Have you ever wondered where the expression moth-eaten comes from? Once you see a garment with moth clothing damage, you'll never wonder again. Damage looks like numerous small holes and coatings of stuff that looks like spider webs but is spun by clothes moth larvae.
Clothes Moth Facts
There are several species of clothes moths, but the two main species that cause moth clothing damage are:
- The webbing clothes moth or Tineola bisselliella
- The casemaking clothes moth or Tinea pellionella
The adult moths do not cause any moth clothing damage, but the larvae do. They feed on woolens, fur, feathers, mohair and dead insects. They generally avoid eating synthetic fabrics, silk or cotton.
Adults of both species look very much alike. Their wingspans measure a mere half-inch long. They are buff or tan colored with dark eyes. Just one female lays anywhere from 100 to 300 eggs during her one month lifetime. The eggs hatch less than two weeks later. After munching away on your clothes from 40 to 200 days, the larvae turn into pupae and then transform into adults.
Dangers of Moth Balls and Cedar Oil
Just sticking moth balls or any other product made with naphthalene everywhere is not the safest of options for preventing moth clothing damage. These products are highly toxic and can potentially kill pets and children. The strong smell may also trigger asthma attacks or a migraine in some people.
Cedar products that claim to repel clothes moths often have limited abilities, but are safer than moth balls. The repellent in cedar is cedar oil, which gives cedar its distinctive smell. Over time this oil dissipates and becomes less effective.
Clothes Moth Management
Preventing and getting rid of clothes moths is a multi-step process. Throw out any heavily damaged clothes. Consider replacing these clothes with others made of materials that larvae do not like to eat. Clean all clothes regularly and seal them in air-tight containers to keep adult female moths from laying eggs on the clothing.
Other prevention tips include:
Lower the humidity in storage areas whenever possible. Very dry air with less than 20 percent humidity air can kill clothes moths.
Regularly vacuum or sweep flooring. Female clothes moths are poor fliers and mostly get about by crawling. Empty or get rid of the vacuum cleaner bag so that if eggs survive and hatch, the larvae do not crawl out of the vacuum.
Use pheromone moth traps instead of moth balls.