There are over 12,000 types of moths in North America that grow from caterpillars. They usually feed on plants when they are larvae, but some live on dry, dead food. Two moths in North America will eat your clothes; the webbing and casemaking clothes moths.
The caterpillars of clothes moths eat clothes to extract moisture to nourish them through their life cycle. Clothes moths do not have tongues and do not eat or drink, so they rely on this early nourishment.
If you want to find out more, then please read on.
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What Are Clothes Moths?
There are two clothes moths in North America; webbing and casemaking clothes moths. Clothes moths are small insects that feed on natural fibers, such as cotton, fur, feathers, wool, and silk. Clothes moths are pests that lay their eggs in clothing and other textiles, and the larvae feed on the fabric until adulthood, causing holes in clothes. Clothes moths prefer dark and undisturbed areas such as closets or drawers, where they can live undetected for long periods.
These moths are typically light brown or gray and are approximately 1/2-3/8 inch long. Clothes moth larvae feed on fibrous materials and eat cotton and even rugs or carpets if left undisturbed.
They also feed on certain synthetic fabrics containing animal proteins, such as wool-blend fabrics or fur trim. To prevent damage to your clothing caused by clothes moths, it’s important to properly store your items in sealed plastic bags when not in use. Regularly vacuuming carpets and furniture will help remove any eggs or larvae before they hatch into adults that can cause further damage to your clothing.
What Do Clothes Moths Eat?
The moth larvae live on dried fungi, deadwood, and dead animals’ skin and fur. This also includes natural fibers used in clothes, such as leather, wool, hair, and silk. They do not usually eat synthetic fibers or cotton if they don’t contain animal proteins.
The webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes live in bird nests but move indoors as moths seek food and warmth. As places are kept warm throughout winter, the moths do not need to hibernate. More than one generation of clothes moths can live each year, and adults can be found in all seasons.
Most species of moths that come into your house are not the type to eat your clothes. Moths that go into the house attracted to the light are harmless, night–flying species. Clothes moths are not attracted to the light and can be seen trying to hide when disturbed. Clothes moths are much smaller than most, about a quarter to half an inch.
Clothes moths cannot eat or drink as they have no tongue. This is also true for many outdoor moths, which is why they have short lives. House moths can live indoors for up to a month as adults who survive on the food stores from the caterpillar stage. As their food supply is provided by what they eat as a caterpillar, the larvae eat clothes they find.
What Do Clothes Moths Look Like?
Clothes moths have a different shape than house moths. Around the tip of their front wing, they have a row of long hairs, which can be seen above the head and body level from the side. They are a golden brown color and much smaller than typical house moths.
The casemaking moth is larger than the ordinary clothes moth and has dark spots on its brown wings. The caterpillars make a silk case that protects their bodies. This is an open-ended case that they drag around with it. The tube is open at each end so the caterpillar can feed.
Female clothes moths mate soon after they hatch before spending the next few weeks finding places to lay between 40 and 70 eggs. Although you may see moths in your wardrobe, it is important to know these will have already laid their eggs, and killing them will not protect your clothes. It is the larvae that do the damage to your clothes.
Caterpillars of clothes moths live on dry food but maintain their body moisture in a dry habitat. Dresses from animals, such as wool, hair, or feathers, contain keratin. Keratin is indigestible to most insects and all mammals; however, the caterpillars of clothes moths can break down materials containing keratin with a particular enzyme produced in their gut. This allows the moth to have nourishment and moisture in dry habitats and allows them to eat clothes.
Caterpillars have waterproof skin, which is covered by a layer of wax, and this stops the caterpillar’s body fluids from drying out. However, if this layer of wax is damaged, the caterpillar will dry out and die quickly.
Preventing Moth Damage
Clothes moths often find their way into houses from birds’ nests built in the eaves and lofts. Clothes should not be stored in the attic as they may attract moths from the bird’s nest.
Clothes stored for regular use should be cleaned often, as should carpets and curtains. Items made from wool or fur are most likely to be found riddled with holes.
Moth damage can be prevented by taking a few simple steps. First and foremost, it is important to keep your home clean and tidy by regularly vacuuming carpets, rugs, and furniture. If you have clothing or other fabric items stored for long periods, wrap them in cedar chips or oil-soaked cloths to deter moths from laying eggs on them.
Additionally, inspect any second-hand items before bringing them into your home, as they may already contain eggs or larvae. You can also invest in an ultrasonic moth repellent, which uses sound waves to drive away moths without using chemicals.
There are many types of clothes and moth traps, including mothballs, that you can find on Amazon. Many of these use pheromones to attract clothes moths.
These simple steps can help reduce the risk of moth damage in your home.
How Do I Keep Moths Out?
One of the best ways to keep moths out of the house is to ensure that all clothes, especially those made from natural fibers such as wool and cotton, are stored in air-tight containers or closets. Vacuuming and dusting regularly can help remove moth eggs and larvae from carpets and furniture, while washing fabrics with hot water (above 130°F) or dry cleaning them can also be effective.
Additionally, cedar blocks, lavender sachets, and other items that emit a strong scent can be used to repel moths. Paying close attention to any holes or cracks in windows and doors can also help prevent moths from entering the home. Finally, you may consider using a professional pest control service if you have a moth infestation.
Do Clothing Moths Eat Clothes?
Clothing moths do eat clothes. They are quite destructive and can cause extensive damage to expensive garments such as wool, fur, and silk. The larvae of the clothing moth feed on fabrics made from animal-based fibers such as wool, cashmere, fur, and feathers.
They can also feed on synthetics that contain animal-based ingredients like lanolin or sweat. The adult moths lay eggs in the fabric, which hatch into larvae and begin to feed on the material. As they feed, they create holes in the fabric that can be difficult to repair.
It is important to be aware of these pests to prevent costly damage to our clothing. Taking preventive measures such as regularly cleaning clothes in hot water and storing them in sealed containers are key steps for keeping clothing moths away from your closet.
What Time Of Year Do Moths Eat Clothes?
Moths are a common nuisance during certain times of the year. They feed on natural fibers such as wool, cotton, and silk, which can be found in clothing, rugs, and other fabrics. Depending on where you live, moths may be active throughout spring, summer, or fall.
Generally speaking, adult moths will begin to emerge in late spring or early summer when temperatures become warm enough for them to mate and lay eggs. The eggs then hatch into larvae, feeding on clothes until they reach maturity. Therefore, if you want to avoid having your clothes eaten by moths, it is important to take preventative measures during these active months to protect your wardrobe from damage.
Bryan Harding is a member of the American Society of Mammalogists and a member of the American Birding Association. Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Bryan serves as owner, writer, and publisher of North American Nature.