The two most commonly encountered clothing moths in the Kansas City area are the webbing clothes moth (Image 1) and the case-making clothes moth (Image 2). Both are worldwide in distribution, although within the United States the latter is more common in the southern United States. Its common name comes from the silken tube/case spun by the larva and which is carried about wherever it goes (Image 3).
Adults measure about 3/8-1/2” from wing tip to wing tip, both wings long and narrow. The body and wings of the adult webbing clothes moth are buff to golden, with a tuft of reddish hairs toward the head. The body and head of the adult case-making clothes moth are of a brownish tinge, except for 3 dark spots on each front wing which may be indistinct or rubbed off with age. The hind wings of both are fringed with long hairs. .
Mature larvae of both are up to 3/8” long, with that of the case-making clothes moth partially contained in the spun case as earlier described. .
There are other fabric moths occasionally seen in the U. S. but rarely seen in the Kansas City area. Also, there are a couple of similar-looking grain pests which frequently are found in pantries, but which do not attack fabrics. They are: 1.) Angoumois grain moth and 2.)Mediterranean flour moth. Refer to PANTRY PESTS elsewhere in this website.
Damage and Signs of Infestation
Silken webbing or cases which are cigar-shaped, open-ended, 1/16-3/8” long, with pieces of infested material incorporated into the case, and usually attached to the material at one end, contain the larva. Surface feeding/grazing in irregular furrows or holes if infestation severe. The case containing the pupa is usually located in a crack or crevice, not on the infested material.
Females mate on the day they emerge as adults and can start laying eggs the next day. They lay an average of about 37-48 eggs (range 8-83) singly on suitable larval food. The eggs hatch in 4-7 days and the larva wanders about for 24 hours. The larval stage lasts about 33-90 days depending on temperature and humidity, during which there will be 5-11 molts. The mature larva seeks a sheltered place to pupate, and pupation lasts about 9-19 days depending on the temperature. Developmental time (egg to adult) takes from 46-116 days. Female adults live about 3-8 days and males live about 3-5 days.
Clothes moth larvae attack primarily materials of animal origin and secondarily those of plant origin. Animal-origin materials include feathers, wools, rugs, furs, mummified carcasses, taxidermy mounts, and felt, including those of piano felts. Plant-origin materials include tobacco, various herbs and seasonings, hemp, various plant-based drugs, linseed, almonds, saffron, etc.
The larvae move by extending its head and legs along and, if the case-making larvae, then drags the case along. The larva usually grazes here and there causing only surface furrows but may occasionally cause holes by feeding in one place for some time. It rarely spins silk on the material. When it is ready to pupate, the larva seeks a protected place, such as a crack or crevice which is usually off the infested material.
Adults do not feed. They shun light, not being attracted to lights as are most moth species. The males are smaller and are active fliers, whereas the females are sluggish and fly only short distances.
The key to control is proper identification, a thorough inspection, good sanitation, and pesticide application when required. Refer to the section under the general treatment of fabric and paper pests for details. If the source(s) of the infestation cannot be found in the usual places check the air ducts and especially the cold air return. If this is a problem area, the ducts should be professionally cleaned. If pets are or have been present, check where pet hair may accumulate, such as behind and under baseboards, between cracks of flooring, etc. then, call Augustine Services at 913-362-4399.