Tackling the Common Clothes Moth (Tineola Bisselliella)

The common clothes moth, scientifically known as Tineola bisselliella, is a household pest that can cause significant damage to various fabrics in your home.

These small insects are attracted to natural fibers, particularly wool, fur, and feathers, where they lay their eggs. Once the larvae hatch, they start feeding on the clothing, resulting in holes and other damage to your valuable garments.

common clothes moth photos - common clothes moth

Managing a clothes moth infestation can be quite challenging, as these insects are quite secretive and often go unnoticed until it’s too late. It is crucial for homeowners to understand the habits and characteristics of the common clothes moth to effectively deal with these pests.

By implementing proper storage techniques and utilizing preventative measures, it’s possible to reduce the risk of damage caused by these persistent insects.

Understanding Common Clothes Moth

Physical Characteristics

The Common Clothes Moth, scientifically named Tineola bisselliella, is a small moth species often found damaging clothing and other textiles. Adult moths are typically beige, buff-brown, tan or brownish-cream in color and measure only around 1/2 inch in length. They have narrow, hairy wings that fold down the sides of their thorax when not in use and a wingspan ranging from 9 to 16 millimeters.


Common Clothes Moths prefer dark, undisturbed areas such as closets and storage spaces where they can lay their eggs on suitable fabric materials. These moths are especially attracted to natural fibers such as wool, silk, cashmere, and furs, but can also consume other materials like feathers, hair, and leather. They avoid synthetic fibers or heavily soiled fabrics.

common clothes moth photos - common clothes moth close up on yellow knitted fabric

Life Cycle

The life cycle of Tineola bisselliella clothes moth consists of four stages: eggs, larvae (caterpillars), pupa (cocoon), and adult moths. The female moths lay their eggs on the fabric, usually in hidden or undisturbed areas. The eggs hatch into moth larvae that actively feed on the material, causing damage to clothes and other textiles.

  • Egg Stage: Female Common Clothes Moths lay between 40 to 50 eggs, which are translucent and tiny, on suitable fabric materials. The eggs will hatch into larvae in approximately 10 days, depending on the environmental conditions.
  • Larval Stage: Moth larvae, often referred to as caterpillars, are cream-colored and can measure up to 12 millimeters in length. This stage can last from 35 days to 2.5 years, depending on the availability of food and environmental factors. Larvae are the most destructive stage, as they actively consume and digest the materials they infest.
  • Pupal Stage: When the larvae have reached their maximum size, they will pupate by spinning a cocoon made of silk. The pupal stage can last between 1 to 2 months, after which an adult moth will emerge.
  • Adult Stage: Adult Common Clothes Moths have a short life span of approximately 30 days. During this time, they do not feed or cause direct damage to fabrics. However, they will mate and reproduce, laying more eggs and starting a new life cycle.

Identifying and Preventing Infestation

Signs of Infestation

The Webbing Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella), also known as the common clothes moth, can cause significant damage to clothing and other natural fibers in your home. To effectively deal with a moth infestation, it is crucial to identify the signs early. Some common indicators of a clothes moth infestation include:

  • Small holes in clothing, particularly in woolen and other natural fiber garments
  • Web-like material or silken cocoons on clothing or in storage areas
  • Tiny white or light brown eggs or larvae on clothes, walls, or surfaces near clothing and textiles

Upon noticing these signs, immediate action should be taken to minimize the damage and control the infestation.

common clothes moth photos - Clothes moth eggs

Methods of Prevention

Preventing clothes moth infestations involves several proactive measures to deter these pests from entering and breeding in your home. Here are some effective prevention methods:

  • Proper storage: Store clothes made of wool, fur, or feathers in tightly sealed plastic storage bins or compression storage bags. Place suits, dresses, or other hanging clothes in garment bags to protect them from moths.
  • Frequent cleaning: Regularly clean your wardrobe, closets, and storage spaces, ensuring they are dry and well-ventilated. Vacuuming frequently helps in removing eggs and larvae from carpets, rugs, and upholstery.
  • Moth traps: Install moth traps in areas prone to infestations. Pheromone-based traps are especially useful in attracting and trapping adult male moths, disrupting their breeding cycle.
  • Inspect secondhand items: Thoroughly inspect and clean any secondhand clothes, furniture, or textiles before bringing them into your home, as they can be sources of moth infestations.
  • Natural repellents: Utilize natural repellents like cedar, lavender, or eucalyptus to repel moths from your closets and storage areas.

Following these methods consistently will help in preventing clothes moth infestations and safeguarding your valuable clothing and textiles.

moth trap

Treatment and Control of Tineola Bisselliella

Dealing with Infested Items

When treating items infested by the common clothes moth, Tineola Bisselliella, a variety of methods can be applied. First, dry cleaning is a highly effective way to eliminate larvae and eggs from clothing, as the chemicals used during this process are lethal to the pests. In addition to dry cleaning, heat can also be employed; washing infested items in water with a temperature of over 120 degrees Fahrenheit will effectively kill the larvae.

Freezing infested items is another method to control clothes moth populations. Placing infested items in a sealed bag and leaving them in the freezer for at least 48 hours can be effective in killing eggs, larvae, and adult moths.

An entomologist may be consulted for guidance on the most suitable pest control measures depending on the severity of the infestation and the types of items affected. Mothproofing treatments, such as sprays containing specific chemicals, may be recommended.

Protecting Your Home

Proper home and storage maintenance should be pursued to prevent and control Tineola Bisselliella infestations. Vacuuming should be performed regularly, ensuring to reach into corners, under furniture, and along edges of carpets and rugs, where the moths and their larvae often reside. Thorough cleaning of storage areas, closets, and cupboards can deter clothes moths from settling in these spaces, especially in areas containing wool, silk, and other natural fibers.

Mothproofing treatment, such as mothballs, can be used in storage areas to further deter clothes moths. However, it is essential to adequately ventilate the space as the chemicals used in mothballs can be toxic in high concentrations.

moth balls on some sack cloth

While vacuuming and cleaning are helpful in prevention, a professional pest control specialist may be consulted to evaluate the home and recommend suitable control measures tailored to the specific situation. Regularly checking stored items and promptly dealing with small infestations minimizes the chance for larger, more challenging infestations to develop.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to identify a Clothes Moth?

The common clothes moth, or Tineola bisselliella, is a small insect that can cause considerable damage to natural fibers in clothing and other materials. Identifying clothes moths is crucial to prevent infestations. They are typically 5-8mm in length and have a wingspan of 10-15mm. They have a golden-color with reddish hairs on top of their heads. The caterpillars, or larvae, of the clothes moth are creamy-white, and they are the ones responsible for the actual damage to fibers.

What is the Life Cycle of Clothes Moths?

Clothes moths have four stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The female moth lays around 50 eggs on suitable materials, such as wool or fur. Eggs hatch into larvae within ten days, and the larval stage can last anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 years, depending on the availability of food and environmental conditions. The larvae then enter the pupal stage, which lasts about ten days before they emerge as adult moths. Adult clothes moths only live for about 10 days and do not feed on fabrics.

How can I stop Clothes Moth Infestation?

To prevent clothes moth infestations, it’s essential to keep your home clean and maintain proper storage of clothing and textiles. Regularly vacuum and clean areas where dust and hair may accumulate, such as carpets and upholstered furniture. Store clothing in airtight containers or garment bags, and ensure that all items are clean and dry before storing them. Using mothballs, cedar chips, or lavender sachets can also deter clothes moths, as they dislike these scents.

What are the Damaging Effects of Clothes Moths?

The larvae of the clothes moth are responsible for the damage they cause to natural fibers such as wool, fur, silk, and feathers. Larvae feed on these materials, leaving behind irregular holes and frayed edges. This damage can be extensive if not detected and addressed quickly, leading to the loss of valuable garments or textiles.old hat with moth damage

What natural methods can I use to treat a Clothes Moth Problem?

There are a few natural methods to control clothes moths. Maintaining cleanliness, proper storage, and using repellent items such as cedar chips or lavender sachets are all effective ways to deter the pests. Additionally, trapping adult moths with pheromone-based traps can help monitor and reduce their population. Freezing infested items at -18°C for 72 hours can also kill all stages of the clothes moth life cycle.

How Can I recognise Tineola Bisselliella Behavior?

Adult clothes moths are not known to be strong fliers and tend to avoid light. When they fly, it is usually only for short distances. Larvae are the more destructive stage, feeding on fabrics and other natural fibers. They preferentially seek out dark, undisturbed spaces, such as the backs of closets and storage areas, which provides the necessary conditions for their development.

Tom Watson