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Known to some as the webbing clothes moth, or simply a clothing moth, this type of insect is a species of fungus moth. A clothes moth caterpillar can be a very serious pest because they inhabit clothing and particularly relish consuming certain fabrics and materials such as wool and other natural fibers. Besides eating holes in clothes and damaging property in this way, clothes moths can also consume stored produce and therefore ruin food.
Clothes moths are native to western Europe and Asia, but they were transported to other locations by human travelers. Today these insects can be found throughout the world, even in Australia. A few countries such as Greece, France, Switzerland, and Slovenia have not reported issues with the clothes moths, but experts aren’t certain whether this is because the moths are not present or because people simply have not reported the problem.
Generally clothes moths prefer conditions that are moist, though they can survive in drier environments. An environment with low humidity will merely slow its development. Low humidity unfortunately won’t kill the moths.
Clothing moths are usually within 1 to 2 centimeters long. They will lay very tiny eggs that are less than a millimeter in length and may not even be visible to the naked eye. Several hundred of these eggs will be laid by the female during her lifetime. The female carefully selects an ideal place for the eggs that will ensure greatest likelihood of survival. Then, she attaches the eggs to the surface using a substance that functions as a type of glue. This glue-like substance can be remarkably difficult to remove. After the eggs hatch, the larva begin looking for food. In order to progress to the next level of maturity, larva must consume a certain amount of food and this can take as little as two months. However, if adequate food is not available during this time, they can merely prolong the larval stage and continue feeding until they have consumed enough nutrition to spin a cocoon. Some larva can take up to two years to consume the necessary amount of food to progress.
After spinning a cocoon, the caterpillar will pupate and turn into an adult clothes moth. The process of turning into an adult can take from one to two months. Once the clothes moth becomes an adult, it is ready to mate and begin laying eggs. The moth will tend to prefer fabrics that are dirty for laying the eggs which can include carpeting or clothing that contains human sweat or other fluids. They are particularly attracted to fabrics that are slightly damp. Though the caterpillars do not drink water, it is essential that their environment is moist. Both the larvae and the adults tend to prefer low light, which makes a dark closet an ideal location for them. Clothes moths that suddenly find themselves in a lighted room will tend to try to find refuge under furniture or even the edges of carpets. Handmade rugs are particularly susceptible because it is easy for these insects to crawl underneath and work on the fibers from below.