Moths don't bite or sting, but their destructive habits can do more than enough damage around your home. The two types that cause the most trouble are Tineola bisselliella, the common clothes moth, and Plodia interpunctella, also known as the pantry moth or Indian meal moth. Thankfully, there's no need to put up with these annoying pests – you can get rid of moths and keep them out of your kitchen and closets for good.
Adult moths of both kinds are about half an inch long. Pantry moths are tan or dark brown. They lay their eggs in clusters on food sources. Larvae also measure about half an inch and can be white, brown, or light pink. Pupae develop in white, silken cocoons. Adult clothes moths are mostly whitish-gold. Their larvae look similar to a pantry moth's. One type of clothes moth drags a tubular case behind it wherever it goes.
Pantry moths will nearly always be found near a food source. They have no trouble getting into thin plastic bags or cardboard boxes, and are especially fond of grains, such as rice and pasta. If you have an infestation, you'll need to go through every item in your pantry and throw away anything showing signs of adults, eggs, or larvae. Check sealed, unopened items for signs of holes. Larvae like to hide in crevices of boxes and bags. If you leave even one infested item, the problem will continue.
Pantry moths can't chew through glass, metal, or thick plastic. Buy food storage containers made of these materials, and keep all pasta, rice, cereal, and other grains in them. When bringing grains home from the store, put them in your freezer for 24 hours or longer before moving them to the pantry. This kills eggs and larvae that might already be in the package.
You'll know you have clothes moths if you find holes chewed in your clothing — their eggs and larvae are often well-hidden. Remove every item from the infested area, even small things like gloves, scarves, socks, and undergarments. These moths feed only on animal fibers, such as wool and leather; they can't digest synthetic fabrics like rayon or nylon. Pay attention to creases in clothing, pockets, and seams, where larvae prefer to feed.
Heavily infested items must be disposed of and removed from your home immediately. Put them in thick trash bags, tied tightly to prevent the insects from escaping. Any clothing near the infested item may be salvaged. Brush items off outside, then launder in very hot water, or dry clean. Freezing garments for several days will also kill moths and eggs.
Whichever type of moth you have, give the closet or pantry a thorough vacuuming. This gets rid of spills and small bits of fabric moths can use as a food source. Look under shelves, in corners, and around the door frame; larvae tend to build cocoons in these places. Vacuum along the baseboards and edges of the carpets, too. Regularly inspecting and vacuuming these areas can help prevent future infestations.
If you think you've removed all these infested items and cleaned thoroughly, but the moths keep coming back, they might be hiding in a more obscure spot. Clothes moth larvae can be found inside upholstered furniture, heating ducts and air vents, or even in abandoned bird's nests. Pantry moths may linger inside kitchen cabinets or in a bag of pet food you left in the garage.
Keep infestations at bay by hanging moth traps in the pantry or closet. These are usually cardboard coated with glue to trap the moths and a pheromone to attract them. Adults are attracted to the scent, then get stuck and die. Traps are made for both types of moth, so make sure you buy the right kind or they won't help curb your infestation.
While mothballs do work to repel clothes moths, they contain foul-smelling chemicals that can leave an odor on garments and may be dangerous to pets and children. Cedar rings and essential oil repels moths of all kinds. Mix a few drops with water in a spray bottle and use it to mist inside the closet. Moths dislike the smell of certain herbs, including mint, rosemary, and bay leaf, as well. Crush the leaves and place in your closet to discourage the pests.
If you have removed all infested items and cleaned the area but moths keep coming back, you may need to hire a professional pest control service. Moths might be laying eggs and reproducing in a place you can't reach or haven't considered checking. A pro can track down the source for you. It's also a solution for heavy infestations where traps and repellents alone aren't working.