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Moth Facts, Identification, and Control in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut

Scientific Order: Lepidoptera

Common species:

Pantry moths, including the Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) 

Fabric pests, including the Webbing Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the Casemaking Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella)

Appearance

 Common pantry pest, the Indian Meal Moth

Indian Meal Moth

  • Size: 12.7 mm (½ inch) body with a 18-20 mm (¾ inch) wingspan. 

  • Color: Prominent wings are multi-colored; the outer ⅔ of the wings are bronze or red-brown with a copper sheen. The last third, closest to the moth’s head, is grey or silver-white. The Indian Meal Moths’ head and thorax are grey-brown, and its abdomen is brown with a copper sheen.

common fabric pest, the Webbing Clothes Moth  

Webbing Clothes Moth

  • Size: Roughly 6.35 mm (¼ inch) body with a 12 mm (½ inch) wingspan. 

  • Color: Gold, wheat-yellow, or tan, with red-golden hairs on the end of its head and tiny gold hairs spanning the length of its wings. Lower wings are lighter gold or tan than upper wings. 

common fabric pest, the Casemaking Clothes Moth 

Casemaking Clothes Moth

  • Size: Roughly 6.35 mm (¼ inch) body with a 12 mm (½ inch) wingspan. 

  • Color: Gold or tan-yellow. Short golden hairs run the length of its body, particularly along its wings. Casemaking clothes moths look similar to webbing clothes moths, but their wings are darker and have faint black spots.

 

 

Control

Signs of Infestation

Indian meal moths infest pantries, cupboards, and other places where they can get food. They also prefer dark and damp places. Look for small rips or tears in cereal or pasta boxes, small holes in grain products, or droppings in pantries.

Fabric moths infest closets and clothing drawers, where their larvae can eat fabric in the dark. Look for small, telltale bite holes, tearing, or other damage on hanging or folded clothing. Larvae may still be on the clothing.

Treatment and Prevention

To prevent meal moths, you should store all dry goods such as cereal, pasta, bread, and sweets in sealed, hard plastic containers. Clean your food storage areas consistently and thoroughly to prevent crumb accumulation.

To prevent fabric moths, you have to keep them away from fabric! Keep clothing and other fabric-based material in plastic covers or sealable hard plastic containers. Make sure the rooms you store fabric in are dry and dehumidified.

Identification

Behavior and Diet

Most adult moth species don't actually eat at all. Instead, they only live long enough to mate. Moths do still seek out food sources, however, because they lay their eggs onto these food sources directly.

Moth larvae or caterpillars actually do all the eating (and damage) associated with moths. They burrow into and eat through their food sources continuously, leaving behind waste and shed skin in the process.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

Moths reproduce sexually and can lay hundreds of eggs in their lifetimes. Rate of moth development depends on temperature and food availability of the environment where the moths live. In warm climates, moth eggs hatch in four to ten days.

After hatching, larvae feed continuously, growing enough to shed their skin several times. After consuming enough food, larvae pupate near their food sources. Pupation time varies from eight days to several weeks. Moths emerge from pupation fully-grown and ready to reproduce.

Other Characteristics

  • When not in use, the Indian Meal Moth holds its wings over the top of its body like a roof. The meal moth is capable of quick flight but tends to look clumsy or erratic while doing it.

  • Fabric moths are particularly afraid of humans. If the items they’re resting or feeding on are disturbed, they’ll either run away or fly to another dark, concealed location.

  • Fabric moths are also capable of flight, and also only do so clumsily. Unlike pantry moths, fabric moths prefer to find a source of food and stick close to it. They don’t fly frequently or for long periods of time.

More Information

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