- CLOTHES MOTH BIOLOGY
- WHAT DO CLOTHES MOTHS LIKE TO EAT?
- HOW TO TREAT A CLOTHES MOTH PROBLEM
- WHAT TO DO BEFORE TREATING FOR CLOTHES MOTH
- WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATMENTS FOR CLOTHING MOTHS?
- USE AEROSOL FOR SPOT TREATING SMALL ROOMS
- LIQUID SPRAY CARPETS AND FURNITURE WHEN POSSIBLE
- DUST ATTICS AND UNDER CARPETS FOR LONG TERM CONTROL
- FOG AREA RUG SHOWROOMS AND CARPET WAREHOUSES
- CONTACT US
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 eat most anything they can find, it 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.
CLOTHES MOTH BIOLOGY ^
Clothes moths seem to 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 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. Their dry pelleted 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.
WHAT DO CLOTHES MOTHS LIKE TO EAT? ^
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 manmade structure is missed when they’re out looking for a place to call home. Churches, homes, carpeting stores, warehouses, museums and just about any building has the needed material on which larva of these moths feed.
Though clothes moths 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 longer and pupating for a greater length of time too. But cold or heat 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.
Clothes moths prefer loose ragged threads of fiber for egg placement 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.
Once eggs hatch, the feeding larvae is what does all the damage. Like caterpillars found in the yard, clothes moth larvae will eat and eat slowly and precisely devouring even the most tightly woven fabric.
Unlike most insects, clothes moth eggs will hatch when ready regardless of the climate. Inside buildings this egg hatching will happen all year round making any time the proper time to treat suspected infestations.
Seeing adults is a good sign there are feeding larvae somewhere near. But adults aren’t eating or doing damage. They’re just looking for a mate and a good place to lay eggs. Since the egg laying and larvae feeding tends to be done out of sight in dark, well protected areas, it can be difficult to isolate nest sites.
WHAT STAGE DOES THE DAMAGE?
Clothes moths will eat pretty much any kind of fabric they find in the home. Cotton, silk and other natural fibers will be sought after as capable food and in general, they’ll look for these in hidden out of way locations.
Once eggs hatch, larva will immediately look for food. They are barely bigger than the egg and though have no eyes, they will easily 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 taking years to develop. 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 into believing the infestation has been eliminated because no adults 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.
HOW TO TREAT A CLOTHES MOTH PROBLEM ^
Once you know you have clothes moths, a thorough treatment should be performed. The rest of this article will cover everything needed. Our products are what professionals use so if you are inclined to treat your home, get the listed products from us so you will have access to 24/7 customer support and the best products on the market for this problem.
WILL CLOTHES MOTH TRAPS HELP? ^
The answer is NO. Traps will only make things worse. Once you know you have clothing moths, remove all traps. Why? The pheromones in these traps are so strong, they will easily “pull in” moths from outside the home. They’ll enter through any exhaust pipe for heating/air, chimney flues, doors, windows and more. In fact the use of moth traps for clothing moths, meal moths and other species is the single worse thing anyone can do once they know they have a problem.
So when can you use them? Before you have any activity. Setting up 1 trap in a closet is “okay” as the pheromones won’t be strong enough to release outside. But using 3 or more is a recipe for trouble.
Traps will last several months so replace them every 4-6 months. And remember, only use them in a closet where they can serve you by alerting you to any adult activity. But DO NOT place them throughout the home as this will just bring more into your house and in turn, cause a real problem. Once your home is “scented” with their pheromones, you will keep getting them for a good 1-2 years even after the traps are removed. It just takes that long for the pheromones to wear out.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE TREATING FOR CLOTHES MOTH ^
If you’re ready to treat your home for clothes moths, it would be best to do some house cleaning prior to doing the actual treatment. This will involve different things for different areas.
First, if you have activity in a closet around clothes or other stored fabric, this room will require a thorough 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 clothes moth sign like this will definitely aid in control measures so pay attention when cleaning.
And if you decide to not wash or dry clean suspected infested clothing, make a point to vacuum the clothing directly. This may sound silly and the process will take some time. But it will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
Vacuuming will help remove larva, adults and their frass but eggs and pupa are almost impossible to remove which is why treating is paramount to get complete success. Their natural glue like excretions and cocoon spinning process does a good job of affixing eggs and pupa in place. And since they are near to impossible to see for the untrained eye, you’ll surely miss most making such effort inefficient at solving a local problem.
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.
Once you have cleaned closets, clothing, rugs, carpeting, furniture, or anything else with activity, you are ready to treat.
WHAT ARE THE BEST TREATMENTS FOR CLOTHING MOTHS? ^
There are several formulations available for clothing moths. The key is to match up the best formulation for the target area you intend on treating.
For small rooms or clothing you intend on storing away for long periods of time, an aerosol can usually handle the job well. These are easy to handle, ready to spray and effective. But they’re not good for treating the whole house nor are they good for warehouses, sales floors or attic spaces.
Liquid sprays are overall the most common applied. They can be safely used on carpets, furniture and other surfaces. When treating with a liquid, you’ll want to combine an growth regulator with an adulticide. Growth regulators will “translocate” which helps get protection on areas you don’t spray. Plus they last a lot longer compared to just using an adulticide.
Dusting is best for hidden spaces like attics and crawl spaces. Treatments with dust will last 6-12 months so they don’t have to be applied frequently.
Fogging is ideally suited for large warehouses and showrooms. You can get a vast area treated with less product and be more thorough as well.
USE AEROSOL FOR SPOT TREATING SMALL ROOMS
PERMETHRIN AEROSOL has long been used as a chigger, mosquito and insect repellent. This formulation is designed for use on clothing so if you are storing seasonal garments and want to protect them during storage, lightly misting them before storage. Permethrin is odorless and can last 2-3 months when treated clothing will be stored out of direct sunlight.
This should only be used when you know there are no active moths in the structure as it will not “cure” a problem. But it has no odor, works better than moth balls and will stop fabric eating pests like clothes moths.
If you have seen moths and are concerned there could be a problem but don’t know where to treat, installing AEROSOL MACHINES with CLEAR ZONE refills will offer relief. These machines run off batteries, can be wall mounted and will provide a one second blast of aerosol every 15 minutes.
Set up one machine for every 400 sq/ft of room. They release a small amount of pyrethrin which will kill active adult moths. This in turn will stop the cycle from developing. Machines should be off the ground 6-8 feet.
Each machine will need a can of CLEAR ZONE inside. These cans will last approximately 30 days so plan on running them for at least 2 months if you’ve had a problem. For some environments, running them all year long is the only way you can ensure a problem does not develop.
Remember, the above aerosol treatments will mostly be working on 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 Clear Zone released in the air to ensure control. The active ingredient, pyrethrin, is short lived which is why it needs to be renewed over and over.
That being said, the one advantage these systems have is that they’re well suited for small areas. Additionally, once the device is configured to your liking, they’re low maintenance. All you need to do is keep refills with product inside and replace the batteries once a year.
Now if you’re sure there is active clothes throughout the closet and home, treating with BEDLAM PLUS. might handle it. This aerosol combines an adulticide and a growth regulator so it will effectively control all stages of clothes moths developing. 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.
One can can cover up to 1500 sq/ft and should be applied every two weeks for at least two months to ensure success. Bedlam is convenient to use but for the average 2000-2500 sq/ft home, using the liquid recommended below would prove more cost effective.
Bedlam is well suited for sensitive furniture though so if you’re opposed to spraying a couch or bedding, Bedlam can handle it. Bedlam is also good for clothing. Especially clothing with known problems or items you plan on storing for a long time. Bedlam will last 3-6 months which is much longer compared to the Permethrin aerosol listed above. And its safe enough to use on fine fur too.
LIQUID SPRAY CARPETS AND FURNITURE WHEN POSSIBLE ^
Rugs and carpeting which have moth activity will generally need more than just aerosol to control a local problem. Liquid applications are really the only way to be sure you get thorough coverage and enough material to last.
Keep in mind place mats and area rugs will need to have both their top and bottom sides treated; wall to wall carpeting generally only needs to be sprayed on top. Since eggs and pupa will not be killed during the treatment, you will need to use a material which will provide a long lasting residual and include a growth regulator to intercept developing eggs. A good combination of products is BITHOR and NYGUARD.
Bithor is odorless, mixes with water easily and can be sprayed safely on carpets, furniture and baseboards.
Add 1 oz per gallon of water and plan on using the entire gallon over 1,000 sq/ft of rugs and furniture. Remember, water is the carrier so if you are not comfortable spraying water over sensitive furniture, use the Bedlam aerosol listed above. It will go on “dry” and be more discreet.
To ensure the best results, add a GROWTH REGULATOR to the tank mix. These are essentially proteins which mimic the target pests natural protein. By overexposing it to this protein, we can cause the insect to “stall” during development and not be able to fully mature. This will help in a big way mostly because growth regulators will last much longer in areas where applied compared to the Bithor. They also “translocate” which means they move around after being applied. This helps a lot since its not possible to spray everywhere when you treat. But this property of relocating around the room onto walls and other hidden spaces, you get much better coverage when adding some to the tank mix.
Use this once a month for the first two months of treating.
For large structures like rug warehouses or showrooms, the super concentrated NYGUARD will prove more cost effect as you only need to use 1/2 oz per gallon of water (mixed with the Bithor).
Apply the mixture of Bithor and growth regulator using a good PUMP SPRAYER and be sure to get proper coverage. Plan on treating once a month for the first two months and then once a quarter for the next year to insure the infestation is under control.
And if you have valuable area rugs which you want to protect, it makes sense to treat them twice a year to ensure moth activity will never start. This is easy to do and is the simplest way to protect a rug which could cost several thousands of dollars.
The following video shows how to fan spray properly when treating rugs.
DUST ATTICS AND UNDER CARPETS FOR LONG TERM CONTROL ^
Dust for clothes moths is a good option for long term control of well hidden or protected areas hard to reach with liquids. Such areas include attics and baseboard molding where wall to wall carpets get tucked underneath. Egg laying females will find such areas and like to lay eggs where its dark and secluded. These areas are typically well protected from liquid treatments and aerosols don’t do a good enough job penetrating either.
Attic spaces will often contain natural fibers commonly used in the insulation or something being stored. Eggs laid in this area can take a long time to develop but eventually will mature and forage to other parts of the home.
For attic spaces and under the baseboard molding, DELTAMETHRIN DUST is a long lasting product well suited for such sites.
1 lb will cover up to 1000 of surface area in the attic and treatments will last 1-2 years.
To apply the dust under baseboards, use a HAND DUSTER.
For attic spaces, use a DUSTIN MIZER. This device will blow the dust a good 20-30 feet allowing you to cover large areas without having to walk too far.
FOG AREA RUG SHOWROOMS AND CARPET WAREHOUSES
For large areas like showrooms and warehouses, fogging will prove to be more efficient and cost effective. It will cover a large area in a fraction of the time and distribute the treatment in a more uniform manner. This will provide better coverage saving you time, energy and cost.
The best agent for the job is FENVASTAR. This active works well on small flying pests like clothes moths.
Add 1/2 oz per gallon of water and expect to get 2500-5000 sq/ft of floor space treated. Be sure to use protective GOGGLES as this active will irritate your eyes if you stay in the treated zone.
Be sure to add a growth regulator to the tank mix. Either the NYLAR or NYGUARD can be mixed with Fenvastar (listed above) and will help break the life cycle of established moth populations as well as prevent them in the future.
For fogging small areas 5,000 sq/ft or less, the MINI-FOGGER can handle the job. It uses a 32 oz holding tank for water and chemical and will propel the mist 10-20 feet.
For anything over 5,000 sq/ft, go with the FM6208. This model features a 1 gallon holding tank and is more powerful. With this unit the fog will reach out 20-30 feet and the rate can be adjusted.
Fogging for clothes moths is both effective and cost efficient. You’ll use 75% less chemical, do the job in a fraction of the time and be more thorough with the treatment. Since the go will spread out and cover every nook and cranny, not one stage can hide from the mist.
In summary, clothes moths can be a damaging, frustrating pest. Finding the “source” is near to impossible and since they can spread so far in a structure, the only safe approach when treating is to use the shotgun method of treating everything. The good news is the right combination of products distributed over throughout the areas of activity or where they might get active can yield positive results.
CONTACT US ^
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