Household moth infestation

Asked October 5, 2018, 1:10 PM EDT

I have an ongoing moth infestation that I cannot get on top of. I thought these were moths that came in bird seed but now I'm not so sure. They have damaged all my wool rugs including destroying some very expensive Native American rugs and a bison robe and taxidermied bison head. These were hanging on walls so the damage wasn't noticed until it was pretty bad. I have put out moth traps and caught hundreds but more just come. I don't know how to get rid of them. They are in every room of my large house and eat clothes too. They are webbing moths .I have two cats and don't want to use anything that would harm them. I have a collection of Indian rugs that I'm afraid to even have in the house. I have put them in bags in the freezer hoping to kill any residual larvae. What can I do to make the house safe again?

Denver County Colorado

3 Responses

To find the most appropriate individual to answer your question, what county in Colorado do you reside? Thanks! Ruth

Denver County

I can certainly appreciate your distress in finding moth holes in your prized rugs and collectibles.

This question was asked by someone else a couple of months ago and thoroughly answered. Rather than paraphrase the answer I am going to cut and paste it here for you. Please let us know if you have any more questions.

This is looks like webbing clothes moth. This moth, and the other clothes moth, casemaking clothes moth, feed on materials of animal origin - wool, feathers, hair, feathers. Fabrics of plant origin (e.g., cotton) or synthetic fibers will not be eaten unless they are seriously soiled with blood or other other animal fluids. So this is consistent with what you are seeing.

To control this insect you should find all susceptible materials and treat them for clothes moths at the same time. Concurrently you should identify any non-clothing/fabric sources of breeding material and eliminate them as well. Perhaps the most common such "other" source of breeding material would be pet hair that has collected in corners, grates, etc. Get all of those vacummed and cleaned out.

Fabric/rugs/clothing can be treated to kill clothes moths in many ways. One thing that can be done now is to hang the items outdoors for a few days and brush/beat the items. Clothes moth larvae dislike light and will usually drop from the item on their own. By brushing/beating the clothing that may further dislodge them. This treatment alone may eliminate the insects present in the susceptible items.

Items can also be disinfested by heat, cold, or use of certain insecticides. Heating to 120F and holding it for a half hour or so should kill all stages in the item. Similarly you can put it in a freezer that gets below 18F and hold them there for a week or so; that will kill them.

Moth crystals that contain paradichlorobenze (PBD) can also kill clothes moths. (Napthalene moth balls are less effective at killing the insects, but can be used as repellents to deter new infestations.) Moth crystals volatilize into gas at temperatures above about 50F and the gas is heavier than air. If they are used the items in question should be placed in a container of some sort (e.g., a clean garbage can) with the items loosely arranged on the bottom and the moth crystals placed above them. Do not put the moth crystals directly on the clothing but instead on a newspaper or something else. Seal the container and remove the items after a few days - probably at least a week. That should kill everything in the container.

Once everything has been disinfested you will want to prevent reinfestation. That would occur from moths that are still present in the house, moths that came from caterpillars that earlier fed on the fabric but have since moved elsewhere. You do not want to reexpose the susceptible materials until all the adult moths have died out and no new larvae are present, because you eliminated all their food. This may take a couple of weeks.

There are traps that can be useful for this situation. They are called pheromone traps and I have seen some sold in hardware stores that are used to track clothes moths. They contain a sex attractant that captures male moths and the value of these is that they can help track the numbers of moths present. If numbers of moths being captured go down with time, you are on the right path. If you stop getting any more moths in the trap you can feel pretty good that the situation has passed. And if you use a few traps you can often pinpoint sites in the building where the moths are originating; where the food sources of the larvae are.

Until all the residual moths have died out keep the now disinfested items stored in a tight, insect-proof container or outside the home. Once the moths remaining in the home have all died out you can safely return the items to the home and the situation should end.

Good luck!