Moths comprise from a group of insects related to butterflies, but moths evolved long before butterflies, with fossils having been found that may be 190 million years old.

Appearance, life cycle and habits

Not all moths attack fabrics, but the case-making clothes moth and the webbing clothes moth do attack wool and fur or other materials of animal origin.

Moths are often yellow or gold to buff in colour and they have narrow wings that are fringed, with siphon-type sucking mouthparts, although adult moths do not feed. Most species of moth are nocturnal and the adult clothes moths are small, usually up to 10mm long. They generally occur in the more humid coastal regions.

The larvae of both species are caterpillar-like, and the larvae that damage fabrics have chewing mouthparts and are white in colour, with a dark head and six legs.

Case-making clothes moth

The larvae of this moth leave the food material in their cases and pupate behind cupboards, on walls and on picture rails. This moth’s larvae live in cases made of silk and fibres from the material they feed on. The colour of the case may give some indication of the material it is feeding on, especially if it has migrated away from the feeding site.

Webbing clothes moth

The webbing clothes moth moves freely within its food material, without a protective case.

Useful tips on moths

Clothing affected by clothes moths can be sterilised by washing or by wrapping or placing them in black plastic and exposing to the sun for two to three hours.

When clothes moths attack floor coverings, it is important to give special attention to the edges and behind furniture. These are favoured sites for breeding, as very little disturbance occurs.

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