How to Protect Against Wool Moths
If you have an infestation of wool or clothes moths, can you get rid of them?
The Wool Company Guide to identification, prevention and control of wool / clothes moths. Knowledge is power.
Let's start with what they are and what they look like, so you know you don't need to start swatting every flying creature that enters your home.
What do wool moths look like?
Tineola bisselliella more commonly known as clothes moths, wool moths or webbing moths, are small, unassuming moths belonging to the family Tineidae. They have a wingspan of about 1.5 cm or ½-¾ inch. They are generally a golden buff or coppery brown colour, with a small head.
Do moths eat clothes and bedding?
While adult moths don't eat or damage wool or natural fibre items, their larvae can wreak havoc on your precious belongings, feasting on anything from your wool, or wool-blend carpets to your favourite cashmere cardigan to crumbs in your kitchen cupboards. The caterpillars consume a variety of foodstuffs, from wool and silk to hair, feathers, and grains. They even have a liking for wheat flour.
They feed as only caterpillars, but after they have metamorphosed and emerged from their cocoon their only appetite is to create more moths.
What do moth eggs look like?
The female moth lays between 20-200 pale eggs, attaching them to surfaces with a clear sticky substance in hidden, dimly lit, undisturbed places near or on their food source.
What do clothes moth larvae look like?
The eggs hatch within 4-10 days as virtually microscopic white caterpillars, who begin to feed immediately.
What do wool moths eat?
The results of clothes moth destruction
The caterpillars eat actually many foodstuffs, not just your woolly jumper.
They can feed on keratin proteins, so will munch through linen, wool, silk, cotton, cashmere, furs and will eat synthetic fibres too if blended with wool / natural fibres. They will also consume, hair, feathers, grains, dried milk products, rice bran and have a liking for wheat flour.
The larvae don't require water but find their moisture through their foods. They are drawn to dirty fabrics, as these will contain sweat or other organic liquids that have dropped on them. The caterpillars prefer low light conditions, and if in a brightly lit room will move themselves to darker areas like under furniture and the edge of a carpet, cupboards, attics and wardrobes. Wool rugs are a preferred spot as they can live under them and eat from below. They will also find dark corners where dirt, dust and fibres have collected.
Warm, humid and still environments further encourage their infestation.
Depending on environmental conditions, they develop over between a month and two years, until they reach the pupal stage, where they will create a cocoon and develop into the moth over the next 10-50 days.
How to Avoid Wool Moth Damage
Being proactive in preventing infestations is best, as dealing with an established one can be a challenging and time-consuming process.
As soon as they hatch they are on the hunt for a mate, but curiously they tend to wander rather than fly to find a mate. Some clothes moths will never take off. They'll keeping searching for a mate for up to 30 days after which they die, or the males will die after successful mating and the females die after laying their eggs.
Temperature and humidity play an important role in the speed of their life cycle. The perfect conditions for the speediest full life cycle are 75℉ or 24℃, with humidity of 75%. A dark, warm, fairly humid wardrobe are the perfect conditions for this small creature. On the other hand a dry airing cupboard is a hostile environment for them.
How to Prevent Wool and Clothes Moth Infestations
Prevention is key in dealing with wool moths. Here are some effective measures to protect your wool blankets and clothes.
Regular Inspection: Routinely inspect your woolen items, paying special attention to corners, folds, and crevices where moths might lay their eggs. Early detection can help prevent widespread damage.
Proper Storage: Store woollens in clean, drawers, wardrobes with moth repellents with natural essential oils with a strong fragrance with ingredients such as lavender, cedarwood, rosemary and lemongrass. Moths dislike these scents (but loved by us humans) and are less likely to infest your stored items.
Regular Use: Frequently use and air out your woolen garments. Moths are less likely to target frequently disturbed areas.
Cleanliness: Ensure that your storage spaces are clean and free of food debris. get the small crevice tool out and regularly clean along skirting boards, corners, under furniture, under sofa cushions and down the tight edges. Keep your foods storage cupboards clean too.
Temperature and Humidity Control: Maintain lower temperatures and lower humidity in storage areas, as mentioned, wool moths thrive in warm and humid / damp conditions.
What to do if you have a wool moth infestation
If you discover signs of a wool moth infestation, act swiftly to minimize the damage:
Quarantine: Isolate the infested items immediately to prevent further spread.
Vacuum: Thoroughly vacuum the infested areas, paying attention to corners and crevices. Dispose of the vacuum bag outside your home.
Freeze: If possible, place the infested items in sealed plastic bags and freeze them for a week. The extreme cold will kill the moth larvae.
Professional Cleaning: For valuable or heavily infested items, seek professional help from pest control experts.
Wool moths larvae can wreak havoc on your precious woollen possessions, but with a little vigilance and a few preventive measures, you can safeguard your textiles. Regular inspections, proper storage, and cleanliness are essential to keep these unwanted guests away. In case of an infestation, prompt action and, if necessary, professional assistance can help you reclaim your woollen treasures and preserve them for years to come.
Thank you for sharing this excellent advice.
I use little cedar wood rings on hangers in wardrobe and regularly put a drop of essential oil on each. I also use home-made lavender bags/ sachets in drawers.
Have you any experience of using essential oils with wool kilims? I am trying a home-made water and oils mix in a spray bottle as a room aerosol. Kay
Thank you for your useful tips on how to cope with moths. I live in a hot, humid climate and have a constant moth problem.
A very useful article and I’m definitely going to start inspecting my wardrobe more frequently. I remember my grandma used to keep these things in her wardrobe called moth balls. I think they were quite strong smelling. You don’t mention these. Perhaps they are not used anymore.