How To Get Rid Of Moth Larvae

How To Get Rid Of Moth Larvae

Moth Larvae are the actual pest that causes the damage to clothing and precious home textiles, not the adult Clothes Moths, Carpet Moths or Pantry Moths you can see flying around in season. How to get rid of clothes moth larvae involves far more intensive investigation, cleaning and treatment than many people realize. Whilst Clothes Moth Pheromone Traps are a key part of the solution in reducing the population of Clothes Moths in the home, once clothing is damaged, that is the key sign that we need to get to work to protect the investment we have made in wool, cashmere and silk fabrics and other animal-based fiber textiles in the home.

Pantry Moth Larvae can be troublesome in the kitchen because they infest dried foodstuffs (rice, flour, cereals, grains, pasta, birdseed, pet food etc) with their feces, webbing and discarded cocoons.

cashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvae another cashmere wool with holes caused by moth larvae 2

Understanding the Life Cycle and the Role of the Moth Larva

First, a quick guide to where larvae fit into the Clothes Moth life cycle. Adult Clothes Moths do not feed - they only live for about one month and do not even have mouthparts and a digestive system. Their sole purpose at that stage is to breed and lay up to 200 eggs in their short life as an adult. After a week or two those eggs will hatch into Clothes Moth Larvae.

It is the Clothes Moth larvae that does the damage! Clothes Moth Larvae feed on a protein (keratin) that is found in animal-based fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk, fur, soft leather and feathers. They will feed for a month or two and this is the precise cause of damage to your clothes, rugs, carpets and other home textiles. It is very unlikely that they will eat plant based fabrics such as cotton unless they are stored heavily soiled. The adult Moths can identify the keratin in animal-based fibers and will look for that food source and, ideally, undisturbed places (closets, drawers, under and behind furniture, attics and spare rooms) where they lay their eggs. Find out more why moths eat clothes on our blog.

Some customers ask ‘what do Moth eggs look like’ - they are slightly oval, almost invisible when buried in clothing and food containers (about 1/16th of an inch long) and a creamy color. You can hardly see Moth eggs on clothes.

Pantry Moth Larvae have a similar life cycle but the adult Moths look for dried foods to lay their eggs.

A really important consideration is that larvae will be doing their damage out of season - if you live in a region that has cold winters, you may feel safe in not seeing Clothes Moths or Pantry Moths flying around, but the larvae can live for up to two years before they pupate in warmer weather. That means two years of potential damage to your clothes, carpets or food depending on which species you have (note that Clothes Moths and Carpet Moths are the same species).

However, it can be an all-year-round issue in centrally heated homes and warmer climates.

How to Identify Moth Larvae / What do Moth Larvae Look Like

A moth larva is relatively easy to spot in food because they are in a contained space and emptying the bag or container to check carefully will tell you quickly if you have an issue - this may well be the reason you are reading this Blog.

For Clothes Moth Larvae, it is more likely that you will find damage to your clothing or carpets that suggest you have an infestation. It may be that you have reached for that cashmere sweater that has been in your closet unworn through the summer months and discovered that it has damage in the form of little holes. It may be a carpet that you’ve seen damaged under the couch, which rarely sees the vacuum cleaner and is never walked on. Either way, you may have had or still have an infestation and the larvae are an issue.

Other tell-tale signs of Moth Larvae in clothing or carpets are silky webbing spun by the Moth Larvae, cases after pupation and the adult Moth has flown in search of a mate to perpetuate the life cycle, or partly eaten fibers.

Both Clothes and Pantry Moth Larvae are a quarter to half inch in length, usually with a brown head and cream colored body.

Many of our customers ask ‘what does Moth Larvae look like?’ - these pictures should identify the destructive pest you are looking for:

Clothes Moth Larva Pantry Moth larva

The most common Moth species you may come across are:

If you have seen the adult Moths, you will be more easily able to identify whether you are dealing with Clothes or Pantry Moths using our Moth identification articles above. This is a really important first step because Moth Traps for clothes and Pantry Moth Traps use different pheromones, and both the location and process for dealing with them differs.

Either way, even if you cannot see a larva, we strongly recommend that you act to avoid further infestation and damage. You may have Moth eggs that you cannot easily see (they are tiny, almost microscopic) and are a ‘ticking bomb’ for further Moth damage. Because the larvae are quite small, they may not be easy to see in an over-crowded closet or in an attic for example.

How to Get Rid of Clothes Moth Larvae / Case-Bearing Moth Larvae and How to Kill Moth Eggs

Sorting through light summer clothes before packing away

Assuming you have Clothes Moth Traps in place, the next stage is to thoroughly investigate the potential places the infestation has reached. Let’s assume you have found likely Moth damage in your closet of out-of-season winter clothes in your spare room and you are about to make your seasonal closet changeover, packing away those light summer clothes and getting out your winter woolens.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

  1. Take out all the clothing from the closet where you suspect a moth infestation
  2. Carefully check all the clothes for signs of damage
  3. Either dry clean or freeze your garments in sealed plastic bags for a minimum of 72 hours to kill any eggs and larvae (more detail here)
  4. Vacuum the closet and surrounding carpets thoroughly - and by the closet we mean any fitted carpets, walls, ceiling and along all joins, cracks and crevices
  5. Wash down all hard surfaces
  6. When dry, treat with a persistent residual pest spray (safe for humans). Refer to our Clothes Moth Kit Guide for additional details.
  7. Replace clothing but being careful not to over-stuff your closets, shelves and drawers
  8. Place Clothes Moth Traps in the room 3-6 feet high to continue to monitor for potential activity from adult Moths and to help break the breeding cycle to reduce the chance of a repeat infestation
  9. Continue to clean regularly and thoroughly, especially at times of seasonal clothing change-overs

In doing these routines you should kill Moth eggs, but it can feel at times like dealing with an ‘invisible enemy’. Thoroughness in following these guidelines will give you the best chances of success

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moth Larvae

pantry foodstuffs

Let’s assume you have found evidence of dried foodstuffs in your pantry or kitchen cupboards infested with pantry Moth larvae.

The process we would recommend is as follows:

  1. Clear out all the affected cupboards/pantry shelves
  2. Vacuum all surfaces paying particular attention to edges, cracks and crevices
  3. Wash down all surfaces thoroughly
  4. Apply a Moth-Killing Natural Residual spray that is safe to use in kitchen areas. Refer to our Pantry Moths Kit Guide for further information.
  5. Check every bag and container that may be a source of infestation - remember, you may have brought it into the home through buying infested produce (most commonly happens through buying birdseed or pet food)
  6. Throw away anything out of date, unusable and/or infested, and seal garbage bags
  7. Thoroughly clean all containers
  8. Place any non-infested and usable dried foods into sealed containers
  9. Replace your food and make sure you are not over-filling your cupboards and/or pantry
  10. Continue to clean regularly and thoroughly throughout the year
  11. Use Pantry Moths Traps to continue to monitor for further presence of adult Moths and to help break the breeding cycle to reduce the chance of a repeat infestation
dried foods in sealed containers

How to Avoid the Return of Moth Larvae

The best initial line of defense is always to put either Clothes Moth Traps or Kitchen Moth Traps in place. This will alert you to the presence of adult Clothes Moths and can be used as a perpetual form of monitoring.

However, if the Moth infestation has taken hold to the degree that you have damage to clothes or food, and assuming you have taken the steps above, you will need to do what you can to avoid a repeat infestation.

Firstly, look for where the infestation has first come from.

In the case of Clothes Moths, this could be (and we’ve seen all these situations with our customers!):

  • Apartment buildings where the closeness of apartments sees Moths travel from one apartment to another
  • Old houses with unused chimneys
  • Houses with bird nests under the eaves or in trees close to the house
  • Stored rugs
  • Areas of rooms rarely used, or parts of rooms that do not get looked at and vacuumed regularly
  • Under or behind furniture where the vacuum cleaner rarely ventures with our busy lives
  • In attics

For Pantry Moths, it is likely to be:

  • Stored grains in bulk, and in particular, pet food and/or bird seed
  • Dried foods that have ended up at the back of a very full pantry or food storage cupboard and not touched for many months
Puppies with dog biscuits in a sealed container

If the original source has been identified and not dealt with through the above process that we strongly recommend, then more work will be required to deal with that issue.

If you are happy that you have dealt with the source of the issue and managed to kill the Moth Larvae and eggs, then we would recommend that you just leave the traps in place until you are absolutely sure they have left you. Clothes Moth traps will indicate the catch rate and a declining catch rate over time shows you are winning the battle.

FAQs

In this section, we will cut to the chase on getting rid of moth larvae quickly and efficiently. After all, moth larvae are the true root of the problem when it comes to removing moths from your house. Particularly, the larvae of Clothes Moths and Pantry Moths are responsible for causing destruction and damage in pantries, kitchens, closets, garages, and more. As such, eliminating these disgusting creepy crawlies is the fastest way to a pest and moth-free household.

Here are some frequently asked questions on getting rid of moth larvae in your home!

What kills moth larvae?

Although moth larvae can be a real nuisance, killing them isn't necessarily difficult. Here are some things that kill moth larvae:

  • Residual Moth-Killing Sprays: Certain residual sprays can be applied on surfaces to kill moth larvae quickly and efficiently. Some of these sprays are even safe to use in kitchen spaces.
  • Hot Water and Soap: Washing items will also usually kill moth larvae. With Clothes Moth Larvae, a trip through your washing machine or a visit to the dry cleaner can do the trick. For larvae on the outside of food containers or any live worms that have been wiped off of surfaces, a bucket or sink full of hot soapy water will work.
  • The Freezer: Your freezer can also be a great tool for killing moth larvae. You can also kill hidden moth larvae on clothes, food packaging, or in containers, by freezing these infested items in plastic bags for 72 hours.

How do you get rid of moth larvae infestation?

Getting rid of a moth larvae infestation involves identifying its source, eliminating live larvae, uncovering hidden moth eggs, and preventing adult moths from returning and laying more eggs. Moth Traps and residual sprays can be fantastic pest-elimination tools to have on hand for this purpose.

Here are some methods to implement as you wage war on the moth larvae in your house.

How to get rid of moth larvae on the ceiling:

If you notice moth larvae on the ceiling, chances are, there is an infestation in one of two places:

  • Up high: The infestation source could be somewhere like a high shelf or cupboard
  • Upstairs: Moth larvae could be crawling down out of an infested area upstairs, through a vent, or through small openings near your joists or second-story subfloor.

You will need to first find the primary source of the infestation. Moth larvae spend their time looking for food sources. Since your ceiling doesn't offer many of those, chances are, the larvae are coming from somewhere else. Obviously, kill and wipe away any larvae that you see crawling on the ceiling using residual moth-killing sprays. Then, do some detective work and figure out where exactly the primary infestation resides.

How to get rid of moth larvae in kitchen spaces:

If you notice moth larvae on your kitchen counters, floor, shelves, inside of drawers, or in your dry goods themselves, you are likely dealing with an infestation of Pantry Moths. Eliminating Pantry Moths will involve throwing away infested items, cleaning out your pantry, wiping everything down, and then placing Pantry Moth Traps to prevent egg-laying adult females from starting problems in the future. You can wash your shelves and containers with hot soapy water. Non-toxic residual larvae-killing sprays can be applied after you have cleaned an area thoroughly.

How to get rid of moth larvae in houses:

Wondering how to get rid of moths and moth larvae in general? To get rid of moth larvae in your house, first, identify the source of a moth infestation. Are you dealing with Pantry Moths, Clothes Moths, or Carpet Moths? Once you know your enemy, you can begin waging war. Identifying the type of moth you are dealing with will help you pinpoint what food source any larvae are after. Also, once you know which moth species you need to kill, you will be able to determine where any are likely to be hidden.

With that in mind, most pestilent moth species can be eliminated using similar measures. First, you will want to throw away the most heavily infested items. Be sure to bag everything up securely so that you don’t accidentally spread an infestation during the cleaning process.

During this stage, you may be able to freeze certain items for 72 hours if you believe that they are salvageable. Freezing for an extended period can effectively kill hidden larvae and eggs, as they are not tolerant to extreme temperatures.

Now, vacuum the infestation site thoroughly. Get well onto the cracks and crevices to suck up any larvae and eggs. Make sure to dump out your vacuum bag far away from your home when you are done. After vacuuming everything, wipe all surfaces and items down to remove any additional eggs and all traces of the moths. Use residual moth sprays and moth traps to finish the job.

Why do I have moth larvae in my house?

If you have moth larvae in your house, chances are, you are dealing with an infestation hidden somewhere nearby. Female moths search for places to lay their eggs where food sources will be abundant for their offspring. These eggs then hatch into ravenous and destructive larvae that eat through things like dry pantry goods, clothing made from animal based fibers, carpet materials, and more.

Moth larvae can get into houses in many ways. Sometimes, they enter homes in the egg stage. These sticky eggs can be found on second-hand furniture, in the crevices of bags of food from the store, inside of bird seed, and more. Or, a female moth could simply have flown into your home through a door, chimney, or window, to lay eggs.

What kills moth eggs and larvae?

Residual moth sprays can be incredibly effective for killing moth larvae and eggs. You can also kill moth larvae and eggs using hot soapy water or by freezing them for at least 72 hours.

Things that kill moth eggs and larvae include:

  • Extreme temperatures (like freezing them in a freezer for 72 hours)
  • Hot soapy water
  • Residual moth sprays

What do moth larvae hate?

Clothes Moth Larvae (sometimes mistakenly called "cloth moth larvae" or "closet moth worms") are very stubborn little pests. Few things actually repel these little nuisances as they search for something tasty to eat and they often consume wool, silk, cashmere, and even leather. Moreover, Pantry Moth Larvae can relentlessly chew through all kinds of materials, including plastic, cardboard paper, wicker, and hemp in search of food. As such, repelling moth larvae from specific spaces can be a challenge.

However, adult female Clothes Moths and Pantry Moths can be repelled by many scents. Since they navigate using pheromones during mating and egg-laying, many things can deter their behaviors. Indeed, certain herbs like lavender, thyme, cedar, mint, and rosemary can effectively repel and deter adult moths.

In addition to using moth-repellent herbs near doors and windows to keep moths out, you can use natural moth pheromone traps in pantries and in closets to attract the active adult male moths. This will help break the breeding cycle. That way, you will be covered on all fronts from a potential moth invasion. Just remember to keep moth deterrents and moth traps separate, so the effects do not counteract one another.

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