Clothes Moths – Where Do They Come From?
The moth species has been probably around before humans roamed the earth. Being part of the natural world, these moths do provide value, albeit not directly to humans. They are part of the food chain, and as such, are part of the diet of other animals we deem useful, such as birds.
That said, these moths’ natural habitat is in the diverse outdoors where they can seek refuge and food on birds’ nests and in the burrowing holes of furred animals. Their habitat also includes wetlands, grasslands, mountain zones, forest, bushes, rocks, and even sand dunes. However, as more and more homes and apartments are built within the habitat of these insects, it’s inevitable that a lot of residential areas have also been among the favorite playing grounds of these clothing moths.
Of the thousands of native moth species in North America, only two have been known to be fabric eaters – the webbing clothes moth (the common closet moth) and the case-making clothes moth. Generally, these two are the types of moths that live in closets and other similar places. Most moths are attracted to light sources – both natural and artificial, but these two moth species aren’t, and they commonly like to stay in dark places, away from any light source. Stains and sweat are the common bait that attracts the adult moth. Most people may not be aware that some clothes, even if already washed, do leave some patches of stain and sweat, especially on the neck area and the armpit areas.
Life Cycle of the Closet Moth
1. Egg – Lain by the adult female moth usually on the clothes, these eggs attach to cloths with a very sticky compound which the female moth secretes together with the eggs.
2. Larva – these are voracious-eating creatures that feeds on wool, silk, feather, fur, hair, cashmere, and other organic fibers. What these larvae are really after are the keratin ( a form of protein) substances. One of the biggest misconceptions about closet moths is that the adults are the ones inflicting , to clothing, when in fact, it is the larva that does as it eats through the clothing fibers. These creatures are highly voracious eaters, as they need a lot of food intake to nurture their rapidly growing body in preparation for the next stage of their metamorphosis.
3. Pupa – the casing of the larva is a silken substance that looks like a thick bunch of spider webbing
4. Adult – they have one goal, that is to survive and propagate the species by finding a mate to begin its life cycle again, although the adult moth only has until 12 days to live at most.
For a habitat to support the closet moth species, it must have the conditions needed to support the life cycle of the moth, which some closets can provide.
Means and Ways Closet Moths Get Inside the Closet
Why do they seek refuge in our closets? Clothes moths are living things and as such, much like us humans, they need food and shelter in order to survive and propagate, and they’ll keep roaming around looking for these two basic needs until they find it via their sense of smell, and then settle down without us even noticing it. Unfortunately, most closets in homes and apartment buildings have the ideal settings for these creatures – dark and abundance of food, and safe from predators, and when these creatures happen to find it as they roam around, they’ll find a way and opportunity to get in stealthily such as through open windows, ajar front and back doors, or may just simply cling to something that you take inside. Many of us underestimate the intelligence of insects. While insects are generally dumb, their inherent survival instinct and the actions that go with it, in the case of closet moths, may seem to make them appear that they are intelligent, when in fact, they’re not.
Other Ways They Get In
1. Infested clothing item bought from thrift stores
2. Infested clothing items bought from garage sales
As a best practice to prevent any closet moth problem, always have used clothes dry-cleaned before putting them inside your closet. Cleaning agents used in the dry-cleaning process will kill any adult moth, moth larvae, pupa, and the eggs. Moreover, dry-cleaning also ensures that all traces of oils and stains that attract the adult clothes moths are removed.
How to Spot a Closet Moth Infestation
Because these moths generally avoid any light, it may be difficult to spot them inside the closet, as they may hide under the dark crevices or portions of your closet area, even under your clothes, unless you happen to rattle the adult moth out from their hiding place and fly out for you to see. Nonetheless, below are some tell-tale signs that a closet has been infested:
1. Damaged clothing (moth holes)
2. If you see an adult moth inside the closet, it is best to always assume that your closet is already infested. Oftentimes, the adult moth has already laid its eggs on the clothes before flying out for you to see. In such cases, getting rid of the egg, pupa, larvae, and adult moth should already be your first priority the soonest possible time.
3. One of the best ways to provide an early moth detection system is to use moth traps.
Getting Rid of Clothes Moths
Getting rid of moths in closet is a reactive measure as a response to an infestation. Keep in mind that the best approach usually anchors on the goal to completely eradicate any traces of moth eggs, larvae, pupa, and adult moth. Below are the things you can do to achieve this with the highest percentage of success:
1. Empty the closet and have all the clothes dry-cleaned. Dry-cleaning chemicals will kill any larva, eggs, and pupa (basically all stages of the moth metamorphosis). Keep in mind that dry-cleaning will involve some costs, but at least, you can almost be sure that there will be no moth traces left from your clothing after the dry-cleaning process.
2. Vacuum all nooks, crevices, wood joints, and cracks to remove traces of moth eggs, larvae, and pupa. It’s important to not skip this step. The adult female moth may have already lain hundreds of eggs in those areas.
3. Whatever you do, do not be tempted to use any kind of pesticide to get rid of the closet moth infestation. Don’t forget that pesticides can also be harmful to humans and pets.
If you think that you have already been heavily infested and do not have the time to do it all or do not know how to do it at all, you can always call a competent pest control company and have them take care of the situation.
The best practices usually anchor on proactive measures that keep your closet from being infested in the first place. It is always cheaper and easier to prevent an infestation than dealing with an already infested closet.
This is where proper housekeeping and closet organization habits do come in very beneficial. Although, closet moth infestation do happen rarely, it doesn’t follow that such won’t happen to you. Most victims of clothing moth infestation did not expect it to happen to them.
As always, good closet housekeeping practices play an important role in having a high degree of protection from these species of moths. While those may not render your closet 100% moth-free, such things will greatly increase your closet’s chances from becoming a haven for these pesky closet moths.
Below are the solutions that have been tested and proven to be effective:
1. Using window or door screens. These may involve some costs, but at least, these add another layer of protection not only from moths, but from other home-invading insects as well.
2. Storing moth-bait clothing items, such as wool, cashmere, feather, and fur clothes, in air-tight containers or in garment bags. This should be part and parcel of your closet organizing chore.
3. Don’t store unwashed clothing items in the closet. Make sure that everything you put in the closet, especially clothing with organic fibers, have already been laundered. Don’t forget that body oils, traces of urine, food stains, and sweat are among scents that attract the adult clothes moth.
Some Useful Notes:
1. The use of moth balls or moth crystals is not advised. Naphthalene vapors are dangerous when inhaled continuously, especially for kids. Moreover, naphthalene won’t be that effective inside the closet contrary to what many people have thought. For naphthalene to have some moth-repelling and moth-killing effect, it should be placed in airtight spaces such as in an airtight container. Moreover, do you want your clothes to be reeking of naphthalene?
2. The moth-repelling effect of cedar oils or cedar linings are not really that effective when used in the closets. Even though the scent of cedar is a natural repellent against the adult clothes moth, such scent will only be effective in very large concentrations in airtight areas, which most closets are not.