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How to Get Rid of Moth Larvae

woman with vacuum cleaner at home

How to Get Rid of Moth Larvae

Moth Larvae are the actual pest that causes the damage to clothing and precious home textiles, not the adult Clothes Moths, Carpet Moths or Pantry Moths you can see flying around in season. How to get rid of clothes moth larvae involves far more intensive investigation, cleaning and treatment than many people realise. Whilst Moth Traps are a key part of the solution in reducing the population of Clothes Moths in the home, once clothing is damaged, that is the key sign that we need to get to work to protect the investment we have made in wool, cashmere and silk fabrics and other animal-based fiber textiles in the home.

Pantry Moth Larvae can be troublesome in the kitchen because they infest dried foodstuffs (rice, flour, cereals, grains, pasta, birdseed, pet food etc) with their faeces, webbing and discarded cocoons.

cashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvae  cashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvae - 2

 

Understanding the Life Cycle and the Role of the Moth Larva

First, a quick guide to where larvae fit into the Clothes Moth life cycle. Adult Clothes Moths do not feed - they only live for about one month and do not even have mouthparts and a digestive system. Their sole purpose at that stage is to breed and lay up to 200 eggs in their short life as an adult. After a week or two those eggs will hatch into Clothes Moth Larvae.

It is the Clothes Moth larvae that does the damage! Clothes Moth Larvae feed on a protein (keratin) that is found in animal-based fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk, fur, soft leather and feathers. They will feed for a month or two and this is the precise cause of damage to your clothes, rugs, carpets and other home textiles. It is very unlikely that they will eat plant based fabrics such as cotton unless they are stored heavily soiled. The adult Moths can identify the keratin in animal-based fibers and will look for that food source and, ideally, undisturbed places (closets, drawers, under and behind furniture, attics and spare rooms) where they lay their eggs.

Some customers ask ‘what do Moth eggs look like’ - they are slightly oval, almost invisible when buried in clothing and food containers (about 1/16th of an inch long) and a creamy color. You can hardly see Moth eggs on clothes.

Pantry Moth Larvae have a similar life cycle but the adult Moths look for dried foods to lay their eggs.

A really important consideration is that larvae will be doing their damage out of season - if you live in a region that has cold winters, you may feel safe in not seeing Clothes or Pantry Moths flying around, but the larvae can live for up to two years before they pupate in warmer weather. That means two years of potential damage to your clothes, carpets or food depending on which species you have (note that Clothes and Carpet Moths are the same species).

However, it can be an all-year-round issue in centrally heated homes and warmer climates.

 

How to identify Moth Larvae / What do Moth Larvae Look Like

A moth larva is relatively easy to spot in food because they are in a contained space and emptying the bag or container to check carefully will tell you quickly if you have an issue - this may well be the reason you are reading this Blog.

For Clothes Moth Larvae, it is more likely that you will find damage to your clothing or carpets that suggest you have an infestation. It may be that you have reached for that cashmere sweater that has been in your closet unworn through the summer months and discovered that it has damage in the form of little holes. It may be a carpet that you’ve seen damaged under the couch, which rarely sees the vacuum cleaner and is never walked on. Either way, you may have had or still have an infestation and the larvae are an issue.

Other tell-tale signs of Moth Larvae in clothing or carpets are silky webbing spun by the Moth Larvae, cases after pupation and the adult Moth has flown in search of a mate to perpetuate the life cycle, or partly eaten fibers.

Both Clothes and Pantry Moth Larvae are a quarter to half inch in length, usually with a brown head and cream colored body.

Many of our customers ask ‘what does Moth Larvae look like?’ - these pictures should identify the destructive pest you are looking for:

Clothes Moth Larva  Pantry Moth Larva

The most common Moth species you may come across are:

Clothes Moths: webbing Clothes Moth or case bearing Clothes Moth
Pantry Moths: indian meal Moth or mediterranean food Moth

If you have seen the adult Moths, you will be more easily able to identify whether you are dealing with Clothes or Pantry Moths using our Moth identification articles above. This is a really important first step because Clothes Moth Traps and Pantry Moth Traps use different pheromones, and both the location and process for dealing with them differs.

Either way, even if you cannot see a larva, we strongly recommend that you act to avoid further infestation and damage. You may have Moth eggs that you cannot easily see (they are tiny, almost microscopic) and are a ‘ticking bomb’ for further Moth damage. Because the larvae are quite small, they may not be easy to see in an over-crowded closet or in an attic for example.

 

How to Get Rid of Clothes Moth Larvae / Case-Bearing Moth Larvae and How to Kill Moth Eggs

Sorting through light summer clothes before packing away

Assuming you have Clothes Moth Traps in place, the next stage is to thoroughly investigate the potential places the infestation has reached. Let’s assume you have found likely Moth damage in your closet of out-of-season winter clothes in your spare room and you are about to make your seasonal closet changeover, packing away those light summer clothes and getting out your winter woolens.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

  • Take out all the clothing from the closet where you suspect an infestation
  • Carefully check all the clothes for signs of damage
  • Either dry clean or freeze your garments in sealed plastic bags for a minimum of 72 hours to kill any eggs and larvae (more detail here)
  • Vacuum the closet and surrounding carpets thoroughly - and by the closet we mean any fitted carpets, walls, ceiling and along all joins, cracks and crevices
  • Wash down all hard surfaces
  • When dry, treat with a persistent residual pest spray (safe for humans)
  • Replace clothing but being careful not to over-stuff your closets, shelves and drawers
  • Place Clothes Moth Traps in the room 3-6 feet high to continue to monitor for potential activity from adult Moths and to help break the breeding cycle to reduce the chance of a repeat infestation
  • Continue to clean regularly and thoroughly, especially at times of seasonal clothing change-overs
  • In doing these routines you should kill Moth eggs, but it can feel at times like dealing with an ‘invisible enemy’. Thoroughness in following these guidelines will give you the best chances of success

To make this easier, we have the right products assembled, with instructions, mask and gloves in our Clothes Moth Killer Kits.

If you need any guidance or support on this process, feel free to reach out to us at help@moth-prevention.com

 

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moth Larvae

pantry foodstuffs

Let’s assume you have found evidence of dried foodstuffs in your pantry or kitchen cupboards infested with pantry Moth larvae.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

  • Clear out all the affected cupboards/pantry shelves
  • Vacuum all surfaces paying particular attention to edges, cracks and crevices
  • Wash down all surfaces thoroughly
  • Apply a Moth-Killing Natural Residual spray that is safe to use in kitchen areas
  • Check every bag and container that may be a source of infestation - remember, you may have brought it into the home through buying infested produce (most commonly happens through buying birdseed or pet food)
  • Throw away anything out of date, unusable and/or infested, and seal garbage bags
  • Thoroughly clean all containers
  • Place any non-infested and usable dried foods into sealed containers
  • Replace your food and make sure you are not over-filling your cupboards and/or pantry
  • Continue to clean regularly and thoroughly throughout the year
  • Use Pantry Moth Traps to continue to monitor for further presence of adult Moths and to help break the breeding cycle to reduce the chance of a repeat infestation

To make this easier, we have the right products assembled, with instructions, mask and gloves in our Pantry Moth Killer Kits.

dried foods in sealed containers

 

How to Avoid the Return of Moth Larvae

The best initial line of defence is always to put either Clothes Moth Traps or Pantry Moth Traps in place. This will alert you to the presence of adult Clothes Moths and can be used as a perpetual form of monitoring.

However, if the Moth infestation has taken hold to the degree that you have damage to clothes or food, and assuming you have taken the steps above, you will need to do what you can to avoid a repeat infestation.

Firstly, look for where the infestation has first come from.

In the case of Clothes Moths, this could be (and we’ve seen all these situations with our customers!):

  • Apartment buildings where the closeness of apartments sees Moths travel from one apartment to another
  • Old houses with unused chimneys
  • Houses with bird nests under the eaves or in trees close to the house
  • Stored rugs
  • Areas of rooms rarely used, or parts of rooms that do not get looked at and vacuumed regularly
  • Under or behind furniture where the vacuum cleaner rarely ventures with our busy lives
  • In attics

For Pantry Moths, it is likely to be:

  • Stored grains in bulk, and in particular, pet food and/or bird seed
  • Dried foods that have ended up at the back of a very full pantry or food storage cupboard and not touched for many months

Puppies with dog biscuits in a sealed container

If the original source has been identified and not dealt with through the above process that we strongly recommend, then more work will be required to deal with that issue.

If you are happy that you have dealt with the source of the issue and managed to kill the Moth Larvae and eggs, then we would recommend that you just leave the traps in place until you are absolutely sure they have left you. Moth Traps will indicate the catch rate and a declining catch rate over time shows you are winning the battle.

Please remember that if you need any guidance on treatments, identification of Moths or anything else, we are here to help - Contact Us at help@moth-prevention.com


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About MothPrevention®

MothPrevention® speak to customers every day about their clothes moth issues - clothes moths are a species that are ever increasing and that can cause significant damage to clothes, carpets and other home textiles.

To date, we’ve helped over 100,000 customers deal with their moth problems. We have developed professional grade solutions including proprietary pheromones, not available from anybody else in the USA, and engineered in Germany to the highest production standards.

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About Author

MothPrevention Expert
MothPrevention Expert

The MothPrevention® team has been providing moth solutions for over 10 years and has over 125,000 satisfied customers. With a collective wealth of knowledge we’re able to help our customers with their clothes moth, pantry moth and carpet moths problems. Our professional grade MothPrevention products are engineered in Germany and the USA, and proven to be effective by Homeowners and Pest Controllers.

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How do I get rid of Clothes Moth Larvae? - The Facts by MothPrevention
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