They eat our clothes, our carpets, and our food - and now there’s more of them than ever! The UK is in the middle of a clothes moth invasion, with their numbers tripling in the last five years. Now is the time to fight back against this winged menace!
Bug expert Professor James Logan is here with his must-know advice for defending against the swarm.
MOTHS TO LOOK OUT FOR
There are more than 2500 species of moth in the UK, but only a slim percentage will dine on your clothing and carpets. The vast majority of the larger moths you see in your home are harmless and nothing to be concerned about. Clothes moths are really small - roughly 5-7mm in length - however not all tiny moths are clothes moths.
These are the types of moth to look out for that could damage your clothes:
COMMON CLOTHES MOTHS: These are very small, 6-8mm in length, with straw coloured wings. These moths are small – only 5–8 mm long – and scuttle around, only flying when it’s warm. They shun light and hide in dark areas, laying batches of eggs on wool, fur, feathers and skins. They can reach very high numbers where a large infestation is present.
CASE BEARING CLOTHES MOTH: Very small, 6-8mm in length, with buff coloured wings and a noticeable golden sheen with a couple of black dots. The most notable characteristic is seen in the larvae, which live within a 'case' made of the fibres that it has been feeding on - this provides a great disguise. Again, they can reach very high numbers.
WHITE SHOULDERED HOUSE MOTH: A small mottled grey moth, 8-10mm in length, with a pronounced white/cream collar around the 'shoulder'. This species prefers furs and feathers and does not usually cause major infestations.
BROWN HOUSE MOTH: A small mottled-brown moth, 8-10mm in length, found in almost all homes from time to time where larvae feed on general organic waste or debris. It does not usually cause major infestations but will feed on stored woollens.
PROFESSOR JAMES SAYS: “We should be most concerned about the common clothes moth - these are attracted to all sorts of clothing and upholstery materials, and most likely to infest our homes.”
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR CLOTHES
- SHAKE CLOTHES: regular disturbance and checking your clothes for the critters
- WASH CLOTHES OFTEN: moths love to feast on human sweat and food particles. Do not put any clothes back in your newly cleaned wardrobe that are dirty - especially knitwear.
- HOOVER WEEKLY: Keeping your room dust-free is key to deterring the pesky critters. Moths also eat carpet and upholstery made of woollen fibres, so regular hoovering and the moving of furniture is essential to keeping them away.
- ANTI-MOTH PAPER: Line drawers with anti-moth paper
- CEDARWOOD BLOCKS AND HANGERS: Cedarwood is a natural deterrent for moths. You can either hang cedarwood blocks in your wardrobe, or go one step further and invest in clothes hangers made of cedarwood for extra protection.
- GARMENT BAGS: Hang knitwear and silks in garment bags to stop the critters from getting to your prized possessions.
- VACUUM BAG WINTER CLOTHES IN SUMMER: Vacuum-seal clothing you’re not using during the warmer months
- DEEP CLEAN SECOND-HAND CLOTHES: Wash or dry clean vintage and op-shop clothes before wearing them. A second-hand jumper from the charity shop may harbour eggs or small larvae of clothes moths, so treating this before introducing it to your wardrobe is good practice.
- SET TRAPS: pheromone traps work by using female moth sex pheromones to attract the males - they get stuck on a sticky pad, which ideally takes them out before they can mate with a female. This is a very effective long-term strategy that doesn't use insecticides.
PROFESSOR JAMES SAYS: “Regular hoovering and cleaning is the best method of prevention, but variety is key. Quite often you only notice clothes moths when it’s too late, so using a mixture of preventative methods is the best way to keep your home moth-free. However, whether prevention methods have a total effect is unlikely - but everything helps.”
WHAT TO DO IF YOU'VE ALREADY GOT MOTHS
- FREEZE CLOTHES: Bagging up affected clothes and putting them in the freezer for a few days will kill the eggs and larvae.
- WASH CLOTHES AT A HIGH TEMPERATURE: Hot wash is better for killing off the creatures - but obviously follow the garment instructions to ensure your favourite woollens do not shrink.
- DISCARD PARTICULARLY INFESTED GARMENTS: If your favourite cashmere sweater is riddled with moth holes and crawling with larvae, best to throw it away. Some items are simply beyond cleaning or repair and keeping them may lead to further outbreaks.
WHAT IF NOTHING IS WORKING?
- FUMIGATION: Call in an expert to properly fumigate the home and remove the moths along with their eggs and larvae
PROFESSOR JAMES SAYS: “If these moths and larvae simply won’t go away, bring in a pest controller. Your home is a complicated place, there are a lot of hidey places and nooks and crannies… Even if you spray every room the best you can, if you have a serious infestation the moths will probably keep breeding. These days, some pest controllers can come in and freeze everything in your house - it really will kill everything.”