NY Moths - Identification & Control


Behavior and Diet

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

Moth larvae, which look like tiny caterpillars, voraciously eat (and damage) the food they hatch in. They burrow into and eat through their food sources continuously, leaving behind waste and shed skin in the process.

A casemaking clothes moth on a white background.


An Indian Meal Moth on a white background.

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.

A Webbing Clothes Moth on a white background.

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.

A casemaking clothes moth on a white background.

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.

Moth Pest Control - How to Get Rid of Moths

Signs of a Moth Infestation

Indian meal moths infest pantries, cupboards, and other places where they can find foods like grains and cereals. 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, store all your dry goods such as cereal, pasta, bread, and sweets in sealed, hard plastic containers. This includes pet foods. Clean your food storage areas regularly and thoroughly to prevent crumbs from accumulating.

To prevent fabric moths, 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.

More Information

Smithsonian Institution Entomological section on Moths

University of Florida Department of Entomology & Nematology Indian Meal Moth “featured creatures” section

Cornell University Department of Entomology Insect Diagnostic Laboratory Clothes Moths fact sheet and Indian Meal Moth fact sheet

Moth FAQ

Are moths good fliers?

The meal moth is capable of quick flight but tends to look clumsy or erratic while doing it. 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 but can enter your home from outside.

Are moths afraid of humans?

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.

How do moths reproduce?

Moths reproduce sexually. Once an adult female emerges from her cocoon, she releases pheromones to attract a mail suitor. After her eggs are fertilized, she’ll find a suitable food source to lay her eggs on.

What do moths eat?

Diet depends on pantry moth vs clothes moth. Meal moth larvae prefer cereals and grains while fabric moth larvae prefer natural fibers like cotton, wool and silk.

What do moth cocoons look like?

Moths weave a silky casing around themselves when it’s time to pupate. Moth cocoon identification can be tricky, look for dark gray, brown or black casings in their food sources.

What does moth larvae look like?

Moth larvae look like small, light colored caterpillars or worms. Newly hatched larvae can be the size and shape of rice grains.

What causes moths in the house?

Moths enter your home for two reasons: shelter and food. Seal your home against moths and other pests. Always store food in sealed containers and keep your kitchen clean.