Clothes Moths

Clothes MothTineola bisselliella, known as the Common Clothes Moth, Webbing Clothes Moth, or simply Clothing Moth, is a species of fungus moth (family Tineidae). Therein it belongs to the subfamily Tineinae. It is the type species of its genus Tineola. The specific name is commonly mis-spelled biselliella – for example by G. A. W. Herrich-Schäffer, when he established Tineola in 1853.

The caterpillars of the clothes moth are considered a serious pest, as they can derive nourishment from clothing – in particular wool, but many other natural fibers – and also, like most moth of its relatives, from stored produce.

Clothes Moth Range and Ecology

Its natural range is western Eurasia, but has been transported by human travelers to other localities. For example, it is nowadays found in Australia. The species’ presence has not been recorded in France, Greece, Slovenia and Switzerland, though this likely reflects the lack of occurrence data rather than absence.

Webbing Clothes Moths are small moths whose adults grow to between 1 and 2 cm in length. Their eggs are tiny, most being under 1 mm long and barely visible. A female will lay several hundred during her lifetime; egg placement is carefully chosen in locations where they will have the best chance for survival.

The eggs are attached with a glue-like substance and can be quite difficult to remove. After the egg hatches, the larva will immediately look for food. Larvae can obtain their required food in less than two months, but if conditions are not favorable they will feed on and off for a long time. Whether it takes two months or two years, each larva will eventually spin a cocoon in which it will pupate and change into an adult. Larvae stay in these cocoons for between one and two months and then emerge as adults ready to mate and to lay eggs.

Clothes Moth Food Source

This species is notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibers; they have the ability to turn keratin (a protein of which hair and wool mainly consist) into food. The moths prefer dirty fabric for oviposition and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or other liquids which have been spilled onto them. They are attracted to these areas not for the food but for the moisture: the caterpillars do not drink water; consequently their food must contain moisture.

The range of recorded foodstuffs includes cotton, linen, silk and wool fabrics as well as furs; furthermore they have been found on shed feathers and hair, bran, semolina and flour (possibly preferring wheat flour), biscuits, casein, and insect specimens in museums. In one case, living T. bisselliella caterpillars were found in salt. They had probably just accidentally wandered there – as even to such a polyphagous species pure sodium chloride has no nutritional value – but still it attests to their robustness.

Clothes Moth Habitat

Both adults and larvae prefer low light conditions. Whereas many other Tineidae are drawn to light, Common Clothes Moths seem to prefer dim or dark areas. If larvae find themselves in a well-lit room, they will try to relocate under furniture or carpet edges. Handmade rugs are a favorite, because it is easy for the larvae to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. They will also crawl under moldings at the edges of rooms in search of darkened areas where debris has gathered and which consequently hold good food.

Clothes Moth Life Cycle

The eggs hatch into larvae, which then begin to feed. Once they have finished larval development, they pupate and undergo metamorphosis to emerge as imagines (adult moths). Adults do not eat; rather, males look for females with whom to mate, and females look for places to lay their eggs. Once reproduction is done, they die. Contrary to what most people believe, adult T. bisselliella do not eat or cause any damage to clothing or fabric. It is the larvae which are solely responsible for this, and which spend their entire time eating and foraging for food.

For information on removing unwanted pests from your home contact Johnson Pest Control at 865-453-7587.

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