Wednesday, Jun 19th

Clothes Moths: Are They Here to Stay?

cashmereWe have gotten several reports about clothing and carpet moth infestations in Scarsdale homes this month - from people who never had a problem before. Friends have pulled out cashmere sweaters, finding them riddled with holes, or dragged furniture away from the wall and discovered large holes in their wool carpets. What to do to stop the destruction?

We asked Stewart Muir, an Associate Certified Entomologist (ACE) at JP Mchale, why this is happening and what, if anything, can be done. Here is what he shared:

Is this just coincidence or is there an increase in the population this year? If so, why?

There has been an increase in clothing moth activity over the years. Some of the reasons can be contributed to our warmer winters, increased deliveries of clothing to our homes, a shift back to natural fibers in clothing and carpeting and the introduction of natural fibers for insulation purposes.

How do they get into homes and closets?

Clothing moths can enter our homes from the outside through our open doors and windows and be introduced in packages delivered to our homes.

What are some preventive steps people can take to avoid the problem initially?

Some preventative measures the homeowner can do is to make sure all windows and doors are kept closed and screens are checked for any tears. Inspect any deliveries for possible adult moths concealed in the packages.

Once moths are discovered, what should people do to eradicate them?

Once discovered a pest professional should be contacted to conduct a thorough inspection of the home. If adults are seen flying around home, a vacuum can be used to remove.

Is it possible to totally eliminate them - once found in the house?

If the source of the infestation is found and removed, you can eliminate a clothing moth infestation. Unfortunately, if the source, either natural insulation or dead rodents, is behind a wall or ceiling, the chance of elimination decreases greatly.

What commercial solutions do you recommend - traps etc?

While Pheromone traps will help control a clothing moth infestation, they will never eliminate one. Without a thorough inspection from a pest professional and applying pesticides in the proper amounts and locations, elimination will not occur.

However, an article in the Atlantic this month says the fight to eliminate the moths is futile. Katherine J. Wu writes, “Sweater-Eating Moths Are an Unbeatable Enemy” She quotes Isabel Novick, a biologist at Boston University who says, “These particular moths—webbing clothes moths—are simply too well adapted to modern human life; as a species, “they don’t really live outside anymore,” Clothes moths have evolved into a perfect nuisance, so capable of subsisting on the contents of our homes that permanently purging them may be impossible.”

And according to the Atlantic, the moths won’t stop with your cashmere sweaters. Anything is fair game. The article says, “Woolen clothing makes for an especially convenient meal. But clothes-moth larvae will also happily eat carpets and rugs woven with animal hair—as well as upholstered furniture, wool insulation, the downy stuffing in couches and pillows, and the woolen felt pads sometimes found in pianos. Pushed to its limit, webbing clothes moths may also turn to nylon stockings, cotton blends, soybean meal, or household dust.”

Sadly it seems moths, like deer, are here to stay. The best you can do is to take preventative measures like dry cleaning sweaters and keeping them in plastic bags or storage boxes before stowing them away for the summer. Wrap sweaters in plastic bags and put them in the freezer to kill any larvae. To prevent them from finding breeding spots, do your best to dust, vacuum and clean areas where household dirt accumulates. Last, consider wearing synthetic materials. Though they are “unnatural,” they have a better chance of surviving in your closet. As for your carpets, wool and wool blends are all prey to the moths. So rather than investing in expensive wool carpets, go for polypropylene. It's reasonably priced, wears well and is resistant to moths.

Do you have any solutions? Please comment below.

Leave a Comment

Share on Myspace