats holes in clothes, and they do not feast on clean clothes. However, they find body soil, food and beverage stains, and laundry starch very attractive. The crickets will eat the remains of the stain and during their feast will often cut the threads of the fabric. This is often not discovered until after the garment is washed or worn and a sudden hole appears. Also, cricket excrement can stain clean clothes; if you discover an infestation you should rewash your clothes before wearing.

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  • 06 of 09

    Firebrat

    Firebrat crawling on a dark surface.
    Hugh Clark / Getty Images

    Firebrats, relatives of the silverfish, are usually 1/4- to 1/2-inch long. The firebrat has a mottled silver and brown coat. They are wingless insects with carrot-shaped bodies and five legs. They are active at night and prefer warm spaces such as attics that are more than 90 F in temperature.

    Once firebrats find a food source, they tend to stay close by. These insects particularly like cotton, linen, rayon, and any starched item. Food and beverages stains that are sugar-based are particularly attractive to the firebrat. You will recognize the damage as irregular, usually following the outlines of the stain.

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  • 07 of 09

    Silverfish

    Two silverfish crawling.
    Scenics and Science / Getty Images

    Cousin to the firebrat, silverfish are wingless insects about 1/4- to 1/2-inch long with five legs. Their carrot-shaped body is completely silver in color. Silverfish are found in dark, slightly cooler areas around 70 F. These pests feed at night and stay close to food sources. Silverfish like body soil, food stains, and natural fibers such as silk and cotton, as well as rayon and anything starched. As the silverfish eats, it cuts irregular holes in the fiber.

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  • 08 of 09

    Termite

    Several termites digging holes into wood.
    jeridu / Getty Images

    Few people consider clothing damage when thinking of termites. However, ​termites are attracted to clothing food sources that are stained with body soil, food, or beverages. As they eat the food, they often cut into the fabric causing holes.

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  • 09 of 09

    Webbing Clothes Moth

    Dozens of webbing clothes moths on a sweater.
    Mike Birkhead / Getty Images

    The webbing clothes moth (Tineola bissellielle) is a small, pale gold moth with a wingspan of about 1/2 inch. A weak flier, it seldom leaves dark areas. Adult moths are no danger to wool, cashmere, or mohair clothes, but the larvae can be detrimental as they feed and cut holes in clothes.

    The female moth lays hundreds of soft, white eggs that adhere to the fabric and hatch quickly. The larvae feed for five weeks up to two years depending on humidity, temperature, and food availability. Then, they spin a case and emerge as full-grown moths in 2 1/2 weeks. The cycle begins again and multiple generations can be produced within a year.