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Clothes Moth Larvae Inside a Dresser

By Chris Williams on July 3, 2013.
Moth larvae in dresser

Question

Cleaning out my husband’s dresser yesterday, I found a wool sweater at the bottom of a drawer with a couple of holes, each about the size of a nickel. There were also some webs like spider webs on the sweater and some sort of web tubes. Is that damage from some kind of bug?

Answer

There’s more than one kind of insect that can damage clothes and other woolen fabrics. But what you describe sounds like damage from a clothes moth infestation, and probably the webbing clothes moth. The worm-like larvae feed on wool fibers and they spin silken webbing over the area where they are feeding. They also construct silken tunnels in the fabric, hiding in these for protection as they feed. They even camouflage the tunnels by cementing fecal pellets and bits of fiber to their surfaces.

You may have seen the webbing clothes moth adult and not even realized it. It’s about ½-inch long, and is a solid satiny, yellowish-gold color with a tuft of reddish-gold hairs on its head. Unlike other moths that are attracted to lights, the clothes moth avoids light. It’s a weak flier and tends to run on surfaces instead.

Woolens or blankets that have been stored away for a long time or those that were not cleaned before storage are the most susceptible to clothes moth infestation. Infestations usually start in hidden areas such as underneath collars or in folds, or on the bottom side of rugs. I bet your husband hasn’t worn that sweater in a long time and maybe hadn’t even opened that drawer in a while. The clothes moth infestation may have been going on for some time undisturbed.

Clean Woolens Before Storage

Preventing a clothes moth infestation means washing or dry cleaning and airing clothes regularly, especially before storing them. Commercial dry cleaning kills all stages of clothes moths. If you want to be sure that your sweaters and other woolens are not infested in the future, first clean them, then store them in tightly sealed plastic containers during the off season when they are not being worn. In your case, however, just cleaning the clothes may not be enough to stop the infestation because there may now be clothes moth larvae or eggs in other dresser drawers or even in a nearby closet.

I’d suggest that you have a pest control professional conduct an inspection and treat that dresser and any other susceptible areas. If you haven’t already done so, the technician will probably ask you to first remove all the clothes in the dresser, bagging any that appear to be infested (don’t throw them out until the technician has checked them and confirmed the pest ID), and cleaning the rest. Give Colonial a call; we can help.

Photo credit: kidmissile / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

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