Clothes Moths or Pantry Moths?

Q. I’ve been seeing these small moths flying around inside at night. I see them mostly around a table lamp and the television. Where are they coming from? Could they be clothes moths?

A. They could be, but it’s not very likely because you report that they seem to be attracted to lights. Clothes moths avoid light. When many small moths are found inside a home, the two main culprits are clothes moths or Indian meal moths. The Indian meal moth is by far the most common moth that feeds on stored foods in homes. Of course, there are other less common small grain moths that could also be the problem.

You don’t describe the moths, but that’s another clue. Indian meal moths are about 3/4-inch long with front wings that are grayish near the head but copper colored on the back half (on older moths, these colors can be rubbed off). Clothes moths are smaller than Indian meal moths, less than 1/2-inch long, and are either solid yellowish-gold or yellowish-brown. They have narrow wings fringed with long hairs. You can find pictures of both moths in our Pest Library.

If they’re clothes moths, you should be able to find evidence of damage to fabrics, especially woolens. Clothes moths don’t just infest clothes however. They can be feeding on stored blankets, wool carpets, stuffed animal heads, even piano felt! The larvae leave holes and often webbing on the items they are feeding on. The adult clothes moths are usually found in dark, undisturbed areas like the back of closets, in drawers, or in cardboard boxes of stored items. This moth is a weak flier and tends to run on surfaces instead.

If they’re Indian meal moths, you might be able to find infested foods on kitchen shelves or in the pantry. Indian meal moth larvae feed on many different stored foods including dry pet food. The whitish, wormlike larvae leave shed skins and silk webbing on the food surface. When mature, they often leave the food material and crawl upwards to spin a cocoon and pupate. The adult Indian meal moths are attracted to light and fly in a slow zigzag manner. They rest during the day in dark areas.

Both the clothes moth and the Indian meal moth can infest many different items and can be found in many different locations within a home. Trying to figure out where to check can be overwhelming. Call Colonial; we can help. Our pest control experts can identify the moths and know where to look to find the source of the infestation. 

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