Casemaking Clothes Moths: All You Need to Know for a Moth-Free Home

Casemaking clothes moths are a common household pest that can cause damage to various fabric items.

These insects are known for their larvae, which are responsible for feeding on and damaging materials such as wool, fur, feathers, and silk.

The larvae create a silken tube or case to protect themselves from natural enemies and environmental conditions.

Casemaking Clothes Moths
Case Making Clothes Moth Larva

This protective case is what earned them their unique name.

Identifying a casemaking clothes moth infestation is crucial in order to protect valuable items and take appropriate measures for controlling their population.

Adult moths are tiny, with a wingspan of about 1/2 inch, and appear yellowish with narrow wings fringed with long hairs.

Meanwhile, the larvae are small, white caterpillars with brown heads, and unlike webbing clothes moth larvae, they feed on the surface of infested materials and stay inside their silken tubes.

Understanding the habits and preferences of casemaking clothes moths is essential in dealing with an infestation.

Proper storage and regular cleaning of susceptible items can help reduce the risk of significant damage caused by these pests.

Moreover, employing targeted prevention and control methods can effectively limit their destructive abilities in your home.

Identifying Casemaking Clothes Moths

Appearance and Characteristics

Casemaking clothes moths often have a dull, brownish-gray color [1].

They are relatively small, with adult moths usually measuring 8-10mm in length.

Some key features of casemaking clothes moths include:

  • Narrow, elongated wings
  • Fringed wingtips
  • Two distinct sizes of antennae
  • Larvae encased in a portable, protective “case”

Male Moths vs Female Moths

Both male and female casemaking clothes moths have a similar appearance. However, there are some noticeable differences:

  • Male moths: smaller, more active fliers, long antennae
  • Female moths: larger, less active, short antennae

Differences Between Casemaking and Webbing Clothes Moths

Casemaking clothes moths (Tinea pellionella) and webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) can cause damage to fabrics, but there are key differences between them.

The following comparison table summarizes their distinctions:

 Casemaking Clothes MothsWebbing Clothes Moths
ColorBrownish-grayGolden or pale brown
WingtipsFringedBare
Larval Feeding HabitIn a portable caseIn a web-like structure
Larval Case AppearanceFaintly visibleDifficult to see, web-like

By understanding their appearances and characteristics, as well as the differences between casemaking and webbing clothes moths, you can take appropriate steps to prevent and control these pests.

Life Cycle and Feeding Habits

Larval Stage

Casemaking clothes moth larvae are small, white caterpillars with brown heads1. They are known for their unique feeding habits, which involve:

Case Making Clothes Moth Larva

Pupal Stage

During the pupal stage, casemaking clothes moth caterpillars:

  • Continue to remain inside their silken case
  • Undergo metamorphosis to transform into adult moths

Adult Stage

Adult casemaking clothes moths are relatively small, with a 1/4-inch wingspan and a buff-colored, hairy appearance2. They feature:

Larval StagePupal StageAdult Stage
Feeds on natural fibers of animal originRemains inside the silken case1/4-inch wingspan
Creates and stays in silken tube for protectionGoes through metamorphosisBuff-colored with brownish forewings
  Three dark spots on forewings

Damage Caused by Casemaking Clothes Moths

Affected Fabrics and Materials

Casemaking clothes moths are known to cause damage to various fabrics and materials. Their larvae specifically target items of animal origin, feeding on materials such as:

  • Wool: Often found in clothing and carpets.
  • Silk: In garments and furnishings.
  • Fur: Coats and accessories.
  • Feathers: In pillows and down-filled items.
  • Leather: Bags, shoes, and jackets.
  • Hair: Found in natural bristle brushes or taxidermy mounts.

It is crucial to know that these moths do not feed on synthetic fabrics such as polyester or cotton unless blended with animal fibers.

Casemaking Moth Larva

Identifying Infestations and Damage

To identify whether you have an infestation of casemaking clothes moths, look out for the following signs:

  • Larvae: Cream-colored caterpillars, less than 1/2 inch long, living inside protective cases made from the materials they’re consuming. 1
  • Irregular holes: Damaged items may show uneven holes indicative of moth feeding patterns.
  • Silken threads: As larvae move around, they may leave behind silken threads on fabrics.

Alongside these visual cues, a comparison of the two species primarily responsible for fabric damage can help ensure proper identification:

 Casemaking Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella)Webbing Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella)
AdultsDark specks on wingsUniform, buff-colored with reddish head tuft2
LarvaeSpin protective cases from consumed items3Spin webs and tunnels

By being aware of the materials at risk and recognizing the signs of infestation, you can take timely action to minimize damage caused by casemaking clothes moths.

Conclusion

In conclusion, casemaking clothes moths pose a significant risk to items of animal origin such as wool, fur, and silk, among others.

Recognizing an infestation early is key, by noting their distinct larvae residing in protective silken cases, or irregular holes in fabrics.

Understanding the differences between casemaking and webbing clothes moths aids in accurate identification and targeted control.

Employing regular cleaning, proper storage, and prompt action can significantly mitigate the damage these pests may inflict, preserving the longevity and quality of valuable belongings.

Footnotes

  1. University of Maryland Extension 2

  2. Texas A&M University 2 3

  3. UC IPM

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Casemaking Clothes Moth Larva

worm
Location: corner brook, newfoundland, canada
December 14, 2010 2:53 pm
found this worm i think he made his home..dont know
Signature: hiding worm

Casemaking Clothes Moth Larva

You might want to inspect your clothes closet for more of these Casemaking Clothes Moth Larvae, Tinea pellionella.  According to BugGuide they:  “feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, upholstered furniture, leather, fish meals, milk powders, lint, dust or paper.

Letter 2 – Casebearing Moth Larva

Subject: What’s this bug?
Location: KauAi
December 30, 2016 10:26 am
Found in my home on Kauai. It’s pretty small…a little bigger than a cantaloupe seed.. I’ve seen a few individual ones at different times…. should I be concerned?
Signature: Mahalo, Shannon

Case Bearing Moth Larva

Dear Shannon,
This is the larva of a Case Bearing Moth, a species found in proximity to humans throughout the world.  Though we do consider them to be household pests, they do not do significant damage.  They will eat shed pet hair and other organic detritus found in the home, and we have posted images of them getting into pet food.

Letter 3 – Case Making Clothes Moth Larva

Subject: Wierd bug
Location: Minnesota
November 16, 2015 10:57 am
Looked like a crumpled up tissue then it moved and a head came out like a turtle in a shell
Signature: Na

Case Making Clothes Moth Larva
Case Making Clothes Moth Larva

Dear Na,
This looks like a Case Making Clothes Moth Larva to us, and though you did not indicate if it was found among wool or silk clothes, the image on fabric supports that it may have been found in a closet.  See BugGuide for more images and information including that they:  “Feed on wool, feathers, fur, hair, upholstered furniture, leather, fish meals, milk powders, lint, dust or paper. Often infesting carpets, especially in damp areas.”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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