How to Identify Insects That Damage Fabrics

By Chris Williams on September 15, 2015.

Clothes Moths

CLOTHES MOTH ID – There are two main clothes moth pests, the webbing clothes moth and the casemaking clothes moth. The adult moths are small (about ½ inch long), yellowish-brown or golden, and their wings are fringed with long hairs. They are often confused with stored food moths, but unlike food moths, clothes moths are not attracted to light. The whitish clothes moth larvae are rarely seen since they hide under silk webbing or in silken tunnels or cases on the fabric.

CLOTHES MOTH DAMAGE – Surface grazing of the larvae leaves jagged-edged irregular furrows, or holes in the fabric if the infestation is severe. Damage often appears in hidden areas of the fabric such as under collars or in folds. The presence of silk webbing on the fabric is the key characteristic of clothes moths.


Carpet Beetles

CARPET BEETLE ID – There are a number of small beetles in the family Dermestidae that feed on fabrics: varied carpet beetle, furniture carpet beetle, and common carpet beetle. All are very tiny (1/16 to 1/8 inch) and broadly oval in shape. Under magnification, they can be seen to be calico-colored with combinations of brown, white, black, reddish-orange, or yellow markings. The black carpet beetle is another slightly larger oval beetle without calico markings. The carpet beetle larvae are light brown, very hairy, quite active, and are responsible for all of the feeding damage.

CARPET BEETLE DAMAGE – The larvae eat the nap from the surface of the fabric, leaving just basal threads. They will also eat holes through fabric, and in a large infestation, feeding holes may run together to leave a large damaged area. The larvae also clip off the hairs from furs at the base, leaving a bald spot. The presence of yellow-brown shed skins left by the larvae when they molt is the key characteristic of carpet beetles.



SILVERFISH IDSilverfish are silvery or gray and somewhat carrot-shaped with 3 long tails at the rear end. Size is ¾ inch, without tails. Young silverfish are miniature versions of the adult. Silverfish move quickly and feed on a variety of things, especially starchy items. Silverfish are best known for damaging papers but will also feed on fabrics, especially those that are starched or stained with food or body fluids.

SILVERFISH DAMAGE – Silverfish leave yellow stains on the fabric, as well as body scales and black, pepper-like feces. Silverfish damage to fabrics (and papers) is more often from staining rather than actual feeding. Yellow stains on fabric are a key characteristic.



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