No one likes uninvited winged creatures flying around their home, but moths are especially bothersome. They eat your well-loved sweaters, munch on your pantry goods, and noisily flutter around your lightbulbs. Since they seem to make themselves right at home, you may be wondering what it is about your house that is so inviting to these flying pests.
Different moths may be attracted to different things in your house. Miller moths are nuisance pests and attracted to sources of light in your home, while clothes moths are drawn to fabric made of animal fiber, like wool. Indianmeal moths feast on dry food goods.
We all have to deal with moths at one time or another, but we’re sure you want to know how you can prevent these pesky critters from invading your home. Read on to learn about the aspects of your home that attract moths, as well as how to prevent and control an infestation!
Most Common Moths Found in the Home
Just like humans, moths’ interests and tastes vary.
While some moths prefer to feast on wool and other fabrics, other moths like to chew on grains and other dry goods.
Because of this, it’s important to identify the type of moth that’s present in your home to understand how it got there in the first place- and why it’s interested in your stuff.
Let’s go over three common types of home-invading moths:
Miller Moth (Army Cutworm Moths)
Miller moths, also known as army cutworms, are a common nuisance moth in the home. When you think of a moth in the home, you’re probably thinking of a Miller moth because of its habit of flying around sources of light in the home.
Miller moths measure around 3/4-1inch long with a grey to brown color consisting of two light-colored spots on each wing.
While these moths are annoying, they don’t do much harm in the home. Unlike other moths, they don’t reproduce or feed indoors and often die within a few days.
They may, however, leave behind a reddish-brown waste product, called meconia, on windows, walls, or other areas of the home. While this is a rude habit, the waste can be easily cleaned off and generally won’t stain.
Fun fact: moths are attracted to light because they often use the light from the moon to guide them in their travels.
While Miller moths will die indoors within a few days, Indianmeal moths can stick around for weeks. According to Colorado State University, If you spot these small moths around your home for more than three weeks, you may have an infestation on your hands. Of course, an infestation can be classified sooner.
Indianmeal moths are often found in the pantry or around sources of food in the home.
Adult moths don’t feed, but immature Indianmeal moths often feed on dried food products. These include grains, grain products, dried fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, graham crackers, powdered milk, and even dog food.
They can also be found flying around sources of food in the home.!
In their adult form, these small moths are only about a quarter of an inch long and have a brownish-gray appearance. Immature moths, or larvae, look like small whitish worms. These larvae spin fine webs across infested food sources. How unappetizing!
Clothes moths, as their name suggests, feed on wool, fur, feathers, and other fibers and dirt that are found in fabric and clothing pieces.
These moths are likely to be found on clothing, especially in dark, humid rooms, or in closets.
The most common clothes moth is called the webbing clothes moth. These moths are usually red and have fluffy hairs on the top of their head.
What Attracts Moths to Your Home?
Most people think that moths are only drawn to sources of light in your home, but it turns out that many aspects of your house are attractive to these winged creatures!
Let’s take a look at some common ways that moths can enter your home, as well as what makes them want to stay awhile.
Did you know that you could be carrying more than just groceries home with you from the grocery store? As it turns out, most household moth infestations occur from the purchase of moth-infested foods!
Primarily, food products can become infested either at the farm or during transport and storage. The use of pesticides usually eradicates these pests from food products, but sometimes a few manage to sneak in and take over bags of grain or even dog food.
It’s not that whole moths get into the food, but rather the larvae!
Once you take home infested dry goods, the Indianmeal moth life cycle continues right in your pantry! Adult moths lay eggs in dry goods, and immature moths feed on the dried food until they become adults. This can lead to a pretty large infestation if it gets out of hand.
Infested Clothing or Furniture
Isn’t it a great day when you take a trip to your local thrift store and carry home a beautiful vintage couch or a lightly worn wool sweater?
Well, it may be smart to inspect these antique items before taking them home, as they could be swarming with moths!
Another common way that moths enter the home is through previously infested clothing or furniture. Any articles made up of wool or other animal fibers are prone to infestation, including secondhand furniture, upholstered furniture, rugs, clothing, and other home furnishings.
Clothes moths are usually the pests infesting these items, and their eggs or larvae are often well-hidden and buried in the fibers.
Light Attracts Moths
We couldn’t write this article without mentioning a very common aspect of your home that many moths are drawn to. You guessed it!
Many types of moths, including Clothes moths and Miller moths, are drawn to sources of light in your home.
As moths fly towards well-lit areas of your home, especially porch lights or light-emitting from windows, they can easily enter your home through an open door or window.
Moths are especially drawn to light with shorter wavelengths, such as UV light.
Moths Love Darkness and Humidity
We know that saying moths are also attracted to darkness is confusing since we just stated that moths are attracted to light! However, Clothes moth loves to linger in dark, poorly ventilated areas of your home.
You know that wool sweater that’s stuffed in a dark corner of your closet for years on end? That’s a Clothes moth’s dream.
If Clothes moths gain entry into your home, which is usually through an open door or window, they flock to dark, humid areas in search of some fabric to eat. These spots are usually poorly ventilated closets.
How to Prevent Moths from Taking Over Your Home
Okay, so now we know what makes your home so attractive to these flying pests. You might now be wondering, “How can I prevent moths from infesting my house?” Let’s get into it!
Store Food in Airtight Containers
Your first defense against Indianmeal moths begins at the grocery store! Before you buy dried goods, try to inspect the bag or container for signs of moths, eggs, or larvae (if possible).
As a general rule, don’t buy crushed or damaged packages of dry goods, as these are more likely to be infested.
It’s also a good practice to store all dry goods, especially bulk foods, in airtight, thickly walled glass or plastic containers. The larvae of Indianmeal moths can chew right through plastic bags!
Here are some additional tips to keep your pantry goods moth-free:
- Don’t mix new dried goods with old dried goods in the same container
- Don’t use any products that have broken tamper seals
- Use older food products first
- Regularly clean your pantry of any spills (especially flour and sugar)
- Store as many foods as possible in sealed containers
- Store bird seed and dog food in airtight containers or store them in the garage
- Transfer foods such as oats, flour, and sugar to separate air tight clear containers
- If you keep items in their original bags, use a chip clip or rubber band to keep the bag air tight
Properly Store Garments
While Indianmeal moth infestations can be prevented by properly storing food, Clothes moths can be prevented by properly storing garments.
Woolen garments that are stored uncovered in dark closets for long periods are most prone to Clothes moth infestations.
Wool garments or any articles of clothing made of animal fibers (like furs) should be clean and well-sealed if not worn regularly. The best way to properly store these garments is to dry-clean or launder them and then store them in tight-fitting plastic bags or airtight containers.
Here are some additional tips for keeping your clothing moth-free:
- Periodically, take your woolen or other stored items out of their storage locations and hang them outside in the sun (Clothes moths and their larvae don’t like bright light)
- While your clothing items are hanging outside, brush them thoroughly (brushing destroys eggs)
- Luxury clothing items, like furs, can be stored in cold vaults to protect them (ask your local department store about this service)
- Use a lint cleaner regularly on your wool or woven clothes
- Use cedar blocks like these Cedar Space Red Cedar Blocks which help to repel Clothes moths (I use these in my basement to protect our old wool carpets)
If you do have moths on your carpet, take a peak at our piece on what attract moths too carpets specifically and how to fix it.
Use Mothballs (Your Clothes Will Stink, FYI)
We’ve all heard that throwing some moth balls in the closet will prevent infestation, but is this true? Mothballs are effective in repelling moths but should be used carefully.
Moth-deterring balls, crystals, or flakes contain pretty harsh chemicals, like naphthalene or paradichlorobenzene (yeah, we can’t pronounce it either). Keep these materials away from children and pets, and don’t throw them in a closet unconfined.
As a side bar, I really don’t like mothballs. My grandmother used them EVERYWHERE as I’m sure you have a mothball scented memory as well. They’re really not good to have around.
To properly use mothballs, seal them inside the tight-fitting container that holds your clothing items. But be sure to always read and follow all label instructions on these materials!
Granted, I would prefer every option except this one, but you do you 🙂
Clean Your Home
While Clothes moths like to hang out in closets, they can also infest other areas of your home.
When was the last time you cleaned under your couch, in the cracks of your baseboards, or even inside your vents? These areas are usually forgotten about during regular cleaning sessions, likely because they’re in dark, hard-to-reach places.
To avoid Clothes moth infestations, it’s important to regularly clean areas of your home that collect hair, dirt, and debris. These areas include:
The area beneath furniture (such as under couches or large chairs)
- Closets (especially if they store woolens
- Inside and behind heaters
- Inside vents
You can use your handy vacuum cleaner to clean these hard-to-reach areas in your home. Use smaller attachments for an even better clean, especially for small cracks and crevices.
Make sure to empty your vacuum after cleaning, as it could harbor eggs or larvae.
Additionally, cleaning with scented products could help you, as there are some common scents that are known to repel moths!
As we’ve learned, moths, especially Miller moths, are very attracted to light. Moths are especially attracted to sources of light at night, and it’s during the nighttime that moths are the most likely to enter your home.
To prevent those pesky moths from inviting themselves in, reduce as much evening lighting as you can. Turn off or dim porch lights, entryway lights, and lights near windows. Also, be sure to quickly close the door at nighttime to prevent moth entrance.
Tip: if you like a well-lit house at night, switch your bulbs over to yellow light. This color light is less attractive to moths.
How to Control a Moth Infestation
Even if you follow all the prevention tips above, you may find yourself dealing with a moth infestation at one time or another. Thankfully, we’ve put together some tips to rid your house of these pests ASAP!
For a light infestation of nuisance moths like Miller moths, the best thing to do is to physically remove them.
You can do so easily with a fly swatter or vacuum cleaner! Miller moths don’t last long indoors, so don’t worry if you’re not quick enough to catch them.
If you are wondering if you should use a flyswatter or hand-removal, you should check out our article on if you should put moths outside!
Use Moth Traps
If you’re not quite quick enough to catch those pesky moths by hand (they can be fast!), try using a trap. Some of the more effective moth traps use pheromones (a chemical produced by female moths to attract their male suitors.)
While pheromone traps only attract male moths, they are effective in reducing moth populations since it prevents mating and reproduction.
You can find pheromone traps at your local hardware store or even online! Check out these Dr. Killigan’s Moth Traps with Pheromones. They contain non-toxic sticky glue that stops moths in their tracks!
Place these traps in closets, your pantry, or other areas of your home where you suspect a moth infestation.
For a budget-friendly and homemade option, try making an easy dishsoap and light trap! (from Colorado State University). Simply:
- Fill a bucket, pot, or deep pan with water and add in a few drops of dish detergent.
- Suspend a light over the trap (a desk lamp works well).
- The moths will be attracted to the light, fall into the water, and be unable to get back out.
Dispose of Infested Food
If you haven’t cleaned out your pantry in a while, here is a sign to do so! Dried food goods that haven’t been used in a long time are the most prone to Indianmeal moth infestations.
An Indianmeal moth infestation is characterized by small, white worms (larvae) and thin, silky webbing in dried food products.
If you find signs of an Indianmeal moth infestation in your food products, immediately discard the infested foods. Here are some tips to follow when investigating your food items:
- Take interior plastic bags out of their boxes and roll them around to look for webbing, worms, or clumped grains or flour
- Be sure to check bag corners and creases
- Inspect the following for signs of infestation: cereal, grains, beans, nuts, flour, dried fruit, birdseed, dry animal food, spices, tea, chocolate, and candies
- Once you’ve located and removed the infested goods, store your remaining dry goods in airtight plastic or glass containers
It’s also a good practice to vacuum and clean the shelves in your food storage area, paying special attention to cracks and crevices, after removing the infested goods. Be sure to dispose of all vacuumed dust or dirt to keep those pests from getting back into your home!
If one of your dried goods has a particularly bad infestation, you can place the bag or container in the freezer for a week. This will eliminate any remaining larvae and eggs and will prevent re-infestation.
Clean Infested Clothing Items
If your wool sweater has been the victim of a Clothes moth attack, you may still be able to save it!
Dry cleaning a garment eliminates Clothes moth adults, eggs, and larvae, so this is the most effective way to save an infested garment. Once you’ve dry cleaned the garment, be sure to protect it from further infestation by storing it in an airtight container.
Also, don’t be fooled by Clothes moths flying around your closet. Most female moths only fly after they’ve laid their eggs, so flying moths around your clothing may indicate that an infestation has already begun. So, simply eliminating the moth won’t control the infestation.
Once you’ve dry cleaned infested clothing and placed it in a proper storage container, thoroughly vacuum and clean your closet, paying special attention to any cracks or crevices.
While insecticides aren’t recommended for the control of Indianmeal moths, since they could expose your food to chemicals, or for Miller moths, since they’re short-term pests, you can use insecticides for the control of Clothes moths.
Insecticides should only be used to control a Clothes moth infestation if your infested articles cannot be dry cleaned, heated or frozen, or cleaned in the washing machine.
Most insecticides for Clothes moths contain pyrethrins, which is an effective chemical that eliminates moths on contact. If you do go this route, make sure to always read and follow label instructions, or consult a pest control professional.
Remember, for clothes moths – simply vacuum, vacuum, then vacuum some more to help keep them away!
That’s a Wrap!
We know that moths are never a welcomed guest in any home, but you shouldn’t let them move in without a fight!
Knowing the different types of moths, as well as their behavior, will give you the confidence you need to prevent them from taking over your home. Follow our prevention and control tips to keep your house moth-free!
And remember: a single moth found inside doesn’t always mean you’re facing an infestation. Just take a deep breath, look for the signs, and follow our tips and you’ll be good to go.
Happy moth repelling!
Media, K., Rajna, S., Devi, L., Samant, L., & Jose, S. (2021). A comprehensive review on moth repellent finishing of woolen textiles. Journal of Cultural Heritage, 49, 260–271.
Meeuse, A. D. J. (1952). On the Origin of Clothes Moths, Carpet Beetles, and Similar Household Pests. Beaufortia , 1(15), 1–8.
Wilson, H. F. (1940). Lures and traps to control clothes moths and carpet beetles. Journal of Economic Entomology, 33(4), 651–653.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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