It’s cold out, so many people are getting out blankets and coats. Unfortunately, people aren’t the only ones who like textiles. There are several insects that eat fabrics. Here’s some information about fabric eating insects so you know what to look out for and how to protect your fabrics from pest damage.
Clothes moth larvae tend to feed on natural materials like cotton, wool, or leather. They will eat holes through these materials and leave them irreparably damaged. Only the larvae eat fabric, not the adult moths, but if you see a moth, it may mean that larvae are close by.
The larvae are small, sometimes too small to see, depending on the type. One variety of clothes moths, the case-making clothes moth, drags a “case” along to protect themselves, and sometimes you can see them attached to walls or across floors. The adult moths are small, about 1 cm, and light brown. Unlike other moths, clothes moths are not attracted to light and prefer dark spaces.
Another critter to watch out for is the carpet beetle. Their larvae is also the culprit who causes damage, not the adult. They also feast on natural fibers like cotton, wool, silk, fur, feathers, etc. They also will eat blends of both natural and synthetic fibers.
The adult beetle is 4 millimeters long, round, dark grey with white bands across its body. The adults are attracted to light. The larvae are also around 4 millimeters long, covered in hair with denser bristles at its rear. The larvae of the carpet beetles prefer the dark, though, and can be found hiding in closets or even in furniture.
The larvae shed their skins as they develop, so they leave behind empty, hairy skins. Finding these skins is one sign of an infestation. Believe it or not, carpet beetles are often brought inside with flowers, as the adult beetles are pollen feeders.
A third fabric-eating insect to be wary of is silverfish. They eat materials that are high in protein, sugar, or starch, which can mean they eat carbohydrate-rich foods, paper, or fabric. They can damage clothing, carpet, artwork, drapery, etc. if it contains natural fibers.
They are nocturnal, which also means they’re out at night and prefer dark spaces like basements or attics. Silverfish are also drawn to moisture.
The fully grown silverfish is teardrop shaped and about 1 centimeter long, with three tail filaments. The most common coloring of silverfish is shiny, blue-silver.
Preventing and Treating an Infestation
To control possible infestation and prevent any damage to your possessions, be sure to check areas that these pests would frequent. Check wool blend carpets, under furniture, carpeted closets, attic spaces, or other areas where fabrics are stored. Vacuum these areas regularly. Also use camphor, mothballs, or pest strips to deter pests from invading the areas.
If you are storing blankets and clothing during warmer months, place them in sealed plastic bags. Double up on protection and place the bags inside plastic totes or trunks. Try not to store them in places where insects can enter more easily, like an attic or garage. Instead, store sealed items under your bed or in a closet.
Should you find moths or another fabric-eating insect/larvae, make sure you change out the plastic storage bags that you keep the items in. Wash all curtains, fabrics, linens, clothes, etc., in the surrounding area. Clean and wipe out the area, especially in the corners and cracks, which are perfect places for eggs to be hiding.
If you think you have a fabric-eating insect infestation, consult a professional to create a plan to get rid of the harmful pests.