(Tineola bisselliella) & (Tinea pellionella)

The webbing clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella, and the casemaking cloth moth, Tinea pellionella, are occasional fabric pests in Oregon. Clothes moths are weak flyers and are not attracted to lights. They tend to hide when disturbed, and for this reason, infestations of clothes moths are not usually noticed until damaged fabrics, furs, or feathers are found. Close examination of the objects reveals the presence of silken webs that are spun by the larvae.

The webbing clothes moth is the most common fabric moth. Adults are golden colored with reddish golden hairs on top of the head. Wings, with a span of about 1/2 inch, are fringed with a row of golden hairs. Because the moths are weak flyers and not attracted to lights, they are usually found very close to the infested items, such as in dark areas of closets.

Don't confuse the clothes moth with the common food- and grain-infesting moths that are frequently seen flying around the house. At rest, clothes moths are only about 1/4 inch in length, whereas most food-infesting moths are about 1/2 inch in length. Clothes moths are relatively easy to catch when they land. When examined with a hand lens, little tufts of hair are evident on their heads—food and grain moths do not have these tufts. Clothes moths usually only fly around the immediate area of the house where the infestation is found, and their flight pattern is distinctive: they tend to flutter about rather than fly in a direct, steady manner like the food-infesting moths.

Casemaking clothes moths are similar in size and appearance to webbing clothes moths. The wings of the casemaking clothes moth are more brownish than those of the webbing clothes moth and have faint dark-colored spots. Hairs on the head are lighter colored than those of the webbing clothes moth. Larvae of both species are nearly identical, except that larvae of the casemaking clothes moth always carry a silken case with them as they feed. They never leave this silken tube, but enlarge it as they grow. They feed from either end and retreat into it when disturbed. This case takes on the coloration of the fabric eaten by the larvae.

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Females of both species of clothes moth lay an average of 40 to 50 eggs over a period of 2 to 3 weeks and die once egg laying has been completed. Males outlive females and continue to mate during the remainder of their lives. Eggs are attached to threads of fabric with an adhesive secretion; they hatch in 4 to 10 days during warm weather. Larvae molt from 5 to 45 times, depending on indoor temperatures and type of food available. The larval period lasts from 35 days to 2-1/2 years. Larvae are shiny white with a dark head capsule. They spin webbing as they feed and may partially enclose themselves in a webbing cover or feeding tube, depending on species. Excrement of the clothes moth may contain dyes from the cloth fibers being consumed and thus be the same color. When they are ready to pupate, larvae wander away from their food source to find crevices. With the casemaking clothes moth, pupation takes place inside the case—usually on the fabric.

Pupation lasts from 8 to 10 days in summer, 3 to 4 weeks in winter. Heated buildings enable clothes moths to continue development during winter months. Generally, developmental time for the clothes moth from egg to egg is between 4 to 6 months, and there are generally two generations a year.

The larva is the damaging stage of the clothes moth. Both species feed on wool clothing, carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, furs, stored wool, animal bristles in brushes, wool felts in pianos, and fish meal in fish food. Synthetics or fabrics such as cotton are fed on if they are blended with wool. Larvae may use cotton fibers to make their pupal cases. Damage generally appears in hidden locations such as under collars or cuffs of clothing, in crevices of upholstered furniture, and in areas of carpeting covered by furniture.

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