Do moths bite? As the warm summer evenings draw in, we’re expecting to see our favorite insects and wildlife. The most noticeable of these is often the common moth. They’re everywhere and always a welcome sight for gardeners trying to create a habitat that supports other fauna.
What are Moths?
But what do moths look like? And if you ask someone what they know about moths, I’m sure many would say ‘moths eat clothes! If you’d asked me that before watching Buglife, I’d have probably answered this too without much thought or research behind my answer. This may be because it’s true- some species of clothes moths do feed on clothing fibers making their caterpillar’s ideal culprits behind holes in your favorite wool jumpers.
Many people living in cities would be forgiven for thinking that the only moths they see are clothes moths, as these species have adapted to life around us and can often be found feeding on our leftovers. There are over 2500 species of moth in the US alone, but many other species spend their time away from human habitats, and visitors to the countryside will hopefully see a much more diverse range of species than those who never leave town!
Many species feed exclusively on plants or prey on small invertebrates such as slugs, snails, and insect eggs. These types of moths benefit gardeners by reducing the number of pests around their plants- it’s always better to need fewer pesticides by encouraging wildlife that can naturally keep slug numbers low.
Moth caterpillars are often host-specific- meaning they will only feed on one type of plant, so gardeners should encourage a range of plants to help support different species in the area. Once moths have gone through their lifecycle and become adults, they need to reproduce to have more moths around next year, so they need to find a suitable mate! This means that males will often patrol patches of land or gardens looking for a female mate. Gardeners could do the same by trapping with a mercury vapor lamp which can attract up to 60 species from dusk onwards!
Do Moths Bite?
Moths do not bite. They do damage to fabrics and food items with their mouthparts. The feeding habits of moths vary significantly among species. Most moth adults do not eat at all, and some do not even have mouthparts, while others only feed on liquids such as nectar or fruit juices. However, many species do eat fabric and other organic materials.
One group of moths is called the ‘clothes’ moths, whose larvae feed on natural fibers including wool and silk and can do considerable damage to clothing and furniture in some cases. These include the so-called webbing clothes moth Tineola bisselliella, the case-making clothes moth Tinea pellionella, the tapestry or carpet moth Trichophaga tapetzella, the brown house moth Hofmannophila pseudospretella, and others. Some of these moths do cause severe damage to fabric items but do not bite.
Other moths have biting mouthparts and are more likely to be seen as an annoyance around food items, especially ripe fruits. Many species of fruit or carrion-feeding moths do not do any visible damage to plants, trees, or even fruits, but their larvae do cause some damage underground by tunneling through roots of plants which can lead to wilt disease. For example, the grape berry moth Paralipsa gularis does considerable damage in vineyards by ovipositing into grape berries at night.
Other common food-feeding moths do cause considerable damage to stored foods of all kinds, especially cereal products in the grain moth, Oryzaephilus surinamensis. Other species include the Mediterranean flour moth Ephestia kuehniella, Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella, and the maize weevil Sitophilus zeamais. Many more infest a wide range of dried fruits, seeds, spices, chocolate products, and even drugs such as opium.
Some predatory insects also have biting mouthparts though they are aimed at sucking fluids or plant juices rather than chewing solid items, which is how most moths feed. These insects include leafhoppers, planthoppers, froghoppers or spittlebugs, cicadas, or other Auchenorrhyncha do have predators of other insects. However, these do not attack humans – except perhaps if you are a tiny insect yourself!
Some moths do bite, but they do not do it on purpose. Male moths do have hair-like structures around the mouthparts used for sensing female sex pheromones to find a mate. These hairs can damage human skin, especially when handled roughly, so moth specimens may need to be carefully prepared so this does not happen. Also, some people have allergies to moth saliva and body parts that cause itching, burning sensation, or rashes, though many people report that moths do not bite. That is not their intention, though they do considerable damage to trees, plants, and many other items around the home. As for whether do moths eat or bite, certain species do one or both, so it does depend on the specific type of moth you are looking at or perhaps asking about!
How to get rid of Moths?
To get rid of clothes moths, you need to start by making your house inhospitable for them. First of all, remove any potential sources of nourishment within your home; anything made of fabric must be put into tightly sealed plastic bags. If you have carpets, upholstery, or other fabric-based floor coverings, vacuum them thoroughly and then throw out the bag immediately so that the larvae cannot crawl back out. If the infestation is widespread, consider replacing these items with hard-surfaced ones like tile or concrete. Anything else made of wool, fur, feathers, or bristles should be closely inspected and discarded if there are holes in it; this will usually solve your problem right away.
After removing their food source from your home environment, make sure to get rid of any moth pupae that may still be present. Vacuum all carpeting and upholstery very thoroughly to pick up any remnants still living within their protective shells. Then seal the vacuum’s contents in a plastic bag and throw it away. All fabric items that can be laundered should be dry cleaned or washed in the hottest water possible if they are not too delicate to withstand this process without becoming damaged. Clothing can also be put through several hot launderings with detergent and bleach added to the wash water.
To prevent a future infestation of moth larvae, consider storing food in plastic containers instead of paper bags whenever possible. Also, check all stored clothing for holes or damage before putting them back into storage; dispose of anything that is no longer wearable as soon as you notice any rips or tears. With these simple preventive methods, you will have very little problem keeping your home clothes moth-free.
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