How to manage a moth problem

Moths are a fairly common albeit unwanted house pest in the UK. 

There are two primary types of moth, macro-moths (larger breeds) and micro-moths (smaller breeds). According to UKMoths, there are approximately 2,400 moth species in the country,  and while most are harmless to humans, some can cause damage to some fabrics and upholstery. 

Types of moths 

There are three primary types of moth: 

Brown house moth - As the name suggests, these moths are brown in colour, and adults can measure between  8–14 mm long. These tend to feed on textiles such as leather and wool. 
Common clothes moth - If you are noticing holes in your fabrics, this moth could be the culprit. Adults measure between 6 – 8 mm, and the body and wings are light in colour with no other discernable markings.  
Case-Bearing clothes moth - These are less common textile pests, but make more frequent holes in clothing. 

What do moths do to humans? 

Moths are inoffensive to humans, as they cannot bite or sting. You don’t have to worry about moths doing any damage to yourself, but when it comes to your favourite wooly jumper, it’s a different story! 

Why do moths eat clothes?  

Technically speaking, they don’t.  

In fact, it is not moths themselves that eat through fabric, but their larvae, or babies. Larvae refers to an insect’s immature phase, that is between being eggs and adults. Moth lay eggs on clothes that contain high levels of keratin, a substance that is naturally occurring in humans and contains essential structural proteins. Keratin can be found in fabrics such as angora, wool and cashmere, and so it is common for moth to lay eggs on such clothing. Larvae have mouths during their caterpillar stage, which lasts between a two to four weeks, during which time it will use their mouths to nibble through their host fabric - causing damage to your garments in the process. 

Is a moth dangerous?

As moths don’t bite or sting, they are not hazardous to humans. A select few breeds of moth feast on poisonous plants during their larvae phase, but the only way this toxic content could be passed onto humans is if that moth is consumed as food. 

Signs of moth problems 

The most obvious sign of moth damage is holes in garments, specifically those made of aforementioned keratin-rich materials such as angora, alpaca, silk, wool and cashmere. The holes will likely vary in size, as will the number of them, as this will depend on how long the larvae have been present and undetected. As larvae are so small in size, your chances are higher of spotting the damage left behind than the actual pest, but spotting full grown moths is easier as they are attracted to sources of light. As moths prefer to lay eggs in dark, quiet areas, you may wish to frequently clean out and check areas of cupboards and drawers that contain items of clothing made from the types of material mentioned.  

How do I get rid of moths in my house?

If you notice your clothing is being affected and you suspect moths, you should dispose of your affected clothing and vacuum out the areas that contained the garments. You should seal any cracks in skirting boards or other areas that could act as an entrypoint for months. Keeping humidity low inside the house can help too, as moths favour warm, dark areas. Mothballs are not recommended, as they contain high levels of chemical pesticides that can potentially be harmful to humans. Instead, using an insecticide that is suitable for generic flying insects, or other moth deterrents such as scented hangers, is preferable. 

Depending on the severity of the problem, you may need to enlist professional help who can provide other methods of treatment such as traps, insecticides, and ultra violet traps. If you are tired of dealing with damage caused to clothing and fabrics in the home, Oxford Direct Services provides effective, reliable treatment to rid the home of moth infestation. We can use a combination of insecticides, traps and other means to ensure your pest problem is taken care of. To find out more, click here to contact us today.