As winter blossoms into spring, you’ll begin to reacquaint yourself with lighter clothes you put away months ago. However, opening the wardrobe doors may reveal more than just the garments you put away last year. It’s possible that your hangers supplied ready meals to a host of hungry clothes moths.
The Victorians knew all about avoiding clothes moths but the rise of man-made fibres saw their numbers steadily decline in the last century. That trend is reversing and moths are again becoming a common pest.
The damage is done by the moth larvae, which feed on clothes and carpets. By the time you spot the golden flutter of the adult moth, it’s too late; they’ve feasted on your fabrics.
Here are our tips for avoiding clothes moths.
1. Know the signs. Small moths are found in every home but not all are clothes moths. If you’re on the lookout for the pests, keep your eyes open for tiny larvae, the moth caterpillars which look like small maggots. Also watch for small silken tubes or cases and the silk cocoons where they turn into moths.
2. Regularly freshen up areas where clothes are stored. Clothes moths prefer dark, undisturbed places. Infrequently opened wardrobes, suitcases of old clothes in the loft and rarely cleaned fabric on furniture are their favourite haunts. Store fabrics in plastic bags and give the darkest corners an occasional clean to reduce the risk of Moth Infestation.
3. Keep fabrics clean, especially if they are to be stored. Moths prefer to feed on dirty textiles, so washing clothing and other fabrics before putting them into store will help keep the pests away.
4. Vacuum regularly. Carpets are particular favourites for clothes moths, especially handmade rugs. The caterpillars live underneath, where it’s dark, and do their damage unseen. They can also live under skirting boards, where household debris gathers and provides plenty to eat.
5. Use repellents. Moth balls, popular with past generations, are reappearing in homes across London and the country. Moth repellent fabric protector sprays are also available, which are applied directly to textiles, rendering them unpleasant to pests.
6. Trap the moths. If you have a clothes moth problem, a trap will help you to collect the adults and reduce the chance of them breeding. These are typically baited with pheromones which attract the moths to sticky surfaces, where they become trapped.
Take care to buy the right type of trap, as not all are designed for indoor, domestic use. Moth enthusiasts and gardeners also trap the insects and the devices they use are different.
7. Call in a pest control professional. If you have a serious problem with clothes moths, or they keep coming back, you may need the assistance of a pest controller. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about – the Westminster headquarters of Defra were closed for a day last year, to deal with an infestation of the common clothes moth.
For reasons no one quite understands, moths are becoming a more common problem in London. By taking simple steps to avoid clothes moths, you can also escape the frustration of damaged clothes and soft furnishings.