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Webbing Clothes Moths

Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Tineola bisselliella

Appearance

Webbing clothes moth adults are about ½ an inch long with the wings folded back over the body. The wings have long hairs on the fringes, giving the wings a “feathery” appearance. The webbing clothes moth has a collection of reddish, gold-colored hairs on the top of its head that make for a readily observed identification feature. Mature larvae (grubs) are about ½ an inch long and creamy white. The larvae construct what appears to be a feeding tunnel made of silken- type material produced by the larvae as they move about feeding on the fabric.

Clothes Moths vs. Food Moths: Differences

Clothes moths should not be confused with food infesting moths, which are much larger in size. Adult webbing clothes moths measure approximately 12 mm from wingtip to wingtip. They are yellow in color, with a distinctive sheen and reddish-gold hairs atop their heads.

Clothes moths prefer the cover of darkness and do not typically fly to lights. Food moths are attracted to light. Most visible specimens are males, as females are weak fliers and prefer to hop or run. Female clothes moths tend to die soon after laying eggs, which are attached to their preferred fabrics. These eggs hatch within 10 days in summer but may take up to three weeks to develop in winter months. Resulting larvae are responsible for damage caused to clothing.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

The webbing clothes moth is considered to be the most repeatedly encountered moth species that damages fabrics and is a frequent and damaging pest found in museums. Adult male and females prefer to stay close to their source of food and are not very active in brightly lit environments. Webbing clothes moths can go unnoticed by homeowners until someone cleans out a closet or moves fabrics that have been in storage for awhile.

The webbing clothes moth consumes wool, fur, silk and hair. If left untreated, webbing clothes moth infestations can decimate entire wardrobes, as well as the bedding and furniture of affected homes. Identifying the moth is the first step in halting its destructive behavior.

The larvae are the damaging stage of this insect. As larvae move from one feeding location to another on the fabric, they leave the feeding tubes and webbing behind and construct new ones. It is common to find the larvae damaging wool, silk and cotton clothing, especially on unseen parts of the fabric (under cuffs, collars, clothing tags). In addition, synthetic fabrics containing food debris will be damaged. A common situation that makes identifying damage very tricky is when clothes moth larvae damage carpets under furniture. In addition to fabrics, webbing clothes moths will feed on pet hairs since the larvae may not distinguish pet hairs from the hairs on a fur piece. Homeowners who have pets who shed a great deal must remove pet hairs within the home. Other food sources found around the home are old, inactive wasp nests, insect carcasses within wall voids and taxidermy mounts.

More Information

Control and prevention of the webbing clothes moth is very similar to what works for the casemaking clothes moth. Proper identification is the first step to resolve a clothes moth problem. This task should be left up to your pest management professional since identification of fabric moths, especially the larval stage, requires observing very small taxonomic characteristics and the use of identification keys. Homeowners should keep their home clean to reduce the webbing clothes moths’ food sources and to make their habitat less favorable. Monthly or quarterly inspection of clothes closets and other clothing storage areas is also recommended. Homeowners should regularly throw out used vacuum bags so a webbing clothes moth problem does not develop within the bag. Make sure to wash on high heat or dry clean infested clothing before storing susceptible fabrics in an airtight container or bag. If the actions above are ineffective, fabric handling experts or your pest management professional can properly deal with infestations using their equipment and expertise. It is very important for homeowners to avoid applying pesticides to clothing or bedding.

Moth Identification

Moth Life Cycle

Pantry Moths