Clothes Moths Can Damage Rugs

By Chris Williams on August 17, 2011.

After my mother died, I went to Atlanta and brought many of her things, including an oriental rug, to my home. When I was vacuuming the rug, I noticed that some of the yarns were falling out. When I turned it over, I found two whitish worms and a lot of webbed tube-like things stuck onto the bottom of the rug. What are these and are they eating the rug?

Sounds like you might be dealing with clothes moths, specifically the casemaking clothes moth. Clothes moths are not restricted to clothes. They can feed on and damage wool or wood blend rugs and carpets, among other things.

Casemaking clothes moth larvae spin silk webbing that they use to make cigar-shaped cases. The larvae live inside the cases and carry them with them as they feed. That’s probably why you didn’t see more larvae, because they were hidden in their cases. Full grown larvae are about 3/8 inch long, whitish caterpillars. The adult clothes moths have a 1/2 inch wingspan and are yellowish-brown with three dark spots on their front wings. Unlike most moths, the clothes moth avoids light and it tends to run and hop, rather than fly.

The casemaking clothes moth is more common in the southern U.S., so it’s likely that the moths were already in the rug when you removed it. The webbing clothes moth is more common in our area. It has similar habits to the casemaking clothes moth, looks similar, and does the same kind of damage. Webbing clothes moth larvae, however, do not build cases but instead spin silk webbing over the surface.

clothing-mothCasemaking clothes moth larvae feed by grazing on the rug’s fibers, often leaving bare or smooth spots but seldom leaving actual holes. Damage to rugs is often more severe in hidden areas covered by furniture. Damage may not be detected until it is well advanced because the larvae feed below the surface of the pile and their webbing holds the pile together. Damage may not even be noticed until the rug is cleaned and the pile then separates from the backing.

There is a good chance that clothes moths are elsewhere besides in the rug. You or a pest control professional should inspect closets, furniture, storage trunks and other sites that may contain wool or wool blends, but check also fur, feathers, felt, or hair items. Clothes moth eggs are probably in floor cracks and crevices beneath the rug as well, so the entire rug area should be treated by a professional.

If the rug is too heavily damaged, disposal might be your best option. If the rug is salvageable, most rugs can be professionally cleaned or treated with insecticides to kill the moth larvae. If there’s a rug pad, it should be discarded or treated as well. Call Colonial. We can help you inspect for clothes moths elsewhere in your home and can treat affected areas. Our pest control technicians can also advise you on how to prevent clothes moths in the future.

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