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6 Types Of House Moths (With Photos)
While moths may appear small and harmless in nature, some can actually inflict a shocking amount of damage to your clothing, textiles, and even the stored products in your pantry. It’s not uncommon to see the occasional harmless field moth in your home during summer months. However, if moths start to become a regular sight in your house, you may have an infestation on your hands.
If you detect signs of a moth infestation, you must take immediate steps to identify and eradicate the source of the problem to protect your home from the damage moths can cause. To do this, it’s helpful to know the specific species of moths that can create problems in a home.
The different types of house moths can be broken down into two main categories: pantry moths and clothes moths. With this in mind, some of the most common types of house moths include the brown house moth, white-shouldered house moth, Mediterranean pantry moth, Indian meal moth, common clothes moth, and the case-bearing clothes moth.
To help you deal with your moth infestation, we’ve put together the following comprehensive guide to outline everything there is to know about this unruly household pest.
Table of Contents
What is a Moth?
Moths are a part of the class of “Insecta,” which refers to insects, or invertebrates with three portions to its body and six legs. Both moths and butterflies are included in the order Lepidoptera – when translated means “scaly wings” as they feature big wings with scales on them. It is thought that there are nearly 160,000 species of moth, many of which have not been described yet.
There are four stages to the life of a moth – first is the “egg,” which hatches into a “larvae” known as a caterpillar. Caterpillars are eating machines that molt out of their skin numerous times as they grow. Each stage of growth is called an instar. Eventually, moths build cocoons where they go through metamorphism. The final stage is referred to as the adult, when the moth emerges from the cocoon and takes on its final form.
Types of House Moths
There are numerous types of moth species that can infest your home, each of which have slightly different appearances, lifespans, and behaviors. When you have a moth infestation in your home, there are two main types that are the most likely suspects: pantry moths and clothes moths. To help you determine which pest you’re dealing with, we’ve outlined the most common types of house moths below.
There are numerous types of pantry moths, but all will collect where there is a food supply. You’ll often find them in your kitchen pantry – hence the name – where grains, crackers, cereals, rice, and other dry goods are stored. These moths are also known for eating spices, nuts, and even chocolate.
A good indication of a pantry moth infestation is webbing or tiny larvae squirming around inside your food containers when you open them. Here are the most common pantry moths to be aware of:
1. Brown House Moth
The Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella) is a part of the concealer moth family and likely originated from Asia. However, this type of moth was introduced to other regions of the world via human activity and can now be found all over the world. Brown House moths are commonly seen in the home. Adult Brown House moths grow to reach between 8mm and 14mm in length, with a wingspan between 15mm and 26 mm.
They are typically brown in color with three or four darker spots visible on the wings. Brown House moth larvae are roughly 6mm long and are off-white in color with a brown head. Caterpillars feed on organic debris that accumulates indoors, including oatmeal, rice, flour, biscuits, potatoes, as well as natural clothing and carpet fibers. Considered a scavenger, these moths are generally more destructive than the common clothes moth.
2. White-Shouldered House Moth
Although less common, the White-Shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella) is attracted to light and because of its constant year-round breeding cycle it can be found in homes, factories, and outbuildings that contain dried food sources. These moths are omnivorous, consuming things like bran, grain, flour, and other cereals, as well as wool and other animal-derived fabrics.
Adult White-Shouldered House Moths reach between 8mm and 10mm in length and can be distinguished by their characteristic white head and mottled wings. The larvae have a cream color with a red head or they may be seen in a silk cocoon. These types of moths don’t typically cause significant damage to textiles, but the larvae are known to scavenge on a wide variety of foods.
3. Indian Meal Moth
The Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) are also sometimes known simply as Pantry Moths or Flour Moths. Their larvae (caterpillars) are commonly referred to as “waxworms”. These moths are grain-feeding pests that can be found worldwide, feeding on cereals and similar food items.
Adult Indian Meal Moths range from 8mm to 10mm in length and a wingspan between 16mm and 20mm. They can be characterized by the bronze or dark grey color on the outer half of their forewings and a yellowy-gray color on the upper half and a dark band in between. Their larvae are off-white in color and have brown heads.
These moths can infest a wide range of dry food goods of vegetable origin, including dried fruits, rice, pasta, nuts, bread, and cereal. When infested, the food will appear like it is webbed together.
4. Mediterranean Pantry Moth
Also known as the Flour Moth or the Mediterranean Food Moth, this moth is larger than the Indian meal moth but develops and produces damage that is similar. Their favorite food is flour, but these moths may also attack bran, grains, and a variety of breakfast cereals. The lifespan of the Mediterranean Pantry Moth is about 10 weeks. Webbing and matting of the larvae tend to cause the most significant damage, whether it’s clogging machinery or contaminating food.
This type of moth can be easily identified when at rest, as it has a characteristic stance that involves extending the forelegs and raising the head to give it a sloping appearance. No other type of house moth has this sloping pose.
As their name suggests, clothes moths commonly feed on natural fibers such as fur, linen, silk, and wool. They are known to infest dark spaces like closets, wardrobes, attic spaces, and are often found nestled in the corners or folds of fabric. Clothes moths are notorious for ruining pillows, sweaters, comforters, coats, and may even feed on carpeting.
Signs that indicate a clothes moth infestation include webbing, holes in the fabric, and excrement, which appears like large grains of sand. You may also find their silk cases, which are long, cylindrical, open on the end, and include pieces of infested material inside the case. If the case is still occupied, it will have a squirming larva inside. The most common types of clothes moths you’ll find in your home are as follows:
1. Common Clothes Moth
The Common Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella) is among the most damaging and commonly confronted house moths. Adult Common Clothes Moths reach between 6mm and 7mm in length and feature uniformly straw-colored fringed wings. They typically avoid light and, instead of flying, they run and will typically be seen crawling at floor level or resting on the walls.
The adults do not feed; but, their larvae feed on a wide array of materials and are responsible for producing irregular holes in fabrics. Common Clothes Moth larvae reach up to 10mm long and are cream colored with brown heads. In favorable conditions, they take about 6 weeks to reach adulthood.
2. Case-Bearing Clothes Moth
Another type of destructive house moth, the Case-Bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella) produces more regular holes in fabrics. These moths have a similar lifecycle to that of the Common Clothes Moth, but are rarer. The adult Case-Bearing Clothes Moth ranges in size from 6mm to 7mm long and is darker in color with three dim spots on each wing.
This moth gets its name because the larval caterpillar creates a silken cell around itself that it carries as it moves around and feeds. These cells are typically described as appearing like grains of rice, but if you look close enough you’ll usually see the head coming out of the case. Although less common, you’ll usually find these moths in imported goods like hides or other products of animal origin.
How to Get Rid of Moths in the Home
In regards to getting rid of moth infestations in your home, there are several steps you can take to reduce the presence of moth larvae:
- Wash vulnerable fabrics. This includes natural materials and soft furnishing near the infestation.
- Clean thoroughly. Vacuum carpets, paying attention to areas that are often neglected – such as along the skirting or behind or underneath furniture.
- Vacuum on a regular basis. Get rid of larvae before the infestation can spread and empty the vacuum bag outside immediately.
- Use cedar clothes hangers. Moths don’t like the smell and will be less likely to eat your clothes.
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