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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Tineola bisselliella
CLASS/ORDER/FAMILY: fungus moth (family Tineidae, subfamily Tineinae)
Webbing clothes moths were likely introduced into the United States before the 1860’s. The often travel with clothing, rugs or other belongings containing wool or other natural animal products. The larval (worm) stage alone is responsible for damage to materials. The adult moths lack functional, chewing mouthparts. Damage is most often concentrated in dark areas, crevices or creases in their preferred food. Examples of these dark areas could be; under furniture and cushions, where carpets and textiles are folded and in garments under collars, cuffs and folds. Adult clothes moths are secretive and are often found in these darkened places. They will attempt to hide when disturbed and will often run, hop or fly short distances to escape. They are weak fliers compared to other moth species. The males are much more active fliers than the females. Males actively seek out female moths in order to mate. Males and females can penetrate through surprisingly narrow cracks as they find their way in storage cabinets and boxes. Once mated, females look for suitable food sources to lay their eggs. The extremely small larvae can find their way into many storage containers that appear to be pest-proof.
Clothes moths are small, straw-colored, yellow-tan,or buff-colored insects, with narrow wings fringed withhairs. A tuft of hairs on the head is upright and coppery to reddish-gold in color.
Females lay eggs in clusters of between 30 and 200 which adhere to surfaces with a gelatin-like glue. These hatch between four and ten days later into near-microscopic white caterpillars which immediately begin to feed. They will also spin mats under which to feed without being readily noticed and from which they will partially emerge at night or under dark conditions to acquire food. Development to the next stage takes place through between five and 45 instars typically over the course of between one month and two years until the pupal stage is reached. At this point, the caterpillars spin cocoons and spend another approximately 10–50 days developing into adults.
After pupation is complete, the adult months emerge and begin searching for mates. Females tend to move less than males, and both sexes prefer scuttling over surfaces to flying— some adults never fly at all. Adults can live for an additional 15–30 days, after which they die (otherwise death takes place shortly after mating for males and shortly after egg laying for females). Life cycle may be completed within one month under the most favorable conditions (75 °F (24 °C) and 70-75% relative humidity) but may take several years (lower temperatures and humidity will only slow development, larvae will still hatch and grow at temperatures as low as 10 °C (50 °F) and can survive up to 33 °C (91 °F)).
Unlike the caterpillars, the adult moths do not feed: they acquire all of the nutrition and moisture they need while in the larval stage, and once they hatch from cocoons their only goal is to reproduce. They have only atrophied mouthparts and cannot feed on fabric or clothing. All feeding damage is done by the caterpillar (larval) form. Heated buildings allow clothes moths to develop year-round. The overall life cycle from egg to egg typically takes 4–6 months, with two generations per year.
A clothes moth infestation is often detected from damaged fabrics and by the presence of silken webs spun by the larvae, sometimes producing only scattered patches of silk. The webbing clothes moth larva spins silk as a tunnel or sheet of webbing across the attacked material under which it grazes. Damage is accompanied by copious webbing tubes or sheets which frequently include large amounts of frass, and infestations appear far more 'messy' than the damage caused by Tinea pellionella.
Methods for controlling clothes moths include periodic dry cleaning or laundering, proper storage, freezing, heating, fumigating with dry ice, trapping, or insecticides. Keeping humidity levels low inside buildings creates an environment that isn't favorable for clothes moth development. Buildings that don't have numerous tiny cracks and crevices will also have fewer clothes moth problems. Good housekeeping practices are important as well. It is also important to regularly monitor fabrics and closets for clothes moths and their damage so you can take action when infestations are still small.
Although most people can manage clothes moth problems themselves, some infestations are best handled by a pest control applicator, who has the equipment, materials, and experience to deal with difficult control jobs.
Periodically cleaning areas in your home that can harbor clothes moths can prevent or control infestations. These areas include seldom-cleaned spots such as beneath heavy pieces of furniture; along baseboards and in cracks where hair and debris accumulate; in closets, especially those in which woolens and furs are kept; and inside and behind heaters and inside vents.The vacuum cleaner is the best tool for most of this cleaning. After using it in infested areas, dispose of the bag's contents promptly, since it can include eggs, larvae, or adult moths.
Clothes moths might initially establish themselves on woolen garments or scraps stored for long periods. In addition to properly storing woolen items (See Protecting Items in Storage.), periodically hang them in the sun and brush them thoroughly, especially along seams and inside folds and pockets. Brushing destroys eggs and exposes larvae. Larvae don't like bright light and will fall from clothing when they can't find protection.
If the infestation is in a closet, be sure to remove and clean all clothes and fabric that were stored inside and thoroughly vacuum and wash the inside of the closet, especially all cracks and crevices, before returning the cleaned clothes. Dust insecticides containing pyrethroids or pyrethrin (e.g., 0.05% Deltamethrin or 1% pyrethrin) can be applied in the cracks and crevices. Always follow the label requirements when applying these dusts.