Webbing Clothes Moth Facts, Identification, and Control
Scientific Order: Lepidoptera
Scientific name: Tineola bisselliella
- Size: Adult moths are about ¼" long, with a ½" wingspan. Larvae are around ¼ to ½" long and “pill” shaped.
- Color: Adults moths are gold, wheat-yellow, or tan with small red-gold hairs on their heads. Wings are slightly lighter in color, and have small golden hairs spanning their length. The lower pair of legs tend to be lighter than the upper pair. Larvae are white or off-white with brown or black heads.
Signs of an Infestation
When webbing clothes larvae feed on fabric they leave small, circular bite holes in fabric. Look for holes, tears, or other damage on clothing, especially clothing you store in dark environments such as closets or drawers.
Webbing clothes moths also leave behind eggs, silk, shed skin, and pupae in the areas they inhabit. These moths prefer to live in dark, humid areas where they can access food easily. Look for shed skin, small translucent eggs about the size of a pinhead, and silk cocoons anywhere you keep your clothing. Pay special attention to dark closets, other secluded storage areas and the edges of area rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting.
Treatment and Prevention
Consider storing all hanging garments in sealed plastic clothing protectors. Take special care to store fabric made of natural fibers in airtight, sealable containers. Store any clothing you don’t wear frequently in hard plastic, airtight containers to prevent moths from accessing them. Make sure the areas where you store your clothing are dry.
If you find an infestation, consider disposing of all obviously infested materials immediately. Wash all the fabrics you stored in the same location as the infested material and dry it on the high setting for at least 20 minutes. Transfer the clothing into plastic protectors immediately after washing it.
Behavior and Diet
Webbing clothes larvae feed on natural fibers such as human hair, rodent hair, wool, fur, and feathers. They don’t usually feed on synthetic fabric or cotton, but they may start if that fabric contains human perspiration or body oils.
Adult moths do not feed. Instead, they simply mate, deposit eggs on food sources, and die shortly thereafter. Both adult and larval webbing clothes moths are nocturnal. They feed, mate, and locate food sources at night and hide during the day.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Female adult fabric moths lay an average of 40 to 50 eggs on promising food sources and die shortly thereafter. The time it takes to hatch is based on the temperature of their environment. In warm environments, the eggs could hatch 4 to 10 days.
After hatching, larvae begin feeding and growing immediately. As larvae grow, they will molt continuously up to 45 times. Depending on temperature and food availability, moths could remain larvae for only 35 days or up to 2 and a half years. After they’ve finally eaten and grown enough, larvae pupate inside silk cocoons. Pupation takes between 1 and 4 weeks newly emerged adult moths are ready to mate immediately.
- Unlike many other moth species, webbing clothes moths are not particularly capable fliers. They only fly for short distances and tend to stay in place longer than most moths.
- Webbing clothes moths are not attracted to light. In fact, they tend to actively avoid well-lit areas and seek out dark, secluded hiding places instead.
- Moth larvae often incorporate their pupal cases in the fabric or fur they’re feeding on. You may find pupae in silk cases on infested clothing.
- Penn State Department of Entomology “Clothes Moth” Fact Sheet
- University of California Integrated Pest Management Program “Clothes Moths” Pest Management info
- MuseumPests.net’s “Casemaking clothes moth” Fact Sheet