Many pests, such as insects, spiders, birds and mice

Fabric Pests

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How to deal with fabric pests

Got ‘em? Time to spend some quality time with the vacuum. Move furniture around and be sure to get the dust bunnies. They don’t like sharing their space, so rotate through wearing your sweaters whenever it’s cold. If you need to store stuff, make sure it’s clean first and keep the humidity down. Mothballs are stinky to us, but most pests don’t care. Cedar chests and closets only work for the first few years. If the infestation’s bad, throw stuff out. Or get it professionally cleaned. But tell them why you need help so they take pains to keep the pests from other people’s things.

Carpet beetle adult.
Carpet beetle adult. Photo by Gary Alpert, Env. Health and Safety, Harvard U.
Casemaking clothes moth larva.
Casemaking clothes moth larva. Photo by Clemson University-USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org
Varied carpet beetle larva.
Varied carpet beetle larva. Photo by Joseph Berger, Bugwood.org.
Webbing clothes moth
Webbing clothes moth adult (right), pupal case (center), larva (bottom) and typical damage to wool cloth. Photo by Clemson University-USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series, Bugwood.org

What they look like

Though both moths and beetles can eat fabric, it’s their larvae—the squishy stage in their life cycle—that do the damage. Clothes moth larvae are creamy white with black heads. They’re rarely seen, since they wrap themselves in silken feeding tubes. Adults are pale tan with satiny sheen; flutter in dimly lit closets (If you see one, start checking your woolens for damage.) Multiply quickly in warm (over 75° F) humid weather, especially where there’s poor air circulation. Carpet and hide beetle larvae are hairy, often dark golden colored. Adults are round, black, or variegated with black, cream, white, or yellow.

Where they live

They live where they eat and your house could be a buffet: woolens; oriental rugs; horsehair stuffed sofas; perhaps perspiration-stained cotton, linen, or rayon; pet hair that’s collected in corners or the cracks of your floorboards; even a dead mouse in the wall or bird in the chimney can be a food source.

What they do

Make holes in silk blouses, woolen sweaters, fur coats, or carpets. Be suspicious if your furs start to shed.