We get asked a lot about moth damage to clothing. Unfortunately, our temperate climate and humid conditions provide a fertile breeding ground for Tinea Pellionella, or the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth. This introduced species has a cosmopolitan distribution and is synanthropic (living near, and benefiting from, an association with humans). The adult is typically encountered during summer and early autumn, but populations that live in human dwellings may be seen at other times of the year.
Tinea Pellionella is a small moth with a wingspan of about 1.5 cm. It is silvery grey to shiny light brown in colour, with dark greyish hairs on the top of its head. Its forewings are grizzled brown with one large spot and a few smaller, indistinct black spots. The hindwings are plain pale brown-grey. The forewings, but especially the hindwings, are surrounded by a hairy fringe.
The larvae have the rare ability to eat wool, feathers, furs, and even synthetic fabrics if blended with wool, from which they can metabolise keratin into protein. The larvae are particularly attracted to soiled fibres with traces of sweat, oils, or food. They also consume detritus, cobwebs, bird nests, stored vegetable produce, and wallpaper. The larvae live within a portable silk case constructed from debris such as fibres and hairs. They enlarge the case as they grow, and they finally pupate in the same case.
The adult moths do not eat and live solely for the purpose of mating and laying eggs. Adults seek out tight spaces and can crawl through small cracks and openings to find appropriate food sources upon which to lay their eggs. Unlike many moths, they are not attracted to light.
Moths are attracted to natural fibres in clothing, such as wool, silk, and cotton, and they can cause significant damage to your wardrobe. Here are some steps you can take to prevent moths from eating your clothing:
- Keep your clothing clean: Moths are attracted to clothing that has food, perspiration, or oil stains, so make sure to wash your clothing before storing it, especially if it is for a long period of time.
- Store clothing properly: Store your clothing in sealed containers or bags that moths cannot enter. You can use airtight containers, vacuum-sealed bags, or garment bags to keep moths out.
- Use natural deterrents: Moths are repelled by certain natural scents, such as cedar, lavender, or rosemary. You can use sachets of these herbs or essential oils to keep moths away.
- Use mothballs or moth crystals: Only as a last resort, as they are toxic. Natural repellants and improved storage and garment care are recommended.
- Regularly clean and vacuum your closet: Moths lay their eggs in dark, undisturbed areas like the corners of your closet. Regularly clean your closet to get rid of any eggs or larvae that may be present.
- Check garments regularly for signs of moth damage: Look for holes or chewed fabric. Remove contaminated garments from the wardrobe and have them professionally cleaned.
By taking these steps, you can help prevent moths from eating your clothing and keep your wardrobe in good condition. If you have a garment that requires mending feel free to reach out to us and be sure to check out our Garment Care Guide for tips on how to care for your wardrobe.