I am sure at some point, somewhere, each of us have been told “Don’t pick up a hitchhiker!”
There are times, however, that hitchhikers choose to pick us up. Those are the ones to be on guard against.
Am I being cryptic enough yet?
Well, let me get to the point of this article…
Fabric-attacking moths are notorious hitchhikers. Having them is not a reflection of shoddy housekeeping, so never feel ashamed if you have an infestation. Denial will only cost you lots of money. It’s just a costly fact that webbing and case-making clothes moths will often find us. That’s right, they find us. And they find us because we have things that they want – everything from woollens to silks to natural fur… They LOVE that stuff and they want it. And when they get it, you will be left with an unwearable garment, and a figurative (and possibly literal) hole in your pocket. And here’s another fact… Moths don’t read clothing labels. It could be a garment worth $50 or something worth $10,000, if they want it, they will get it.
So, how do they get it? Well, often by hitchhiking. It might be that one egg-laying female makes her way into your suitcase while you are travelling. It might be because you’ve brought an item of clothing or some sort of container into your home that is playing host to these damaging pests.
So here’s the skinny on fabric-eating moths. As adults, they are kind of pathetic. They flutter about on wings that seem to be on training wheels. They are quickly exterminated with a well-aimed clap of one’s hands. You might think by giving a fatal smack to 6 moths means problem solved. You couldn’t be more mistaken.
The adults aren’t the cause of damage to clothing. Sure, they are a contributing factor. The real culprits are their larvae who hatch from eggs that have been strategically deposited on a nourishing (nourishing to moth larvae that is) clothing item. Once hatched, the larvae fatten up into adulthood by munching away on some of your prized clothing items. SIDEBAR: Moths LOVE cashmere. Then again, I suppose, who doesn’t?!
Through the years I have heard all kinds of methods for ridding homes of fabric-eating moths. They range from cedar blocks to sachets of lavender. And while, yes, moths hate cedar and lavender, all these tactics will ever accomplish is, at best, a minimization of a costly problem. I won’t even bother addressing the dreadful “solution” of moth balls. Really. Do you want to go about your day smelling of naphthalene? Even the chemical name suggests “stay away.”
Pheromone Traps are a good way to provide a sign that you have a moth problem. They work by luring male moths into a sticky, gooey trap with the pheromone promise of a receptive female moth. The problem is that you have no way of knowing if these trapped males have already bred with a female moth. So, they are good to have as an early warning system, but mostly useless for eliminating your problem.
As un-politically correct as this will sound, the one certain way of ridding your home of fabric-eating moths who will, if unattended, cost thousands upon thousands of dollars in damage, is through a professional exterminator that has expertise in eliminating this type of pest.
There is a lot of work that goes into preparing for the exterminator. For example, try to locate, to the best of your ability, the primary source or sources of the infestation. You will need to clear out closets, drawers, chests, and wardrobes. Furniture should be shifted away from baseboards and expose as many hidden areas as possible. All food items must be carefully packaged in airtight storage containers (or thrown out altogether).
It also must be said that, whenever an exterminator is engaged, you are likely dealing with a poison being introduced into your home. There is no other way to say it. Most exterminators use some form of poison. You will need to protect your family and pets by removing them from the environment for the better part of the day.
Once the infestation is removed, make sure that your clothes are perfectly cleaned. Definitely clean them prior to seasonal storage. Make sure they are being stored in a place that will deter fabric-eating moths (oh for a world where everyone had a cedar closet). For short-term storage, use completely enclosed garment bags. Always stay on top of vacuuming, cleaning, and reorganizing closets. Remove garments from wardrobes, unfold and brush the fabric or shake the item out, then refold and replace. Wardrobe activity is a great disruptor and will alert you to any re-infestation. Use a professional storage company to store fur garments.
Finally, I am usually the first to argue against introducing unnecessary chemicals into a home environment. Then again, I also know when I’m up against a formidable foe. And trust me on this, fabric-eating moths are extremely formidable. As hitchhikers go, they are the worst.
Written by Scott Munden, who is the CEO of Portico Inc