Clothes moths have long been a problem for mankind. It is believed they have been around as long as there have been animals with hair. Natural fibers are what clothing moths feed on; they have a unique ability to turn keratin, a protein available in wool, fur, horns and many other natural materials, into food. Clothes moths possess a special enzyme which does it work in the digestive track of the moth.
Though they prefer natural hairs and fabric fibers, clothing moths have been found to eat just about anything. The list includes but is not limited to snake skin, beef, just about any type of meal, milk products, finger nail clippings, human hair, pet hair or dander, wool, cotton, silk, furniture, insulation, carpets – both natural and synthetic, leather, cork and bees wax.
Though clothes moths appear to be able to eat anything but this does not mean they are able to live and prosper on such diets. Clearly some of the above items on which they feed are better suited as food items and some are not. However, the moth will take advantage of that which is available; a variety is not needed, just a good supply of something which has their needed nutrients.
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CLOTHES MOTH BIOLOGY
Additionally, it has been learned clothes moths prefer fabric which is dirty or stained. They are particularly attracted to carpeting or clothes which has human sweat, urine, milk, coffee, gravy or other liquids which have spilled on them. It appears they are attracted to these areas not because of what spilled there but because the spill contains moisture – a vital need for most insects. Since moth larva do not drink water, their food must contain moisture from which they can extract their requirements.
This process is unique to several insects; clothes moths will produce a small frass like pellet which is excreted during the process of moisture removal. This frass is commonly found in carpeting or clothing where infestations have been active for some time. This behavior also supports why clothes moths will find their way to our clothing, carpeting and furniture. These three not only contain the foodstuff clothes moths need to eat but generally will have all types of food and/or water based materials spilled on them. The dry pelletized excrement is free of all moisture since the larva is able to use it all in order to remain both healthy and moist.
CLOTHES MOTH LIFE CYCLE
Clothes moths develop much like any other insect. Eggs hatch larva which feed. Once they get their fill they pupate where they undergo metamorphosis to emerge as the adult. Adults do not eat; male adults look for females and adult females look for a place to lay eggs. Once their job is done they die. Contrary to what most people believe, adult clothes moths do not eat or cause any damage to clothing or fabric.
It is the larva which is solely responsible for this; larva spend their entire time eating and foraging for food. If they find enough close to where they hatch they will spend their time eating and very little time foraging. If conditions are not providing them with enough food, larva will become mobile. They will travel as far as they have to in order to get proper nutrition.
Both adults and larva prefer low light conditions. Most moths are drawn to light but clothes moths seem to like dim to dark areas over well lit rooms. If larva find themselves in a well lit room, they will try to relocate under furniture or carpet edges.
Since hand made rugs are a favorite food item for clothes moths, it is easy for them to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. They will also crawl under moldings at the edges of rooms in search of darkened areas which hold good food.
Clothes moths can easily be confused with pantry moths. They are similar in size, can and do infest side by side and are able to eat similar food. The big difference is where they end up infesting.
Though clothes moths are able to arrive at a home in some type of grain or meal, they will move to other parts of the home where fabric is found preferring this as a main food supply. Pantry moths will readily stay where food is abundant – in the pantry.
If you are not sure which one you have, be sure to go back to our article archive section and read our article about PANTRY MOTHS. It is in depth and informative and will allow you to distinguish which one you have and thus the appropriate course of control.
Another pest which is very common and does a lot of damage to clothing and other fabrics in the home is the CARPET BEETLE. If you have seen round small beetles around the home or hairy little caterpillars about 1/4 inch long, you might have some worth treating. Carpet beetle larva eat and cause a lot of damage like clothing moth larva but their treatment is different. Refer back to our article archive where you will find an in depth article about them and how to treat local infestations.
CLOTHES MOTH STAGES
The most common clothes moth found to infest fabric in homes and places of business is the Webbing Clothes Moth. It is found worldwide and no structure is missed. Churches, homes, carpeting stores, warehouses, museums and just about any building has the needed material on which larva of these moths feed.
Though they prefer moist conditions, it is important to understand low humidity merely slows their development. A lack of moisture is most likely to keep them eating and in their cocoons longer. It will not eradicate infestations.
Female adults don’t like to fly; males will readily fly looking for females. These are small moths; adults grow between 1/4 and 1/2 inch. Their eggs are tiny most being under 1/24th of an inch long and barely visible. Females will lay several hundred during her life and egg placement will be carefully chosen in locations where they will have the best chance for survival.
They prefer loose ragged threads of fiber and when laid, the eggs are attached with a glue like material making it almost impossible to remove with ordinary vacuuming or cleaning. This is an issue which must be dealt with when treating and will be discussed later in the article.
Unlike most insects, clothes moth eggs will hatch when ready regardless of the climate. They do not overwinter in the egg stage. Inside buildings this egg hatching will happen all year round making any time the proper time to treat suspected infestations.
WHAT DO CLOTHES MOTHS EAT?
Once the egg hatches, the larva will immediately look for food. They are barely bigger than the egg and though they have no eyes, larva will readily find food.
If egg placement was good, larva won’t have to travel far to find a meal. If no food is present, they will crawl in search of dinner. The larval stage appears to be critical for understanding their development and control measures.
Larva can get their required food in under two months but if conditions are not favorable, larva will feed on and off for a long time. It has been found they can stay in this stage for over two years.
Besides doing a lot of damage during this time span, larva will mislead people present into believing the infestation has been eliminated because no adults are being seen.
This can lead to improper treatment programs which serve to do nothing more than drag the process out. This will be explained later in the article.
Now it’s important to understand that even though larva do not create a case in which to live, they do spin a type of webbing around areas where they are most active. They generally will use this silken area as a place to sleep and remain protected but will venture away from it as needed to find food. Silk found on clothing or furniture is a sure sign of webbing clothes moths.
So whether it takes two months or two years, larva will eventually spin a cocoon in which they will change into adults. They will stay in these cocoon 1-2 months and then emerge as adults ready to mate and lay eggs. The average time it takes a local infestation to go from egg to egg is just about a year; the speed of development will depend entirely on food supply, humidity and temperatures.
CLOTHES MOTH TRAPS
The first tool which will prove helpful for any level of infestation is to install some CLOTHES MOTH TRAPS. These are pheromone based traps which use female sex pheromones to lure males. The attractant is much stronger than natural pheromones emitted and emerging males will not be able to resist the smell.
Clothes Moth Traps: http://www.bugspraycart.com/traps/pheromone-and-food/clothes-moth-traps-2-pack
Once they get to the trap, a board of non-drying glue awaits them. They will land, get stuck and be preventing from impregnating females.
Traps will last several months and though they won’t stop eating larva, they will cut down the adult male population dramatically. This will help to prevent future egg laying and aid in control. They will also serve as a good monitoring device.
If your traps are catching more moths than you would like, more treatments will be needed. Be sure to locate them in closets, around carpets or furniture and any other room where you have activity. Try to inspect them at least once a week.
CLOTHES MOTH TREATMENTS
Once you have traps in place, aerosol or liquid treatments can be done. In order to prepare for these applications, it is best to do some house cleaning. This will involve different things for different areas.
First, if you have activity in a closet around clothes or other stored fabric, you will need to do a good vacuuming. You may even need to dry clean certain items. This process will help to remove moisture levels which we know clothes moths need. Make an effort to go through each piece paying particular attention to anything which is either valuable or left alone for long periods of time.
Fabric, whether clothing or bulk, can harbor infestations at different levels. Since larva will not readily migrate if the food supply is both close and abundant, you can easily miss nest locations and feeding sights. If you spend some time going through the piles of clothes and fabric you are most likely to find any droppings, webbing or even adults.
Finding any clothes moth sign like this will definitely aid in control measures so pay attention when cleaning.
And if you decide to not washing or dry clean suspected infested clothing, make a point to vacuum as much as you can. This process will take some time but this will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
Vacuuming will help to remove larva, adults and their frass but eggs and pupa are almost impossible to remove. Glue like excretions and the cocoon spinning process does a good job of affixing eggs and pupa in place.
The same holds true for carpeting. Thick carpets need to have a good vacuuming. Area rugs need to have their top side cleaned but be sure to turn as much of it over and clean the bottom.
Since hand weaved rugs generally have natural fabric through and through, clothes moths will find their way to the underside and their feeding will cause the top to come undone. However, topside treatments may not penetrate far enough to get them and turning up sides or in some cases turning the rug over may be needed to insure good coverage.
Synthetic carpeting, though it may be harboring some moth activity, usually has a some type of backing moths cannot eat. This will allow you to treat from the topside effectively. Other items which may develop moth activity include tapestries, taxidermy mounts, drapes, wreathes, linens, area rugs, stored goods or just about anything which has some natural fabric or material on which clothes moths can feed. Most of these items will need a vacuuming prior to treatments to insure good results and to maximize product effectiveness.
HOW TO GET RID OF CLOTHES MOTHES
Once you have cleaned closets, clothing, rugs, carpeting, furniture, or anything else with activity, you are ready to treat.
And one of the simplest thing you can do is to use an aerosol which is OK for small areas. For closets, the use of such a product is somewhat practical.
Aerosols are ready to spray, easy to apply and don’t require much “dry” time. They’re very handy for use on furniture, taxidermy mounts or tapestries.
And though aerosols will kill currently active insects, they will usually not prove strong enough to knock out major infestations but they are a good starting point.
CLOTHES MOTH AEROSOL SPRAY
PERMETHRIN AEROSOL has long been used as a chigger, mosquito and insect repellent and can be used on clothing or other surfaces where you want to provide some protection from clothes moth attack. It’s effective on over 50 different insects and is excellent for small jobs where you need some “light” protection.
Permethrin Aerosol: http://www.bugspraycart.com/repellents/aerosol/permethrin-aerosol-6-oz
If you have spent the time going through your closet and are not quite sure if there is a problem in the area, treating it with some of this Permethrin would be smart. It’s odorless and a light misting will insure you don’t get holes by any fabric eating pest that might be present. Don’t waste your time with smelly moth balls which won’t work as well; treat with some Permethrin for better protection and ease of use.
Another form of the same material is PERMETHRIN RTU. This form is liquid and though designed for use on clothing, we recommend it more for the surrounding area. Compared to the Aerosol form, the Liquid will last longer and prove more effective. This is especially true when you are treating thick carpet or closets which have a lot of moldings, cracks and crevices. Such designs and layouts offer a lot of opportunity for clothes moths as well as other fabric eating pests to hide and not be seen.
Now a step up from the Permethrin would be to install an AEROSOL DISPENSER with some METERED AEROSOL. These machines run off batteries, can be wall mounted and will provide a one second blast of aerosol every 15 minutes.
The refills will last a month and do a great job of killing off both larva and adults. You will have to make sure you replace them each month since the pyrethrin based formulation offers no residual. This means prolonged periods of time without the machine having a full can to disperse the aerosol will allow damage to occur from hatching eggs.
Remember, the above aerosol treatments only kill larva and adults. Eggs and pupa will remain in tact and since it takes several months from these to hatch out you must be sure to have a continuous supply of Metered Aerosol.
That being said, the one advantage these systems have is that they’re well suited for small areas like closets. Additionally, once the device is configured to your liking, they’re low maintenance. All you need to do is keep the cannisters fill and replace the batteries once a year.
But if you’re sure there is active clothes moth problem in your closet, you probably should treat with BEDLAM PLUS. This aerosol combines an adulticide and a growth regulator so it will effectively control stages of clothes mothes. It’s ideal for use in small rooms like closets and can be applied to the carpeting, baseboards and other areas clothes moths like to nest.
CLOTHES MOTH FOGGING
For large areas like storage rooms and warehouses, mixing up your own formulation to be fogged will prove to be the most cost effective and efficient way to proceed.
With the use of either a MINI FOGGER or an FM6208, you can treat large areas quickly and effectively. These machines convert water based formulations into aerosols which project the mist great distances.
Fogmaster Mini Fogger: http://www.bugspraycart.com/equipment/foggers/fogmaster-5330-120-volt
The Mini Fogger will reach 10-20 feet, the FM6208 will reach over 30 feet. Both have adjustments so you are able to control the flow so as to prevent over application.
Remember, it doesn’t require a lot material to kill these moths and larva. Most important is the proper coverage and the use of proper materials.
When treating with fogging machines, the best approach is to use both a growth regulator and an adulticide. NYLAR is the latest growth regulator which is essentially a protein. When certain insects are exposed to it early in development they are not able to properly mature into eating or reproducing adults. Nylar will last several weeks per application, it is odorless and will stop the cycle of clothes moths.
Be sure to add an adulticide as well and EXCITER is one which works well. It uses Pyrethrin as the active ingredient. It has no residual; pyrethrin will break down within a few hours of application. However, it is very safe, low to no odor and kills moths quickly.
6 % Pyrethrin: http://www.bugspraycart.com/insecticide/liquid/exciter-16-oz
Use the two together and treat at least once a month if you have valuable rugs to protect or other items in large areas.
CLOTHES MOTH DUST
Dusting for clothes moths is another option of treatment and works best when you have infestations in carpeting which is wall to wall and tucked under moldings. When moths have moved under the moldings at these locations, they’re typically well protected from liquid treatments and aerosols don’t do a good enough job in such voids. Dust is best suited for these treatments and the one to use is DELTAMETHRIN DUST. It is odorless and should be applied with a HAND DUSTER.
The hand duster allows you to get proper coverage under the molding where larva and adults will be active. Most important is that is will last 6-12 months. This insures any eggs will die as they hatch.
Deltamethrin Dust works well for long term residual but unfortunately, it’s too messy for use out in the open. Basically it’s just like baby powder and in most cases, this trait makes it unpractical for open area applications. So limit it’s use to areas under moldings, in dry storage where boxes are stored or in other inconspicuous locations.
CLOTHES MOTH LIQUID SPRAY
Rugs and carpeting which have moth activity will generally need more than just aerosol treatments to get adequate coverage. Liquid applications are really the only way you can be sure to get the infestation under control.
And area rugs will need to have both their top side and bottom sides treated; wall to wall carpeting generally only needs to be sprayed from the top. Since eggs and pupa will not be killed during the treatment, you will need to use a material which will provide a residual along with a growth regulator.
Use ONSLAUGHT as the adulticide and NYLAR as the growth regulator. Onslaught is odorless, easy to use and will provide great knockdown and control. DEFENSE SC is another good choice for an adulticide as well.
Apply it using a SPRAYER and be sure to get proper coverage. Don’t spread it too thin and treat once a month for the first three months and then once a quarter for the next year to insure the infestation is under control. If you have valuable area rugs which you want to protect it makes sense to treat them twice a year to insure no moth activity begins. This is easy to do and is the simplest way to protect a rug which could cost several thousands of dollars. Watch this short video to see what the spray pattern should look like when doing the treatment.
Pump Sprayer: http://www.bugspraycart.com/good/pump-sprayers
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