The clothes moths have infested many households. Two kinds are common:
- The case-making moth is so called because the caterpillar spins a shelter case of silk and bits of the material on which it is feeding
- The webbing clothes moth, the most abundant and injurious species, spins silky webs as it moves over a piece of material.
The adult moths are probably harmless. The clothes moth stays in dark places and flies very little. However the female begins to lay eggs, before it is a day old, and lays about 100 in the 7 to 14 days of its life. The soft, white eggs are laid loosely upon the material on which the larvae are to feed. They are easily dislodged and crushed, so that anything that is regularly brushed or shaken should not become moth infested. In warm weather the eggs hatch in from four to eight days. In colder weather, hatching may take as long as three weeks. The larvae eat furiously for about 40 days before turning into pupae. The pupa stage lasts eight to ten days in warm weather, and three to four weeks in the winter in a heated building. Eggs, larvae, and pupae die quickly at low temperatures. It is the larvae that does the damage to clothes and are about 12 mm long white worms. Adults are yellow-brown, with narrow wings, about 12 mm long. They eat protein based material, they have an unusual ability to digest keratin. Keratin is found in woollens, furs, hair, leathers, hides, feathers, horns and stored meat and dairy products. Clothes moths hardly ever damage synthetic materials. Keratin is also found in hair, skin and nail tissues. Clothes moths will damage silk and linens, and synthetics, but it will be incidental, while the larvae are eating their preferred foods. They particularly damage fabrics stained from oil from human hair, human sweat, urine, beer, milk, soft drinks and juices.
The first order of business is to clean stored clothes. It is important to identify the source of infestation. Besides looking where clothes are stored, look around your baseboards for fluff. At times they can be found in your kitchen and in bird nests. Vacuum very well all the cracks and crevices of the infested area and spray with a suitable aerosol and place a cloth moth trap. The old fashion moth balls (with their distinctive smell) can also be used when storing clothes.