Identify 8 Insects That Eat Holes in Clothes

  • 01 of 09

    Identify 8 Insects That Eat Holes in Clothes

    Moths Sweaters
    Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty Images

    When you discover a hole in your favorite sweater, the first step in resolving the problem is identifying what type of insect made the hole and could be going after more of your clothes. Moths are always the first insect blamed but crickets, cockroaches, and beetles can also be the culprit.

    Learn to identify the insects that have been munching on the clothes you are currently wearing or stored clothes. Once you know what's causing the problem, you can get rid of them using specific pesticides or organic methods.

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  • 02 of 09

    Carpet Beetle

    Carpet Beetle
    Carpet Beetle, Anthrenus. Matt Bertone, North Carolina State University

    There are three species of carpet beetles that look very similar; the only difference being in their coloration pattern. Carpet beetles can have 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.

    The female beetles lays soft, white eggs in concealed places that hatch in eight to fifteen days and hatch more quickly in warmer weather. The eggs are laid on clothing, furniture, cracks in flooring, and carpet. Most carpet beetles typically produce four generations within a year. Only one generation of black beetles is produced each year.

    It is not the adult insect but the larvae that feed on fabric. They begin feeding as soon as the egg hatches. They consume natural fibers like 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

    Case Bearing Clothes Moth
    John Downer/Getty Images

    If you see a worm-like insect with a hard shell, it is actually 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. They feed 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


    Jan Stromme/Getty

    Along with its droppings that can cause asthma and carry disease, the cockroach will also damage clothes and any fabric in the home. The cockroach is 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.

    Their excrement will also stain clean clothes, requiring extra stain removal treatment.


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  • 05 of 09


    Rene B. Olesen/EyeEm/Getty Images

    Crickets are not commonly thought of as an insect that eats holes in clothes. They do not attack clean clothes. However, they find body soil, food and beverage stains, and laundry starch very attractive. The cricket will eat the remains of the stain and during its 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.

    Cricket excrement can stain clean clothes and require rewashing before wearing.


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  • 06 of 09


    Hugh Clark/Getty Images

    Firebrats are related to silverfish. They 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 firebrats prefer warm spaces like attics that over 90 degrees F.

    Once they find a food source, they tend to stay close by. They particularly like cotton, linen, rayon, and any item that is starched. 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


    Scenics and Science/Getty

    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 areas around 70 degrees F. They feed at night and stay close to food sources.

    They like natural fibers like silk, cotton, rayon and anything starched. Body soil and food stains also attract contamination. As the silverfish eat the "food" they cut irregular holes in the fiber.


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  • 08 of 09



    Few people consider clothing damage when thinking of termites. However, they are attracted to the food source of clothing that is 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

    Webbing Clothes Moth
    Mike Birkhead/Getty Images

    The webbing clothes moth, tineola Bisellielle is a small moth with a wing span of about 1/2 inch. It is pale gold with no unusual markings and a weak flier that seldom leaves dark areas. Adult moths are no danger to wool, cashmere, or mohair clothes. But the larvae can be terribly detrimental as they feed and cut holes in clothes.

    The female moth lays hundreds of soft, white eggs which adhere to the fabric and hatch quickly. The larvae feeds for five weeks for up to two years depending on humidity, temperature and food availability. It then spins a case and emerges as a full-grown moth in 2 1/2 weeks. The cycle begins again and multiple generations can be produced within a year.