Moths can cause a significant amount of damage to the organic materials in your home, from curtains and clothes to food in your pantry depending on where they get into. Pantry Moths, Closet Moths, and Outdoor Moths are the three types you are most likely going to find in your home. Here is how to identify them and what you can do to try and keep them out.
If you find moths in your pantry or kitchen, they likely are Indian meal moths. These small moths measure approximately 3/8 inch long, with gray bodies. The tips of their wings, however, are usually a warm brown or bronze color, which helps distinguish them from other moths that may be in your home. Indian meal moths grow from caterpillars that have cream colored bodies and dark brown heads. Full grown caterpillars are usually about 2/3 inch long.
Indian meal moths don’t feed on pantry items, but larvae and caterpillars can feed on a wide range of dried foods. Cereal and coarsely ground grain products are a particular target, though nuts, seeds, dried fruit, dried herbs, pet food, and crackers are also vulnerable. The larvae and caterpillars develop among stored foods; adult moths then emerge, flying around after dusk. The most common way an Indian meal moth infestation can come into to your home is when you purchase food products that already contain the larvae — though in some cases, they may enter from outside and begin breeding in your pantry.
To get rid of Indian meal moths, you must identify which items in your pantry are infested. Typically, infestations occur in items that haven’t been used for a while. You may notice the presence of white webbing on affected products. Throw away all these items, and check remaining items for signs of larvae or caterpillars. To be safe, store opened food and food packages in airtight containers in the refrigerator or outdoors, if possible. When you no longer see any adult moths in the kitchen, you can return the items to the pantry.
The moths you find among clothing in storage areas such as closets or dressers are usually clothes moths. Webbing clothes moths are small, usually measuring only 1/2 inch from wing to wing, and are a pale golden buff color with a smaller area of reddish hair on the head. The larvae have white or cream bodies and brown heads. The less common casemaking clothes moth is similar in appearance, but has no red hairs on its head and features three dark spots on its wings. Their larvae resemble those of the webbing clothes moth, though they have only one eye on either side of the head.
Both types of clothes moths feed on woolen fabrics and furs. You may unintentionally purchase clothing that contains larvae, particularly if you shop at thrift or secondhand stores. These moths avoid the light, though, so you may not notice any adult moths in your closet or other clothing storage areas. Holes or furrows in the fabric are typical signs of an infestation.
Items infested with clothes moths should be washed or dry cleaned, which will usually kill any insects. Beat woolen throw rugs outdoors to remove any larvae or eggs, but large carpets may require treatment by a pest management company. Store woolen and fur items in airtight containers to prevent further infestations. Moth balls can help repel the pests in a closet, but if you want to kill existing populations, you’ll need an insecticide. Paradichlorobenzene (PDB) moth crystals can kill adult moths, larvae,,, and eggs to help you get rid of an infestation.
Outdoor moths can sometimes enter the house through an open door, window, or broken screen, and become a nuisance. There are a variety of moths that make their homes outdoors, including gypsy moths, armyworms and buck moths. You can usually tell the difference between these pests and pantry or closet moths by their size alone — outdoor moths are fairly large, having a wing span of anywhere from 1 to 3 inches. They are often dark in color, with many types displaying gray, brown, or black coloring.
Most outdoor moths don’t breed indoors, so you’ll only see signs of adult moths. They’ll fly around a room and land on available surfaces. In particular, they may be found near lamps and other lighting fixtures.
The easiest way to keep your home free of outdoor moths is to avoid leaving exterior doors open. Place screens in windows, and seal any other openings so the insects can’t enter. Only turn on exterior lights near entrances when necessary, because the moths may be drawn to the light and fly into your home when you open the door.