Clothes Moth

Pest Stats
Straw colour/yellow tan
7mm – 10mm


Clothes moths have two distinct types the webbing clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella, and casemaking clothes moth, Tinea pellionella. The webbing clothes moth is the most common fabric moth. The adult is gold with reddish-golden hairs on the top of its head. A row of golden hairs fringes its wings, which have a span of about 1/2 inch. Because these moths are weak flyers that aren't attracted to lights, you'll usually find them close to the infested items, such as in a dark area of the closet.

The casemaking clothes moth is similar in size and appearance to the webbing clothes moth, although the wings of the casemaking clothes moth are more brownish and have faint dark-colored spots. Also, the hairs on its head are lighter coloured than those of the webbing clothes moth.

Larvae of both species are nearly identical, except the larvae of the casemaking clothes moth always carry a silken case with them as they feed. They never leave this silken case behind but enlarge it as they grow. They can feed from either end of the case and retreat into it when disturbed. This case takes on the colour of the fabric the larvae have eaten. Webbing clothes moth larvae don't carry around feeding cases but may produce patches of silk webbing, which accumulate excrement and particles of fabric the larvae are feeding on, to create temporary feeding tubes. When webbing clothes moths move on to new feeding locations, they leave the feeding tubes and webbing behind.

Excrement from both the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth can contain dyes from the cloth fibres the moths have eaten, also making it the same colour as the fabric.

Development of eggs may take from 6 to 38 days, larvae from 60 to 200 days and puparia 10 to 50 days. Clothes moth may be identified from their fringed wings (both hind and forewings), which are straw coloured with no pattern. Very soon after hatch, larvae will begin construction of a tunnel from silk, faecal, and other materials found in the immediate area. These tunnels act as shelter during the day, offering the larva a good camouflage, from which they will emerge at night in order to feed. Larvae will pass through approximately five instars, although under adverse conditions there may be as many as 40 moults. Pupation occurs within the tunnel and shortly after eclosion, the adult form emerges. Adult females tend to move less than males, both sexes crawling rather than flying, with a characteristic ‘scuttling’ in and around larval food material.


Clothes moths are notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibres; they have the ability to digest keratin. The moths prefer dirty fabric for oviposition and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or other liquids that have been spilled onto them. They are attracted to these areas not for the food but for the moisture: the caterpillars do not drink water; consequently their food must contain moisture. The range of recorded foodstuffs includes cotton, linen, silk and wool fabrics as well as furs; furthermore they have been found on shed feathers and hair, bran, semolina and flour (possibly preferring wheat flour), biscuits, casein, and insect specimens in museums.


Adult and larvae clothes moths prefer low light conditions. Whereas many other moths are drawn to light, clothes moths seem to prefer dim or dark areas. If larvae find themselves in a well-lit room, they will try to relocate under furniture or carpet edges. Handmade rugs are common locations due to the thick weave and ease of access for the larvae to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. They will also crawl under mouldings at the edges of rooms in search of darkened areas where fibrous debris has gathered and which consequently contain high food sources.


Often perceived as purely a household pest, clothes moths has been responsible for losses of industrial revenue exceeding millions in one year, although this has become less severe with a move away from natural fibres to synthetic fabrics. Other species have however filled this vacancy, most notably fur and carpet beetles. Clothes moth has also been noted to infest dried vegetable material.


Methods for controlling clothes moths include periodic dry cleaning or laundering, proper storage, freezing, heating, fumigating with dry ice, trapping, or insecticides. Insecticides for clothes moths usually contain pyrethrins, which provide quick knockdown of clothes moths. Pheromone traps are also available to trap both the webbing clothes moth and the case making clothes moth. Place traps in closets and other clothes-storage areas. Trapping not only enables the detection of clothes moths but also provides some control, due to the fact that trapped males can't mate. Keeping humidity levels low inside buildings creates an environment that isn't favourable for clothes moth development. Buildings that don't have numerous tiny cracks and crevices will also have fewer clothes moth problems. Good housekeeping practices are important as well. It is also important to regularly monitor fabrics and closets for clothes moths and their damage in order to take action when infestations are still small. To inspect for clothes moths, look to see if there are silken tubes in the hidden portions of clothes, such as under collars, or silken mats or patches on material. Both the silken tubes and mats often have fibres and faces incorporated into them. Check to see if any sign of surface grazing of fibres, any holes, or both on the fabrics. With fur look to see if hairs have been clipped at their base, causing loose fur and exposed hide.


Photos and information are provided by GlobeAustralia.

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