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Clothes moths are insect pests that often infest closets, chests, dressers and boxes of stored clothing. Adult female moths place between 30 to 60 eggs on clothing, but as many as 200 eggs can be placed on clothing in some cases. Clothes moth-caterpillars (larvae) begin to feed on clothing or other textiles immediately upon hatching from their eggs, but the adult moths do not feed at all, as they fill up on all the food they need as caterpillars. After moths emerge from their cocoons, their sole purpose is to reproduce. While the caterpillars are economic pests, they are not a nuisance, as their nearly microscopic size often makes them go unnoticed by humans. In addition to deriving nourishment from clothing, pest control professionals have found the caterpillars feeding on stored pantry foods, and textiles that are stained with food are particularly attractive to the caterpillars.

The moths are not attracted to light like many other moth species, and they tend to hover around infested clothing within dark or dim conditions. The presence of moths is usually the first sign that clothing is infested with clothing moth-caterpillars. Clothes moth infestation rates are increasing all over the United States, and the northeast US has been seeing the greatest number of infestations for the past few years. Each year, the organization known as Insects Limited ranks the US cities that see the greatest number of clothes moth infestations, and for the second year in a row, New York City and Boston top the list at numbers 1 and 2, respectively. Philadelphia was ranked 3rd, while Washington DC was ranked 5th.

Clothes moths do not establish infestations by flying into homes, rather they spread from person-to-person, making clothes moths “synanthropic” insect pests. These types of insect pests benefit from living within human conditions, similar to how bed bugs rely on humans to transport them to new areas where they can find shelter and human hosts. Clothes moths spread when people bring infested clothing like wool rugs, blankets, fur coats, and feather pillows into second-hand stores or when donating old clothes to relatives. Therefore, clothes moths depend on human activity and human dwellings in order to spread to areas.

Have you ever had a clothes moth infestation?