Tinea pellionella and Tineola bisselliella


What are Clothes Moths and how to get rid of them

Clothes moths are real pests in the home. They destroy our many fabric items such as furniture, bedding, curtains, clothing, bags and accessories. The damage is caused by the larval stage (caterpillar) of the clothes moth as they feed on items made from natural and synthetic fibres. As with many other pests, some people may be allergic to the particles produced by clothes moths such as from cast skins (moults) and faeces which may cause skin or respiratory reactions.

Given the immense damage to the many valuable fabric items in the home and in some cases, the potential risk to human health, it is very important to control clothes moths at the earliest sign of infestation.


Two of the more common clothes moth species are the Webbing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella) and Case-Making Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella), both of which are introduced species.

Adults are moths which are long, slender and delicate looking, generally 6 to 10 mm long. Webbing clothes moths are a yellowish-beige with a metallic sheen, whereas case-making clothes moths are a dull, mottled-pattern of light and medium browns.

The head and collar region are covered in fine short hairs. On webbing clothes moths, these hairs are a reddish-gold colour, while case-making clothes moths are a light brown.

At the side of the head are two large, dark-brown to black compound eyes. Attached to the front of the head are a pair of long, straight and slender antennae which are held in a backward facing position at rest. Adults have rudimentary and non-functioning mouthparts and as such, lack the ability to feed. All feeding is done during the larval stage.

Behind the head, attached to the upper side and middle section of the body (thorax) are two pairs of wings. Wings have distinct fringed edges of fine hairs and hindwings are paler in colour than forewings. At rest, wings fold back along the length on the body and at full extension, wings span 9 to 16 mm. Attached to the underside of the thorax are three pairs of long and thin legs used for walking, running and jumping.

Clothes moth larvae are caterpillars which are long, thin and tubular. The body is soft with a cream to yellowish-cream colour. At the front of the body is a distinct reddish-brown head capsule and chewing mouthparts. Larvae produce fine silk threads from the mouth having been manufactured by specialised glands in the body. Webbing clothes moth larvae have no eyes, while case-making clothes moth larvae have two simple eyes on either side of the head.

Behind the head, on the underside of the body are three pairs of true legs, each pair is attached to the first three segments of the middle section of the body (thorax). An additional three pairs of stubby legs (prolegs) are found further along and towards the rear section of the body (abdomen).

Both case-making and webbing clothes moth larvae build specialised cocoon-homes from spun silk which act as camouflage and physical protection. Case-making clothes moth larvae carry their cocoon-home – either tubular or flattened almond shape – on their back. As the larvae travel and feed, the cocoon picks up material covering it in fabric fibres, dust and hairs. Larvae are often found climbing up walls and curtains near a food source. Webbing clothes moth larvae’s cocoon-home is stationary and is often covered in fibres from the nearby food source and faeces (frass). 


Female clothes moths prefer to walk rather than fly, while males can sometimes be seen flying. However, clothes moths are still considered weak flyers.


Shortly after emerging from the pupal stage (stage of development from caterpillar into moth), adults fly and mate. After choosing a suitable laying site, females lay up to 50 eggs, then shortly die thereafter due to the inability to feed. Eggs are oval-shaped, cream-coloured, sticky and are less than 1 mm long. Eggs are laid on or near a suitable food source for the larvae and hatch between 4 to 21 days. Eggs hatch into caterpillars and shed skin (moult) at each stage of growth development (instar). Webbing Clothes Moth larvae live between 1 month and up to 2 and a half years, if triggered into a hibernative state. The case-making clothes moth larvae generally live for 2 to 3 months. Larvae then close over their cocoon in order to pupate into the adult form.


Adults are night-dwelling, but unlike most other moths, are not attracted to light.

Larvae prefer fibres which are dirty or stained and are often found in crevices, junctions and seams of household fabric items such as:

  • Carpet, especially along the edges
  • Wool insulation
  • Furniture
  • Bedding and manchester
  • Curtains
  • Clothing and accessories, especially underneath the cuff or collar of clothing
  • Natural fibre hair brushes
  • Tapestries
  • Musical instruments, especially the pads in woodwind instruments and felt found in pianos
  • Taxidermied animal skins

Larvae are also found feeding on:

  • Dust and hair piles
  • Fish food
  • Spices
  • Cigarettes/cigars


Best Treatment for Cloths Moths

To control clothes moths in the home spray Blitzem! Outdoor/Indoor Barrier Spray all surfaces within wardrobes and cupboards. Do not apply to fabric items such as clothing and fabric covered furniture.

Wash any garments and linen suspected to be infested with eggs in the washing machine on hot and then place into the drier for at least 30 minutes. Alternatively, hang clothes on the line in full sun and brush fabric item as this will cause the eggs and larvae to fall.

To reduce the potential for dermatitis reactions to the cast skins (moults), or, from living and dead moths and larvae, use gloves, and pick up mess using a dust pan and broom. Ensure areas are well vacuumed and, on hard surfaces, wipe up with a moist paper towel then discard into the rubbish bin.

Symptoms of Cloths Moths damage

Clothes Moth larvae damage can cause holes in various household items and fabric items. However, damage can be confused with Silverfish and Carpet Beetles.

Further evidence of Clothes Moth infestation includes:

  • Living or dead moths and larvae. Larvae hide in the crevices, junctions and seams of fabric items.
  • Eggs and egg shells.
  • Cast skins (moults) after shedding the exoskeleton at each larval stage.
  • Faeces are tiny and pellet-like. After feeding on dyed fabrics, faeces can be of a similar colour to the consumed material.
  • Silken threads. Threads can be in single strands or in patches made while grazing.
  • Silk cocoons covered with faeces, fabric debris, dust or hairs.


How to prevent Clothes Moths appearing

Prevent Clothes Moths from entering the home:

  • Reduce entry points to a building: repair holes, cracks and gaps in walls, skirting boards, windows and doors
  • Ensure flyscreens are fitted and maintained. If possible, cover vents with a fine mesh.
  • Install a door seal or door snake to the bottom of entrance doors
  • Avoid purchasing second hand furniture, clothing and accessories, otherwise, thoroughly inspect for signs of clothes moth eggs and larvae, prior to bringing into the home
  • Check fabric items, especially after washing and hanging on the line, prior to bringing back into the home

Remove potential food sources:

  • Where possible, keep products or items made of natural plant/animal fibres or synthetic blends in plastic sealed containers. For unused fabric items, use vacuum sealed bags.
  • Periodically wash then dry unutilised fabric items such as clothing, curtains, bags, linen, etc.
  • Vacuum and/or steam clean fabric furniture and carpets to reduce dirt and grime build-up.
  • Avoid returning stained or dirty fabric items to cupboards.
  • Ensure house is hygienically maintained, focusing on areas where dust, hair and lint accumulates, especially underneath and behind furniture.
  • Keep human and pet food in plastic sealed containers. 
  • Ensure all dead rodents, spiders, insects and other animals have been collected and disposed of quickly.
  • Remove any bird, rodent or wasp nests and spiders webs from in and around the home.

Monitor and control quickly:

  • Check for clothes moths larvae regularly in areas such as in cupboards, near heaters, linen press, along skirting boards, etc. Also check in the crevices, junctions and seams of fabric items clothes moth larvae are known to dwell and consume.
  • Treat at the earliest sign of infestation when populations are smaller and much easier to control.

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