Types of Moths and How Best to Fight Each Type

Moths: some people find them pretty, others find them annoying, and some are downright terrified of them. These insects come in a range of different sizes and are commonly found in homes during the spring and summer months. Attracted to light, they can swiftly fly in through open windows and doors. Once inside, they can be difficult to catch because of the way they flutter around rapidly.

Among the different types of moths that may cause problems inside or outside of your home are gypsy moths, pantry moths, and clothes moths. There are other types of moths such as the large luna moth, which many find fascinating and beautiful.

It is worth familiarizing yourself with nuisance moth varieties and what to do if you experience a moth problem in your home. So, let’s take a look at the different types of moth and what you can do to prevent or tackle infestations.

Gypsy moths

gypsy moth

Male gypsy moths are dark brown while females have a tan body with white or cream-colored wings. Despite having wings, females are unable to fly. Gypsy moth caterpillars infest trees and can cause complete defoliation (leaf removal). Not only does this affect tree growth, it can leave trees open to infection by other pests or pathogens and even kill the tree. During heavy infestations, moth excrement falls from trees, causing fouling of decks, patios, and outdoor furniture.

You can recognize gypsy moth caterpillars, which are dark brown, by the blue and red spotting and the hair on their backs. Be careful of the hairs as they can cause allergic reactions in some people.

Keep in mind!

If you're concerned about gypsy moths and aren't sure if you have them, check your trees for egg masses, which are either white or off-white. These hatch into larvae during the spring after a period of winter dormancy.

You can treat gypsy moth infestations with insecticides and destroy egg masses by hand or with horticultural oil. Once eggs have hatched, you can try tree banding. Wrap burlap or duct tape around your tree. Caterpillars will rest on the burlap and you can gather the whole piece and kill the caterpillars (but don’t handle them to avoid touching the hairs).

If you use duct tape, cover the outside of the tape with a sticky substance (e.g., petroleum jelly) that caterpillars will get stuck on. You can also find pheromone traps to catch male adult moths. However, these are not good population control as males have likely already mated by the time you catch them in a pheromone trap.

Pantry moths

Also known as meal moths, pantry moths can cause food spoilage. They typically get into homes as eggs in food packaging. Once they hatch, the larvae feed on the food and can migrate to additional packages. As the larvae grow into adult moths, they begin to reproduce and you can end up with an infestation. Pantry moth eggs may be present in cereal and other grains, spices, dried fruit, pasta, chocolate, pet food, and birdseed.

If you don’t see the small, white larvae, you may be able to spot their thin webbing or clumped grains in your food. 

In order to control pantry moths, you need to get rid of the source. Dispose of all infested packages outdoors and thoroughly clean your kitchen and pantry. To prevent new packages from starting an infestation, freeze recently purchased food for a week to kill any larvae it may be harboring. To monitor your progress during treatment, use pheromone traps. These will give you a decent sense of the extent of the problem but are not enough for population control.

Clothes moths

Like gypsy moths and pantry moths, it is actually the larvae of clothes moths that cause damage to clothing. They eat fabric, leaving holes in a range of materials such as silk, wool, and leather. The average clothes moth life cycle is between four and six months. A single female can lay as many as 50 eggs in her lifetime. 

Adult clothes moths are rarely seen, so if you notice them flying around the home, chances are you already have an infestation.

Important!

Thoroughly clean your house, including rugs, carpets, and even soft toys. Wash infested clothes (as long as there's not too much damage) and any clothes stored in the same place as infested clothes, and clean out and vacuum your closet, wardrobe, and/or dresser.

If possible, dry-clean your clothing or wash it in a hot cycle. If dry-cleaning or hot water are not safe for certain items, the heat from a clothes dryer should be enough.

To protect your clothes from infestations, dry-clean or wash clothes that may harbor or attract clothes moths and store them in plastic bags or containers with tight-fitting lids. You can use mothballs, but be sure to read the directions and never place them loose in your closet or dresser. They release gases that are dangerous for people and pets. 

Calling on experts

While there are various products you can buy and steps you can take to prevent or tackle a moth infestation, if the problem is severe you may need to turn to the professionals. Many pest control companies can provide you with advice and assistance. Some infestations are too much for homeowners. Professionals can help ensure that the problem is addressed quickly and efficiently.

When you are looking for a pest control company, make sure you provide as much detail as possible about the moth infestation so they can offer the most appropriate advice. If they need to come out and treat your home, they will generally carry out an inspection and provide you with a quote. They can then also offer advice on how to prevent future moth infestations.

2 Comments

Dave Tuttle

The moths we have are tiny. About 1/2 inch long by 1/4 inch (when wings are folded. They are white & we suspect they come in goods we get from China.
Suggestions?

    Karen

    Those might be whiteflies instead of moths you’re dealing with. But it’s hard to tell without knowing anything else about these insects like where you found them, etc.

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