Sometime you open your wardrobe and find that moths have eaten a hole through your favorite shirt or any costume that matters. There would be no limit to the frustration and anger you would feel. Many people have had a similar experience with the tiny insects. But really do moths eat clothes? The answer would be no, technically of course. It is not the adult moths that eat clothes but their babies, the larvae; not that it would make you anymore happy when you discover your emaciated costumes. Even then, there are only a few species of moths that take interest in clothes in their childhood, belonging to the family of tineola. The Webbing Clothes moths (tineola bisselliella) are the most common cloth killers.
The adult moths actually do not eat, be it clothes or anything else. They simply don’t have the faculties to do so. The moths possess a mouth only in larval or caterpillar form. Once they mature, the primary thing on their to-do list is mating. After mating, the females lay some eggs and go on to die. It is the laying of eggs part that makes them enemies of people.
The female moths can lay a hundred to thousand eggs at a time and your cloth is as good a place as any for them to do it. They are particularly attracted to moist conditions. When the egg hatches into the larva stage, the problem begins. The moth larva’s diet primarily includes proteins, a huge amount of them. A good source for them is keratin, which is composed of many fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is found in every animal fiber and in the human hair and skin as well. So they will eat anything that contains an iota of animal fibers, such as wool, fur, cashmere, silk, cotton, linen, feathers, lint and others. They can even consume our hair. The larvae don’t eat plant-based fibers like cotton and synthetic fibers like polyester since they do not contain keratin. However, they are known to cut through them in search of their favorite food. They have mouth only in the larval or caterpillar stage, which starts about when they are two weeks old and lasts till it turns a month old. The food they eat becomes a part of the cocoon they create as well.
The best way to prevent the moths from destroying your clothes is dry cleaning them. The mothballs are not effective and only help to agitate humans. Don’t let a moth find a suitable place to lay eggs in your wardrobe.
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