(Clothes Moth and Carpet Moth)
Brief overview of fabric pests
Fabric pests such as clothes moths and carpet beetles damage clothing, carpets, furs, cotton, and any other animal-derived material by eating them. They eat these natural fabrics because of keratin, which is a mineral found in hooves, feathers, and horns. Just as the termite digests cellulose from wood to sustain his (or her) life, the clothes moth digests keratin to sustain his (or hers). This dietary need, coupled with our unbridled use of animal parts for clothing, contributes to the vast damage sustained by these insects annually.
Following are brief overviews of the major categories of fabric moths.
What are clothes moths?
The clothes moth group includes the webbing clothes moth, the casemaking clothes moth, and the tapestry or carpet moth. They are known as small moths, since their wingspan is less than 1/2.” Also, their habits differ from other moths, as they are not attracted to light and prefer dark areas.
These moths go through a complete metamorphosis. Since adults are unable to eat, it is in the larval phase, or caterpillar phase, that all moths cause damage. The clothes moth caterpillars are especially fond of fabrics that have stains, spills, or human products, such as hair or sweat, on them.
What are webbing clothes moths?
Webbing clothes moths are the most common fabric moth in the U.S. and are found in all 50 states. The body and wings of adults are uniformly buff in color and their heads have slightly reddish hairs on top. Their wings are silvery-brown and have a wingspan of less than 1/2″. Females cannot fly very well while males can; however, they seldom take advantage of their flying capabilities.
Females have the ability to mate and lay eggs on the same day that they emerge from their cocoon. Consequently, they do not live for very long, 30 days being the longest. After eggs are laid in batches of 40 to 50, they hatch within 4 to 10 days, provided it is not too cold. The emerging larvae are cream-colored and no more than 1/2″ long. The larvae may go through 5 to 45 molts depending on variables such as humidity, temperature, and availability of food. The molting process can last from 30 to 700 days. After it is completed, the caterpillar will spin a cocoon. Cocoons are not very visible because the caterpillars camouflage them with clothing particles or excrement. Cocoon emergence is followed by the pupal stage, which last 8 to 40 days. Upon completion of this process, the moth is matured.
The webbing clothes moth is found everywhere in the United States during all seasons. However, they are more prevalent in the summer and in non-arid climates.
What are casemaking moths?
The casemaking moth is not nearly as prevalent as the webbing moth, but it is a significant pest. Its appearance is slightly darker than that of the webbing moth and its wingspan is shorter.
Although the life cycle of the casemaking moth is similar to the webbing moth, there are some slight differences. For instance, they do not spin their webs on fabric and rarely do extensive damage to a small area. The casemaking moth prefers to more movement and feed over a wide area.
When ready to pupate, the larva draws itself completely within its case, seals both ends of the case with silk, and pupates in its cocoon. In the northern Unites States, pupae are usually the only casemaking moth stage found during the winter months, but all stages are found in the South throughout the year.
The casemaking moth is especially fond of feathers and down, although they find other natural materials suitable as well.
What are carpet moths?
Carpet moths are rarely encountered. When they are encountered, it is due to severe infestation. This species can be distinguished from the preceding species by the front third of the forewing being black and the rest being white with black spots. Also, its wingspan is larger than those of casemaking and webbing moths. The life cycle of the carpet moth is very similar to the life cycles of other fabric moths described previously. The one difference is that the larval stage constructs a silken tube (as opposed to cocoon) in which to feed as it burrows into fabric.
What are brown recluse spiders?
The brown recluse spider is one of two dangerously poisonous spiders found in the United States. Although brown-recluses are non-aggressive, disturbing them can cause them to bite and release very potent venom. Fatalities are rare, but are much more common amongst children, the sick, and the elderly.
Throughout the years, the brown recluse has been known by a variety of different names including the violin spider, the fiddleback spider, the recluse spider, and the brown spider.
How do I identify one?
Brown recluse spiders measure approximately ¼” to ½” and have long, delicate grayish to dark brown legs with short, dark hairs. Their leg span is about the size of a half dollar.
There are two major characteristics of brown recluses that make them readily identifiable. The first major characteristic is the presence of six eyes arranged in a semicircle on the forepart of the head. The second major characteristic is a dark violin-shaped marking located immediately behind the eyes. There are many other species of spiders that feature these identifying characteristics but do not otherwise resemble brown recluses. For example, spitting spiders are similar to the recluses in that they have six eyes, but they have many black spots and lines on their bodies that recluses do not have. The woodlouse spider also has six eyes, but has no violin shaped marking. Many tan and gray spiders have dark markings on the head region. These similarities lead to confusion when people are trying to determine the presence of brown recluses. Virtually every spider that is tan or brown has been turned in to entomologists as a possible brown recluse..
Where do they live?
Brown recluses, exactly as their name suggests, are reclusive. They are nocturnal creatures that will spend time hiding out in quiet places during the day such as bathrooms, bedrooms, closets, basements and cellars. They may also take shelter under furniture, appliances, and carpets, behind baseboards and door facings, or in corners and crevices. Some have even been found in stored clothing, old shoes, on the undersides of tables and chairs, and in folded bedding and undisturbed towels stored for long periods of time. It is when people disturb these reclusive spiders that they get bitten.
Can you tell me a bit about their biology?
Brown recluse spiders spin small, loose, and whitish webs with irregular strands. The females lay eggs from May to August in off-white silken cases, or sacs, that measure approximately 1/3” in diameter. Sacs contain 40 or more eggs and are hung in the web, which is guarded by the female. Each female may lay as many as 300 eggs during her lifetime. Spiderlings emerge from the egg case in 24 to 36 days. Their development is influenced by weather conditions and food availability. Spiders can survive long periods of time without food or water and can live anywhere from 2 to 4 years. They are very adaptable and are known to be active in temperatures ranging from 45 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
What do I do if I get bit?
As mentioned before, people are usually bitten when they disturb a spider that is being reclusive. This usually happens when unused shoes or clothes are put on. After being bitten, the severity of a person’s reaction depends on the amount of venom injected and the person’s individual sensitivity to it. Effects may be immediate, delayed, or nonexistent. A person may not know they have been bitten until 2 to 8 hours after the event. Others who experience a severe reaction may feel a stinging sensation followed by intense pain. A small white blister usually appears at the bite site and is surrounded by a large, congested, swollen area. After 24 to 36 hours, a systematic reaction begins that is characterized by restlessness, fever, chills, nausea, weakness, and joint pain. The affected area enlarges, becomes inflamed, and the tissue is hard to the touch. The spiders’ venom contain an enzyme that destroys cell membranes in the wound area. Affected tissue gradually sloughs away, exposing underlying tissue. Within 24 hours, the bite site can erupt into a “volcano lesion,” which is a hole in the flesh resulting from damaged, gangrenous tissue.
The open wound can range in size from that of a nickel to the span of a hand. This sunken, ulcerating sore may heal slowly, taking 6 to 8 weeks. Full recovery from a bite may take several months and scarring may remain even after healing. In some cases, plastic surgery or skin grafting is needed.
If you are bitten, try your best to remain calm and if you can, collect the spider that bit you for identification. Get medical advice immediately by contacting either your physician, Poison Information Center, or hospital. Apply antiseptic solution to prevent infection and ice packs to relieve local swelling and pain directly on the bite area.
How do I keep from getting bit?
Since most bites occur when people put on clothes or shoes that have not been used for awhile, it is important to shake out these things before dressing. Do not go barefoot or handle firewood without gloves.
Eliminate clutter in the yard, basement, attic, and any outbuildings. Remove trash, old boxes, piles of lumber, old clothing and other unwanted items from around the house. Dust and vacuum thoroughly and frequently around windows, corners of rooms, under furniture, in storage areas and normally undisturbed places to get rid of spiders, webs, and egg sacs.
Install screens on doors and windows to prevent entry. Seal or caulk cracks and crevices where spiders can enter the house and wash off the outside of the house and under the roof eaves.