Although the clothes moth is a butterfly, from a purely visual point of view it has nothing in common with its colorfully patterned relatives. Quite the opposite: the butterfly has yellowish or brown wings that are folded over its back like a shiny roof. A fully grown moth measures just six to nine millimeters and its eggs are barely visible to the naked eye. However, their presence does not go unnoticed for long if they have infested an item of clothing that is worn regularly. The larvae eat small, circular holes in the textiles. By then you can be sure that you have clothes moths in your apartment. Why pests like to eat clothes and how you can get rid of them is summarized below.

As already mentioned at the beginning, it is not the clothes moths that feed on the textiles, but their larvae – and the reason for this is that they need keratin to grow. And this is found in animal hair, not just wool, but also leather and fur. Clothing that is made from purely plant-based and synthetic materials (including linen or cotton) does not usually appear on your menu. They cannot be digested by the larvae. The same applies to paper and wood. In nature, the larvae are found in bird nests or mammal breeding grounds and feed on the animal hair found there.

Since clothes moths react strongly to the smell of wool, fur and leather (or sweat), they also fly into numerous households. The attraction is so great that they squeeze through every little crack to get to the textiles. Of course, the pests have a particularly easy time of it in summer when the windows are open: a female can lay 100 to 250 eggs, the larvae hatch just two weeks later and pupate after three months – preferably in a warm, dry and dark place. In other words, in the wardrobe, in holes or cracks. After about 60 days, sometimes it takes several months, they turn into a moth and then only live 18 days.

The tricky thing about a clothes moth is that its flight period lasts from May to September – the entire summer when most windows are open day and night. In addition, just one female butterfly can give rise to four generations in one year. That’s a lot of eggs and hungry larvae. If you have discovered a possible infestation on your textiles, you can combat the clothes moths with the following tools and home remedies:

Classic trap

Non-toxic sticky traps contain so-called pheromones, which are sexual attractants for male clothes moths. The insects stick to the glue surface and die there, so that they can no longer fertilize female moths. The trap has an effective time of up to three months and can be set up, hung or glued on. Ideally in a dark, draft-free place such as the wardrobe at a height of two meters. Keep the windows in the room closed to avoid attracting additional moths from outside.

Natural defense

Lavender sachets are a natural moth repellent. They are simply placed in the cupboard and spread a pleasant scent that the butterflies can’t stand. The same applies to natural cedar wood – there are special rings that you can attach to the hangers. The wood not only repels clothes moths, but also absorbs odors and moisture. By sanding the rings regularly, the wood retains its effect for several months.

Biological control

Parasitic wasps are natural enemies of clothes moths – and can be used like a kind of biological weapon: The insects are only a few millimeters long and target the moths’ eggs. It is best to place the delivered wasp eggs in the form of small cards next to or directly on your clothing so that the animals reach their destination as quickly as possible. If there are no more clothes moths, the parasitic wasps automatically disappear again. Repeat the process three times.

Heat and cold

Clothes moths like it dry and warm, but cannot tolerate heat or cold. For this reason, you should wash all textiles that may be infected at 60 degrees. However, you can store delicate items of clothing made of wool, leather or silk in a plastic bag in the freezer for several days. Or you can take a small piece of leftover wool, put it in a box, cut a hole in it and wash the wool in hot water after a week to kill the eggs that have been laid.

You can take preventive measures to prevent clothes moths from nesting in your cupboards and damaging your textiles. This applies not only to your clothing, but also your carpets and upholstered furniture, which the pests will not stop at (if they contain wool, leather or fur). You should avoid these mistakes:

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