Feb 07, 2020
Clothes Moth Larvae emerge from the eggs of the Common Webbing Clothes Moth (the most widespread and prolific variety) and similar varieties that cause damage to clothes, carpets and home textiles.
It is clothes moth larvae that do the damage to clothes and textiles in the home, and specifically those made of natural animal based fibres. Wool, cashmere, silk, soft leather and fur are the main materials at risk.
We have answered the most frequently asked questions by customers about Clothes Moth Larvae in this article. Hopefully you will have more information on how to get rid of clothes moth larvae after reading this!
Clothes Moth Larvae once hatched from the egg need energy to grow and pupate in order to turn into adult clothes moths. Adult clothes moths (those you may see flying around your house in search of your previous cashmere!) cannot eat - they live a very short lifespan purely with the intent of reproducing.
Wool, cashmere and silk are animal based fibres - keratin is the protein in animal fibres that provides nutrition for clothes moth larvae to eat. Keratin is also in human hair and skin which is commonly a large part of dust around the house and is equally attractive to clothes moths.
The perfect environment for a clothes moth infestation would be a dark, dusty, undisturbed, closet with animal-based natural fibre clothing. Often closets in spare bedrooms and attics are prime clothes moth breeding locations.
Also critical to clothes moth larvae is moisture, even very low amounts. Perspiration on recently worn garments that are placed back in closets, human scent, drinks spilled on clothing etc are all further attractions to the female clothes moth in deciding where to lay her eggs for the subsequent larvae to hatch.
Clothes moth larvae length of life before pupation and transforming into adult clothes moths varies depending on the conditions they encounter after they hatch from their eggs. Ideal conditions are relative warmth of around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity between 75 and 80%. In such conditions, they can transform from egg to adult moth in a little less than a month.
If conditions are cooler and / or less humid, growth slows down - moth larvae can stay at the larval (and most destructive!) stage for two years or more if left undisturbed and sited with the right food source (i.e. your favourite soft knitwear or most precious rugs and carpets).
So, the answer to ‘how long do clothes moth larvae live?’ is anywhere between one and 24 months dependent on conditions.
Normally conditions depend on the season - less incidence of adult clothes moths flying in cold winter months and slower larval development.
Clothes Moth Larvae are small and can be difficult to spot, especially if they are really tiny, having recently hatched from the microscopic eggs, enmeshed in garments with a loose weave, have made their way to the inside surfaces of garments, or have eaten their way deeply into the fabric (if left undisturbed for a long time).
When grown and prior to pupation, clothes moth larvae are between ¼ and ½ inch long. As you can see from the picture, they have a creamy colour body and a darker brown head. You will see the relative size of the grown larva compared to the weave of the knitwear in this picture for an idea of relative scale.
Washing your clothes can kill clothes moth larvae, but it is unlikely to be a suitable solution for the types of garments that will be targeted as a food source.
The wash cycle needs to be at the hottest wash setting to kill moth larvae and eggs; more typically used for white cottons. But cotton does not contain the all important keratin. Woollens and silk clothes, which do, cannot be washed at those temperatures without damage.
Find out more on washing cashmere sweaters.
The main alternative is dry cleaning which will kill moth larvae and eggs - but obviously at a cost, and you may want to let your dry cleaner know that your garments potentially contain moth eggs & larvae.
Steaming can help but is not a certain treatment to kill clothes moth larvae - it depends on the thoroughness of the treatment, duration of exposure to the steam and depth of the steam reaching into the garment’s fibres without risking damage to your precious garments.
So, it really depends - steaming clothes can help a little as part of a wider treatment regime but is not guaranteed to kill moth larvae.
Freezing will kill clothes moth larvae and eggs if carried out correctly. It is the most cost effective method for initially dealing with a clothes moth infestation but remember that the larvae and eggs will remain in the clothing even if they have been killed and you may want to follow up with cleaning of those particular garments to remove them.
The recommended steps for freezing your clothes to kill moth larvae and eggs are:
Exposing clothes moth larvae to the sun will not in itself kill clothes moth larvae and you will find more effective methods to kill moth larvae above - especially freezing and dry cleaning.
It would require very hot conditions and very low humidity, combined with a long period in these conditions to have any assured effect - and that is likely to risk faded colours for your precious garments!
Your time is also precious and probably better spent on cleaning out your closets and using other methods to deal with the infestation rather than exposing your clothing to the sun in an attempt to kill clothing moths larvae.
As we have outlined in this article, to answer the question ‘what kills moth larvae?’, deep freezing and dry cleaning are absolutely the best methods to kill clothing moth larvae - and for a serious infestation, combine these methods with the immediate impact and lasting residual protection of the treatments in a clothes moth killer kit.
Plastic is neither attractive to, nor digestible by, clothes moth larvae, and their mouthparts will not be able to eat through plastic.
The softest (and sadly, usually, the most expensive items of clothing in your closet) are at the highest risk - they are the most digestible for the larvae.
Yes! Your vacuum cleaner is your friend when it comes to dealing with a clothes moth larvae infestation.
When you have removed your clothes from the closet to follow our clothes care advice on dealing with clothes moths, you will need to vacuum and clean / dust thoroughly - moth eggs and larvae may be present, having either fallen off garments, infesting any natural carpets on the floors of built-in closets, or in the case of case-bearing moths, have attached themselves to the structure of the closet while pupating.
So, that means using your vacuum cleaner with the appropriate attachments to get to every corner, crack and crevice in your closet, as well as the flat surfaces and floor.
Then wash down and disinfect those same surfaces and, ideally, use a residual pesticide to spray - the one you will find in a moth insecticide kit will work well; drying clear on surfaces, with no smells, dealing with any remaining eggs & larvae for several weeks after application, and yet safe for you.
After vacuuming, please empty your vacuum cleaner outside the home, into a bag, tie securely and dispose of in the trash - the last thing you need after that work is to then transfer eggs and / or larvae to another area in the home.
Fumigation by using ‘moth foggers’ is a key part of dealing with a clothes moth infestation. However, it is only likely to deal with adult clothes moths in the room being fumigated.
Clothes moth eggs and larvae are usually found in clothing where the effectiveness of fumigation will be limited - closely packed clothing will reduce the effectiveness of the moth fogger in terms of getting to eggs & larvae. Using the full recommended steps to clothes moth control will be needed, in addition to using professional treatments such as fumigation.
Ironing can kill moth larvae although it can be a ‘hit or miss’ affair - most delicate knitwear will need lower ironing temperatures, clothes moth larvae can be present deep in thicker ‘chunky’ knitwear and it would require comprehensive coverage of your garments to have any chance of being sure to be effective.
Dry cleaning and freezing for extended periods are more likely to give you reassurance of success in killing clothes moth larvae than ironing.
We hope this article has answered your questions about clothes moth larvae.
It may feel like a lot of work to deal with them thoroughly, and some expense if you use the right treatments and cleaning solutions, but it will save your clothes and a lot of money in damage to them. You could ask a professional pest controller to apply a treatment although many customers do not want someone working in their bedrooms and closets or the significant cost. You can also check out our moth prevention kits for further assistance.
Please note that dealing with, and preventing the return of, clothes moths requires ongoing monitoring and routines to help you stop moths eating your clothes longer term. See our 10 Steps for Clothes Moth Control article for more guidance.
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