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What Do Moths Eat: The Full Guide To Getting Rid Of Moths

While butterflies enchant our sight with their splendor, moths are some undesirable insects that may appear in our closets. Yes, moths are similar in appearance to butterflies, but they behave quite differently.

Although they are harmless, moths can be a source of aggravation. It’s no secret that so many people have dealt with moth issues and have found some of their favorite clothes full of holes. Truly heartbreaking, right?

It’s true that most adult moths will only consume liquids, like rotting fruits or flower nectar. Even so, to get the necessary energy and hydration, others will move on to clothes.

So, Clothes Moths, like Tinea Pellionella or Tineola Bisselliella, just like their other cousins, can infest your home, your clothes, or pantry no matter how much you try cleaning them.

Let’s learn more about the moth’s eating habits and how you can eliminate them from both pantries and clothes.

Moths Vs. Butterflies: What Do Moths Look Like?

Try thinking about butterflies. First of all, they are often more colorful than moths. Why do you think that is? Well, mostly because butterflies are active during the day.

On the other hand, cloth moths have more earthy colors, which will help them camouflage during daytime sleep.

Scientists claim that butterflies have evolved from moths, yet they are part of another insect family, called Lepidoptera, which translates into “scaly wings” from Greek. Unlike butterflies, moths are generally nocturnal insects. However, there are some diurnal and crepuscular species as well, such as the buck moth. Moths have larger antennae, longer than butterflies. These antennae are saw-edged, offering moths a fantastic sense of smell. This way, they can feed themselves on flowers that bloom at night. Usually, these flowers have a powerful scent that helps moths find them effortlessly.

  • Adult Clothes Moths

The adult clothes moths are tiny, just half an inch in length. They are buff-colored, with hairs along the wings’ edges. People will sometimes confuse them with the pantry moths, which are slightly different in terms of color.

Adult clothes moths do not chew fabrics; however, they will lay their eggs on the clothes, eggs that turn into fabric-eating larvae.

  • Adult Pantry Moths

Adult pantry moths are the same in size and length as the previous ones. Yet, their narrow wings are grey, with reddish-brown and black striping. If you have ever seen these pantry moths flying into your kitchen or around the pantry area, then you should expect to deal with an infestation issue.

  • Pantry Moths Larvae

And last but not least, pantry moth larvae are an off-white color and the same size as the previous types. The month burrows the inside of the food containers for laying eggs where the moth larvae spin silk webs, like flour or milling corn.

A Clothes Moth’s Life Cycle

Before detailing a moth’s diet, it is essential to better understand a moth’s life cycle. Why? Because every stage comes with its food particularities.

  • The Eggs Stage: adult mother moths will lay around 40 to 50 eggs at a time. It will take from 4 to 10 days for the eggs to hatch. This depends on temperature and humidity.
  • Larval Stage: this is when moths are most disastrous. The newly hatched larvae will seek a food source and gnaw away. They will feed themselves until they finally become a cocoon. This stage can take from 2 months to even 2 and a half years.
  • Pupal Stage: when temperatures get warmer, the larvae are ready to pupate. They will choose the darkest corners of closets, where it is hard to notice them. The pupal stage can last up to 50 days but usually take between 8 to 10 days.
  • During the adult stage, moths are not able to eat or drink. Although they are harmless, their presence is a sign of possible moths’ egg infestation.

What Do Larvae Eat?

As previously described, there are four stages in a moth’s life cycle. First are the eggs, then larvae, cocoon/pupa, and, finally, the adult stage. When eggs turn into larva, the principal aim is to gain weight to enter into the following lifecycle. If larvae are strong enough, predators won’t kill them.

Before the pregnant adult moth lays its eggs, it will find a host plant to protect them. When the baby moths hatch from their eggs, their first meal will be the eggshell itself.

After that, the larvae forays into eating the plant that was hosting them. However, the diet of these larvae is not focused only on plants. The larval moths are famous as ravenous feeders. During the initial phase, they chew almost anything they find in their close area, including wool, furniture, hair, or fur.

Do Moths Eat Clothes?

Moths are famously known as textiles bugs. However, as you learned by now, it is the larvae that feed on the clothes. Besides the leaves of plants, larvae love clothing fibers. So yes, these might be the main enemies of your clothes:

  • Tinea Pellionella
  • Tineola Bisselliella

These two species are famous fabric eaters; they feed themselves with fibers from carpets, clothes, upholstery, even bed sheets or curtains. Some will even eat synthetic materials when they cannot find natural ones.

Pantry Moths: What Do They Eat?

Pantry or Indian-meal moths will dig into all the good dry foods you have in the pantry, such as oatmeal, grain, rice, nuts, cereal, or rice, but they will also go into dry pasta, dried fruits, even chocolate. If you have ever found some sticky webbings into your favorite porridge oatmeal, then you might deal with pantry moths.

How To Detect A Moth Infestation?

The easiest way to spot moth infestation is by noticing damage on clothes, different types of textiles, or finding them in your pantry goods.

Adult clothes moths might be even more challenging to notice than the pantry ones, as the eggs and larvae are difficult to detect. On the other hand, adult clothes moths will typically stay close to their food source, while the pantry ones fly around the home, hunting for the next food source.

Now, pantry moth infestations are more visible. If you pay some attention, you can notice caterpillars and webbings right in the food. When the larvae pupate, the adult pantry moths will quickly fly around.

Can Moths Harm Humans?

No, moths cannot bite or cause any direct harm to people, but they can indirectly lead to allergies and rashes. Some moth species of moths can cause caterpillar dermatitis or lepidopterism. These are skin conditions that appear when your skin comes in contact with a moth caterpillar. The spines or hair of some moths can also cause allergic reactions.

Getting Rid of All Kinds Of Moths: Step by Step

If moths infest your things, they will get a foothold in your house. Take the quick steps below and stop the moths from spreading without too much effort.

How To Get Rid Of Clothes Moths

  • Make sure you are always drying your clothes thoroughly right before you store them in the closet. This applies to all clothes, but it’s even more important when it comes to wool clothing;
  • Wash all the clothes and towels for at least 20 or 30 minutes with hot water. This habit will kill any clothes moths, even larvae or eggs.
  • Wash your garments before storing them; cloth moths are attracted to food stains and moisture.
  • An old-fashioned way to eliminate moths is brushing or sunlighting the clothes. Larvae cannot stand the sunlight, so once you brush the clothes outside, in sun rays, the enemies will immediately fall off, as well as their eggs. You can also hang the clothes outright in the sunlight and leave them for at least a couple of hours.
  • Do you love using essential oils? Then it’s perfect. You can make a natural repellent using some drops of essential oil and water. Use cedar, lavender, or rosemary oils and spray your carpet and clothes lightly.
  • You can also buy some dry lavender small bags to hang in the closet;
  • Mothballs are also ideal to use, as they contain a particular chemical that is suffocating the larvae and moths, so they will be truly helpful in getting rid of moths. However, keep in mind that this chemical is harmful to pets and children, so be aware of that.

Getting Rid Of Pantry Moths

  • If you notice that you have any food package containing moths, take the whole box, even the container, place it into a sealed plastic bag, then throw it into the trash.
  • Don’t forget to check the cabinets and pantry, inspecting everything to find signs of the pantry moths.
  • Throw away all those shelf liners from the pantry of cupboard shelves, as there can be lots of larvae right beneath that paper. Place everything that seems odd to you into the trash;
  • Vacuum the pantry carefully, then empty the cleaner bag immediately;
  • Wipe down everything using hot water and soap;
  • Pantry moths are professionals in hiding all around the pantry, so clean away everything, even the most hidden corners;

Last Thoughts

Considering there are 160,000 species of moths, one may think it is difficult to generalize their feeding habits. However, the fact is that they have a specific diet based on their life stages. While moths need lots of nutrients during the larval stage, during their adult stage, they will focus more on replicating than on anything else.

From egg to larvae and adulthood, moths will eat their eggshell itself, then the plant that is hosting them, and, finally, natural fibers close to them, like wool, fur, or hair.

Although some moth species can look lovely, they can be a menace in our homes. I hope the guide above contains enough information on quickly getting rid of moths.

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