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How do I Identify Clothes Moth Larvae?

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  • Written By: T. L. Childree
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Clothes moth larvae feed on fabric made from animal fibers. In order to correctly identify clothes moth larvae, you will need to know which type you are looking for. There are two different species of clothes moths which are identified by distinct markings on the adult moth. First inspect the area for adult moths to determine the particular species. Then make a careful inspection of all animal fiber materials to locate and eradicate any clothes moth larvae.

If you notice small holes in fabrics such as wool and silk, clothes moth larvae are likely to be responsible for the damage. These insects feed on animal fiber materials during their caterpillar stage of development. Although adult moths do not eat these fabrics, they will also be present during larvae infestations. To correctly identify clothes moth larvae, locate and examine an adult moth for certain distinctive markings. Clothes moths typically hide in dark places during daylight hours and a thorough search may be required to find them.

There are two different species of clothes moths: case-making and webbing. After locating an adult moth, carefully examine its general color and markings to determine the particular species. A case-making clothes moth is gray in color with tightly folded wings. It is distinctly marked with dark spots on its front wings. Webbing moths are completely beige with a small clump of red hair at the top of their head.

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The larvae of each species are very similar in appearance, but have their own particular feeding characteristics. Both case-making and webbing clothes moth larvae have a white body and brown head. They can each grow to a 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) in length when mature. Case-making larvae feed and live in a silky tube-shaped case that is usually covered with tiny pieces of partially eaten fabric. Webbing larvae typically leave a silken tunnel behind as they feed on the fabric.

A careful inspection should be made of all fabrics containing animal fibers if adult moths are found in the area. Pay particular attention to cuffs and collars because clothes moth larvae frequently feed in these locations. Materials containing larvae should be brushed outdoors and placed in a sunny location for a period of time. Areas where these fabrics are stored must be vacuumed routinely to prevent clothes moth infestations. Garments and other fabrics made with animal fibers should be stored in airtight plastic bags or sealed containers to keep them safe.

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