- Fabric Moths -


Fabric Moths

(Clothes Moth and Carpet Moth)


Brief overview of fabric pests

Fabric pests such as clothes moths and carpet beetles damage clothing, carpets, furs, cotton, and any other animal-derived material by eating them. They eat these natural fabrics because of keratin, which is a mineral found in hooves, feathers, and horns. Just as the termite digests cellulose from wood to sustain his (or her) life, the clothes moth digests keratin to sustain his (or hers). This dietary need, coupled with our unbridled use of animal parts for clothing, contributes to the vast damage sustained by these insects annually.


Following are brief overviews of the major categories of fabric moths.


What are clothes moths?

The clothes moth group includes the webbing clothes moth, the casemaking clothes moth, and the tapestry or carpet moth. They are known as small moths, since their wingspan is less than 1/2.” Also, their habits differ from other moths, as they are not attracted to light and prefer dark areas. These moths go through a complete metamorphosis. Since adults are unable to eat, it is in the larval phase, or caterpillar phase, that all moths cause damage. The clothes moth caterpillars are especially fond of fabrics that have stains, spills, or human products, such as hair or sweat, on them.


What are webbing clothes moths?

Webbing clothes moths are the most common fabric moth in the U.S. and are found in all 50 states. The body and wings of adults are uniformly buff in color and their heads have slightly reddish hairs on top. Their wings are silvery-brown and have a wingspan of less than 1/2″. Females cannot fly very well while males can; however, they seldom take advantage of their flying capabilities.
Females have the ability to mate and lay eggs on the same day that they emerge from their cocoon. Consequently, they do not live for very long, 30 days being the longest. After eggs are laid in batches of 40 to 50, they hatch within 4 to 10 days, provided it is not too cold. The emerging larvae are cream-colored and no more than 1/2″ long. The larvae may go through 5 to 45 molts depending on variables such as humidity, temperature, and availability of food. The molting process can last from 30 to 700 days. After it is completed, the caterpillar will spin a cocoon. Cocoons are not very visible because the caterpillars camouflage them with clothing particles or excrement. Cocoon emergence is followed by the pupal stage, which last 8 to 40 days. Upon completion of this process, the moth is matured.
The webbing clothes moth is found everywhere in the United States during all seasons. However, they are more prevalent in the summer and in non-arid climates.


What are casemaking moths?

The casemaking moth is not nearly as prevalent as the webbing moth, but it is a significant pest. Its appearance is slightly darker than that of the webbing moth and its wingspan is shorter.
Although the life cycle of the casemaking moth is similar to the webbing moth, there are some slight differences. For instance, they do not spin their webs on fabric and rarely do extensive damage to a small area. The casemaking moth prefers to more movement and feed over a wide area.
When ready to pupate, the larva draws itself completely within its case, seals both ends of the case with silk, and pupates in its cocoon. In the northern Unites States, pupae are usually the only casemaking moth stage found during the winter months, but all stages are found in the South throughout the year.
The casemaking moth is especially fond of feathers and down, although they find other natural materials suitable as well.


What are carpet moths?

Carpet moths are rarely encountered. When they are encountered, it is due to severe infestation. This species can be distinguished from the preceding species by the front third of the forewing being black and the rest being white with black spots. Also, its wingspan is larger than those of casemaking and webbing moths. The life cycle of the carpet moth is very similar to the life cycles of other fabric moths described previously. The one difference is that the larval stage constructs a silken tube (as opposed to cocoon) in which to feed as it burrows into fabric.

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