Moths: Everything you wish to know about these unwanted visitors
If you are planning to make various rearrangements in your wardrobes for next season, it is good to know a few things that will keep your clothes in perfect condition. The main problem that faces our clothes in the closet is moths that “lick” and fill them with holes.
On the other side of your house, you open the cupboard and -scratch on your face- a little butterfly flutters. You wonder if it was a simple fly that was trapped; you grab the bag of rice, open it, and oh, horror, terror, disgust: it is full of small caterpillars! Composure… take deep breaths. You will deal with everything. Food moths are very unwelcome visitors, but the destruction of the world did not come yet!
What are “moths” in simple words?
Moths are nocturnal insects, without bright colors, that live in our house and prefer dark and quiet corners. More precisely, they hide behind furniture, as well as in cracks in walls or floors. But the place they love most is our closets, and that’s because there are the clothes where they find a lot of food and warmth to lay their eggs; the female moth lays about 100-150 eggs, which are invisible due to their small size, less than 1mm. These eggs are placed on the clothes, and the larvae are fed by the material on which they have been deposited until they change stage.
Another type of moth is food moths. These do not represent a specific category of these insects. The term is used to describe many different types of moths that parasitize, contaminate, and spoil food. They can be easily transferred from apartment to apartment, or they can come as a “gift” from packages we bought in supermarkets, that is, that came from an industrial food warehouse.
What do moths eat?
Moths are fed by materials that contain fiber of animal origin, such as fur, feathers, silk, leather, and wool. They can eat any fabric, such as cashmere, mohair, and felt, even synthetics, with a preference for those with sweat or oil stains. If there are pets in the house, you are more likely to these insects due to the grease they leave on the carpets when rubbed on them, in combination with the poor cleaning of the carpet.
How do moths eat our clothes?
It is not really the “moth” as an insect that eats our clothes, but its larvae, i.e., the white tiny caterpillars in which its eggs are transformed before they become insects. And the most impressive thing is that a moth can stay in the larval stage from one month to two years. The larvae are greedy; that is why the damage they cause to your clothes is so significant.
Which types of clothes do they ruin?
Moths are not so eclectic in their choices. Thus, they prefer mostly woolen clothes to be fed, but they do not remain indifferent in front of a silk dress or a feather quilt. They generally eat any fabric that contains fiber of animal origin. Moths also like cotton, so do not forget to protect your summer clothes too.
Moth caterpillars can also eat clean clothes, but they have a particular preference for dirt, even those that have greasy stains. Even a moth found in a closet will lay many eggs, so the resulting caterpillars will spread to the closet clothes that will gather their taste interest.
How do moths damage your food?
The larvae eat the food they have infected and constantly weave a silk cocoon, forming a kind of nest. So, when we open a bag that has been infested with moths, we see the tissue has clotted, the food, e.g., flour or semolina and has stuck to the walls of the package.
The larvae (i.e., the tiny caterpillars that later become butterflies) eat almost all the dry food that we keep in our cupboards; flour, semolina, cereals, sugar, cocoa, nuts, dried fruits, bread, toast, cookies, spices, and everything else you can think of. Each type of moth has its own preferences, but once a bag is knocked in the cupboard, everything is in danger of becoming infected, regardless of what each one contains.
How to get rid of moths?
Steps to follow if you find moths in your wardrobe
All you have to do is put whole pieces of cloves between your clothes, in your pockets, and wherever else you can. It is one of the most effective anti-moth spices and guarantees that your clothes will stay as they are and will not be damaged as long as they are stored. Try it!
If you face a more extensive problem, then you should contact a disinfestation workshop, which operates in two levels described below.
- Chemical moth control in wardrobes; take all the clothes out of the closet and and put them in giant bags of 1 to 1.5 cubic meters. Then add phosphine in each bag, and leave them closed for 4-5 days. At the same time, spray your wardrobes with a cold nebulizer, once or twice.
- Control by biological method; in a giant bag, in which you have placed the clothes, introduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen. Leave the disinfestation bag closed for 10-20 days, depending on the ambient temperature.
Steps to follow if you find food moths
Once the evil has been done, you have to act immediately. Food moths should be controlled at all stages of their development. Each butterfly (flying moth) lays more than 100 eggs in different places, from which, in about a week, new larvae will emerge. Therefore:
- From the moment you will find moths in your food, you should empty the cupboard of all the packages (open and closed), and carefully inspect all of them for signs of larval infestation. It goes without saying that you throw in a garbage bag (which you will get rid of immediately after the procedure) any contaminated food packaging, as it is not stored. I would also suggest throwing away foods that, while seeming uninfected, are not airtight, as they may have caught eggs. You should only keep closed glass jars, well-secured tapers and airtight packages that have not been opened and clean them very thoroughly all around.
- Experts say that surfaces inside the cabinet (not to mention all the cabinets near the infected one), should be treated with specialized insecticides. However, because they are particularly harmful to health, they should never come in contact with your food. It is suggested to wash the surfaces very well, with common disinfectant liquid or spray the surfaces, before putting clean closed packages back in.
- Put self-adhesive moth traps inside food cabinets (e.g. at the back of the door). They detect moths, attract males due to a substance they contain and they stick to the paper strip. It is not a solution that fight food moth, but even if you no longer see butterflies, you can detect them if they still exist.
How to prevent moths in the first place?
How to prevent moths from “piercing’ your clothes, woolen rugs, blankets, and towels? There are some steps you can follow:
- Moths love humidity and darkness, and hate the sun, as well as low temperatures, after being fertilized in the heat. So make sure to ventilate our closets and storage spaces often, or to use a dehumidifier. You can also insulate the surfaces in your drawers and closets with greaseproof paper or aluminum foil. Clothes and carpets must be clean and completely dry before you “store” them.
- Prefer wooden to plastic hangers, as they repel moths and are the best choice for hanging clothes and storing them. Some more sensitive clothes are stored in airtight packages. It is also good to dust and clean often the surfaces in your closet.
- Before closing the packages and storage areas for a long time, place repellents for complete protection. Naphthalene and camphor are among the most effective remedies, but there are also several other natural ways.
There are antirust chemicals, such as naphthalene, camphor, etc., and natural antirusts, such as lavender, cedar, eucalyptus, sandalwood, etc. The difference is that the chemical is more active and kills the moths (scoricide), while the natural ones have a milder action and are mainly used to remove the moths from the closets (mosquito repellents).
Any chemical used in an incorrect way can pose risks to our health. Misure of mainly chemical anticorrosive can cause skin, eye, and airway irritation. That’s why it is essential, if you use chemicals, to follow the instructions for use in their label strictly.
In addition, it is good to ventilate the clothes (one day) in which we had used antirust and ideally to wash them before putting them on so that the smell goes away. If you are allergic to any substances contained in an antirust product, you should not use it. Chemical anticorrosives in the form of a ball should be kept away from children because there is a risk that they may eat them.
As we said above, you will find many and drastic ways to remove these threatening insects from your clothes in the trade. But if you do not like their scent and have a more ecological philosophy, there are also natural ways. Lavender, thyme, rosemary, sandalwood, etc. You can put a few drops of their essential oils on a cotton ball and place them in different places in the closet. As wonderful as their scents are for you, they suck for the moths.
Collect fresh or dried herbs (e.g., lavender, rosemary) and close them in small bags along with cinnamon sticks or cloves. Then, drip 2-3 drops of your favorite oil on their fabric and hang them in the closets.
Tip! Because oils evaporate, it is good to renew them every week. Ideal for closets is basil, cedar, mint, rosemary, thyme, lavender, eucalyptus, lemongrass, and juniper (wild cypress), which have an action against moths and at the same time flavor. Each drop is concentrated and corresponds to a large number of flowers and leaves of the respective herb. Therefore, the recommended dosages are more than sufficient.
Put some fragrant cedar peels in a bag and hang them between your clothes to remove the moths.
We can find alternative mosquito repellents in our kitchens, such as bay leaves, cloves, and lemon peels, which we can combine into a mixture.
Wrap a few pieces or a bar of soap in a bit of gauze, which gives a beautiful aroma and feeling of freshness while repelling the moth.
Whichever repellent we choose, we should ventilate the clothes or carpets we had stored before using them again.
What are you doing to prevent food moths appearing again?
Prevention is the best weapon against uninvited guests, especially during the summer months when -due to temperature- the risk increases significantly.
- Never buy huge quantities of dry foods, such as floor, sugar, cereals, etc. There is no reason to “save” them for long period of time, since you can always replace them. Buy relatively small quantities, especially spices, and make sure you consume them within a few weeks.
- Do not buy in bulk materials, suck as rice, legumes, etc. Prefer packaged foods -preferably airtight- of a brand and origin that you trust.
- Store dry food (flour, sugar, cocoa, etc.) in glass containers with tight lids, while dried fruits and nuts, put them in the refrigerator.
- Every now and then, clean cupboards and drawers with dry food, because leftovers can always fall here and there, by opening and closing the jars.
To sum up, it is emphasized that moths rarely appear in a clean and humid environment. Follow the instructions described above, and in combination with indicated hygienic conditions, you will have absolutely no problem with infection.