You might have opened a box of corn meal and discovered a wriggling worm or two, or perhaps you have opened your chest of drawers to a bundle of hole-riddled clothing. Both are signs of a possible moth infestation. The two main kinds of household moths are pantry moths and clothing moths. Pantry moths feed on grains and dried fruits; clothing moths devour animal-based clothing such as wool and feathers. Both kinds of infestations can be treated by removing the infested items, storing the items properly and using moth traps to bait and dispose of moths.
The most noticeable sign of a pantry moth infestation is small moths fluttering about your kitchen or your pantry-stored goods. Pantry moths feast on dry pet food, bird seed, dried fruits, grains and nuts. Moths infiltrate small cracks and crevices in the house and invade improperly sealed pantry items. They lay their eggs in the food, often covering it with a delicate white webbing.
To remove the food source of moth infestation, discard all contaminated food. Seal up gaps in windows, walls and doors with caulk or expanding foam spray. Clean all surfaces. Moths cannot eat through plastic containers, so store dried goods and pet food in airtight containers that have tight-fitting lids.
A clothing moth infestation might be more difficult and expensive to control. Moths might lurk in closets, trunks and drawers before being discovered. Clothing moths feed on animal fibers such as feathers, wool and hair. Pantry moth larvae especially enjoy clothing soiled with sweat, urine, food residue and dead skin. Adult moths breed in the clothing and lay their eggs in it.
To eradicate clothing moths, eliminate the source of the infestation. Remove the infested clothing and vacuum them and wash them, if necessary. The extreme heat from dry cleaning kills moths in all of their life stages. All clean fabrics should be stored in airtight, sealed plastic boxes or bags.
Moth baits, traps and repellents are widely available for detecting and treating moth infestations. A common trap is a pheromone trap, a disposable sticky board coated with a female scent. Male moths are lured to the sticky board, where they become trapped. Pheromone traps should be replaced every one to three months until the boards capture no more moths.
Insecticides might help eradicate a moth infestation, but the chemicals might also be harmful to humans. Moth flakes and moth bombs kill moths in all stages of development but contain naphthalene or other gases and might cause respiratory problems. Cedar chips and mothballs repel moths but do not kill them. Botanical insecticides are safe for the kitchen when dealing with pantry moth infestations.