Pest Myths: Do Moths Really Eat Clothes

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Happy Friday, Tri-County Pest Control fans, and welcome to our new series: Pest Myths!  Every couple of weeks, we are going to dive into a common myth surrounding pests and see whether or not there is any truth to the claim.  For our first installment, let’s start with a tale nearly everyone has heard at one point or another: moths eat your clothes.

At face value, this is a complicated claim that has some truth and some falseness to it.  Yes, there are plenty of people out there who will reach into their closet to pull out their favorite sweater and they are greeted by holes riddled throughout it.  This problem always seems to happen more frequently in the fall, as this is the time that moths of all shapes and sizes will begin to find shelter for the coming winter.  However, the moths that you see flying around your home are not really the culprit of those holes in your sweater. Instead, it is indicative of a much larger (and smaller) problem…

There are two specific species of moths that are known to eat clothes: the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moths (both of these critters belong to the family Tineidae bisselliella).  Yet, neither of these moths chow down on your clothes—they don’t have the mouthparts needed to chew through things, so even if they wanted to, it would be physically impossible for them to eat your clothes.  Instead, the real thing at fault are the larvae of these two critters. Just as a caterpillar needs to eat leaves to grow big and strong and to get itself ready for its metamorphosis, a moth larva needs to do the same.  Instead of leaves, the larvae of the webbing and casemaking clothes moths feeds on fibers, making the natural fibers in your closet (your wool sweaters) a perfect place for them to grow up until they’re ready to fly. Parent moths instinctively know this, and purposefully lay their eggs in places which are rich in keratin, making the natural fibers in your closet a prime target.  While the larvae won’t hurt you, the damage really comes in them sticking around, as once they change into real moths, they’ll be ready to lay more eggs, repeating the process indefinitely.

So, our verdict here is: Mostly True.  Moths do indeed eat your clothes, but only a specific kind at a specific stage.  Those moths flying around your light fixtures are not the same kind that will eat your clothes, so just because you see one does not mean that your whole wardrobe is in peril.

However, if you happen to see some moths hanging out in your closet, that is your cue to give us a call.  We’ll be over there in no time to fix the problem and save your wardrobe.

Have a great weekend!

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