The steps you take now can make all the difference in what you find when you bring out your things in the fall: wonderful woolens, or ones peppered with holes. Furs and silks can be signs of a lovely and luxurious wardrobe - but they can also be an invitation for moth infestations. Clothes moths are attracted to natural fibers, and will lay in wait, damaging or destroying precious items that are stored away. |
Preventing moth damage is essential because if you wait until you know you have a problem, it is already too late and the damage has been done. Thankfully there is a way to get rid of moths naturally that is safe, effective, and long lasting!
If you see moths flying in your house, they probably aren't clothes moths, but pantry pests -- the type that infests flour and grains. Clothes moths don't like light and are so secretive that you'll probably never see them. What's more, the adult moths won't do any harm. Damage to woolens is actually done by the larvae of two types of insects: clothes moths and carpet beetles (the latter being more prevalent than moths in most areas of the country). Both insects lay eggs in secluded spots with plenty of food -- wool, fur, down, shed pet dander, and other animal-based materials. Larvae emerge within a few weeks; beetle larvae can feed on fabric for a year or more and moth larvae may cause damage for a couple months.
What to Look For
Stereotypically, moths are drawn to light, but the moths that infest closets, clothes and furniture actually prefer dark, undisturbed areas. Casemaking clothes moths and webbing clothes moths tend to be less active in brightly lit environments and prefer to stay close to their food sources - this can make them difficult to detect.
Adult moths do not have mouths so they are not responsible for damage to clothes or fabrics. The larvae are the ones responsible for holes in your favorite blouse or other damage. Don't be distracted by the sight of a moth flying somewhere in your home, instead, be on the watch for damage to clothes, bedding, or furniture, as well as webbing, cocoons, or even droppings.
What to Do
Washing or dry cleaning items that moths are attracted to, such as natural fibers, before storing them can reduce the likelihood of moth infestations. This will remove any existing moth eggs or larvae as well as remove any biological residue such as sweat, hair, or body oils which moths find attractive. Store items in air tight storage bags or totes rather than cardboard boxes to protect against moths.
Conventional pesticides are not recommended when treating a moth infestation as chemicals and poisons may have adverse effects on people, pets, and non-target species if applied to clothing, bedding, and/or furniture.
Choosing a Method
There are numerous pest control products -- some natural, some chemical-based, and with varying levels of effectiveness -- that are intended to deter moths and beetles. It's best to know a product's pros and cons before you make a choice. In the right circumstances, any of these approaches can be useful. Just remember that nothing discourages clothes moths and carpet beetles more than keeping your woolen items clean and storing them correctly.
Moths and beetles can get through extremely tight spaces. When storing woolens, reclosable plastic bags or plastic boxes are best for keeping pests out. To protect the items from condensation, wrap them in lengths of clean cotton, and store. Take care in using plastic containers for long-term storage -- years rather than months -- as they do not allow the items to breathe, and some plastics may degrade fabric over time. If storing valuable items, consult with a professional textile conservator for recommendations.
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