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Adult clothes moths do not actually eat through fabric. It is the larval stage, tiny white caterpillars, that do damage to clothing. The adult moth is about 10mm in length and light brown to tan in colour.
EGG – These are small (0.5-1.0mm), of a white to cream translucent appearance, fragile and very difficult to observe. LARVAE – The clothes moth larvae is a cream coloured caterpillar with a brown head. PUPAE – Is the inactive stage of the insect where transformation from the larva to an adult (moth or beetle) occurs. The length of the pupal stage is about 8-12 days. ADULTS – The moths and beetles emerge from the pupal cases, mate and lay the majority of eggs (on a suitable feeding medium) within 10 days. The life span of the moths is usually less than 14 days and for the beetles in the range 20-40 days. Clothes moths avoid well lit areas and are found in dark areas, running over the surface of fabrics. Unlike other moths they are not attracted to light. The most common clothes moths found in Australia are the webbing clothes moth and the case-making clothes moth. Clothes moth larvae can feed on a wide range materials such as lint, paper, wool, feathers, upholstery, hair, fur, milk powders, bristles, leather, dried animal remains, dead insects and paper. Whilst the larvae cannot feed on materials which are purely synthetic, they can attack them if they are blended with natural fibres.
Items requiring storage for several months should be washed or dry-cleaned and tightly sealed in plastic bags. Any infested goods can be cleared of insects and eggs by washing in hot water (50-60°C), or dry-cleaning. This will remove most insects and eggs. Insects and eggs can be killed at temperatures above 60 ºC for 15 – 30 minutes. For items of clothing or rugs, this can be achieved by wrapping the item in a dark plastic bag and leaving it in direct sunshine. Use a thermometer inside the goods to check that the required temperature has been reached. It is the heat, rather than the sunlight that kills the insects. This treatment does not provide any durable protection against fresh insect attack, and it is important to seal the garment in plastic, and to search for, identify and remove sources of infestation from the area. Empty the storage area and treat shelves, floors and sides with an aerosol surface spray. Again beware of possible staining of goods. Direct use of surface sprays or other aerosol sprays onto clothing is not recommended because of the danger of discolouration or staining. Home remedies such as ‘mothballs’, camphor, cedarwood, lavender and other herbal agents vary greatly in their effectiveness, however all are improved when they are used in airtight containers. Suggested insecticides The following insecticidal formulations are provided as a guide for controlling infestations of textile pests.