Five Myths About Clothes Moths

Posted on: 3 February 2015

Imagine it's the morning of a big meeting at work, and you reach for your favorite suit. Further imagine the shock and disgust you feel when you find it peppered with tiny holes; if you suspect moths did the damage, then you are probably right. Clothing moths cause literally millions of dollars worth of destruction to clothing and other home textiles such as furniture and bedding. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about moths, and these hinder efforts to prevent or eradicate infestation. Below are five commonly held, but incorrect, beliefs about clothing moths:

Clothing moths are often seen flying around inside the home

If you see moths fluttering about in your home, chances are likely they are the Indian mealmoth, a common species that infests dried food items such as flour, cornmeal, rice and pasta. Clothes moths, which actually are two separate but similar species, Tinea pellionella and Tineola bisselliella, are not good fliers; instead, they usually move around by walking or hopping. Clothes moths are about a quarter of an inch long, pale yellow in color, and may have spotted wings.

Indian mealmoths, on the other hand, have dark wingtips and are larger in size. If you see flying moths in your house, then the first place to check for an infestation is your pantry or other areas where dried foods are stored.

The adult clothing moth eats fabrics

Adult clothes moths have a short lifespan, and most live no longer than a month. In fact, the adult moths are incapable of eating; only the larval stages have usable mouthparts. The larvae are a little longer than the adults, and they often hide beneath a layer of spun silk and fabric fibers as they eat. Adult moths are not harmless, however, since adult females lay the eggs that start the entire reproductive cycle over again.

The best protection is a cedar-lined closet

Cedar tree oils are a natural repellent to moths and are capable of killing larvae. However, cedar wood dries out soon after installation, and this makes periodic replenishment of the oil necessary. Not only that, but cedar oil is lethal to moths only when it accumulates in high concentrations as it evaporates; that means if your closet isn't an airtight space, then you probably won't be able to produce enough evaporated oil to be effective. Sealing cedar chips inside a plastic bag along with your clothing will concentrate the vapors and kill moths and larvae. Also, be sure to periodically rub cedar oil on wood surfaces to keep them moist and productive; cedar oil can be purchased online and from some retail general merchandise stores.

Tossing a few mothballs in the corners of a closet will keep moths away

Another strategy used by some people is to place several loose mothballs around the corners and baseboards of their closet or in the pockets of clothing. Mothballs are made of either naphthalene or dichlorobenzene, both toxic substances that evaporate over time.

Unfortunately, the use of mothballs is only effective when they are sealed inside a container with the clothing item. The fumes generated by mothballs need to be concentrated to be deadly; otherwise, they will sink to the ground and just hover at the bottom of the closet. In addition, both naphthalene and dichlorobenzene are identified as cancer-causing agents, and constant human exposure could lead to possible serious health consequences. In light of that, it's best not to use mothballs except for long-term storage in airtight containers.

Clothing moths are attracted to light

While there is an old saying, "like a moth drawn to a flame", that doesn't ring true for clothes moths. Clothes moths despise bright light, and they will attempt to escape its glare by retreating further into the folds of clothing. Shining a bright light inside a closet will only keep the moths deeply hidden.

However, you can still use the clothes moth's aversion to light to your advantage. Take any clothing you suspect of being infested outside on a sunny day. Next, brush the clothes vigorously and turn them inside-out. This will expose moths and larvae to the bright light, and they will drop off the clothing in search of a darker location.  

If you suspect that you have a moth infestation, however, do be afraid to call in professional exterminators, such as Ace Walco & Sons Termite & Pest Control