Have you ever opened your closet to find a hole in a shirt or your favorite pair of jeans? Or maybe you’ve noticed little specks of stains on clothing that weren’t there before. Chances are, these small holes and colored specks can be attributed to clothes-eating pesky bugs.
Besides the regular moth, which is usually the first culprit in our minds, other clothes-eating bugs can cause havoc in your wardrobe.
Read on to identify the five most common pesky bugs destroying your clothing and learn how to eliminate them.
What Is a Bug?
The word “bug” is often used loosely for any small, flying, or creeping creature of an insect-like nature. This broad definition can encompass many common pests, such as flies, crickets, and cockroaches. However, the term “bug” typically refers to an insect that belongs to the order Hemiptera. This group of insects includes cicadas, aphids, and water striders.
Differences between bugs and insects can be found in their mouthparts. While bugs typically have strawlike-like mouthparts, insect mouths vary based on the species. These diverse mouths allow them to suck juices, mostly from plants. True bugs also have long, segmented antennae but lack hind wings. Instead, they have thick and colored membranous wings, which become thin and transparent toward the end.
To cut to the chase, all bugs are classified as bugs, but not all insects are bugs. However, in this article, we’ll use the term “bug” to refer to any small, flying, or creeping insect-like creature as a general reference. Let’s look at some common “bugs” that eat clothes and how you can get rid of them without further ado.
5 Pesky Bugs That Eat Clothes
1. Carpet Beetles
One thing carpet beetles have in common with other pests is that once they have entered a home and found an ideal place to live, they will not hesitate to make themselves quite comfortable. Female carpet beetles lay up to 100 eggs on or near carpet fibers, furniture stuffing, clothing, or other fabrics. These eggs hatch within two weeks into larvae, but this varies depending on the species and the environment.
Surprisingly, adult carpet beetles aren’t the ones responsible for the damage. It is their larvae that feed on fabric. The larvae begin feeding as soon as they hatch and will munch away for several months before becoming adults – usually within 7-10 months. They prefer feeding on natural fibers like wool, fur, mohair, and feathers but synthetic fibers are also a valid option. Adult carpet beetles only live for a few weeks, although they can have multiple generations in one year.
How to Get Rid of Carpet Beetles
The first important step in controlling carpet beetles is thoroughly inspecting your home. Look for cracks, corners, and other openings where adult carpet beetles can hide. Before using insecticides, ensure the focus areas are well-cleaned. When vacuum cleaning, try different patterns and go over the specific area multiple times. Additionally, prevent potential access points by sealing door or window frames and cracks in walls.
For infected nonfood areas, use insecticides to kill the insects. Natural insecticidal sprays with substances like pyrethrins, deltamethrin, or bifenthrin are effective and safe. Remember to treat items that may have been infected, such as clothing or fabrics.
2. Clothes Moths
While there are several species of moths, webbing clothes and case-bearing clothes are the two types of clothes moths notorious for eating clothes and fabrics. The webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella) is a small, gold-colored moth about ¼ inch in length, having a wingspan of up to 0.64 inches.
It is a weak flier that enjoys dark, undisturbed corners and closets. The case-bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) larvae have a hard shell and spin silken tube or case to traverse the fabric and for protection.
Like adult carpet beetles, adult clothes moths do not feed on mohair, silk, fur, wool, or cashmere. Rather, their small unnoticeable larvae (grubs) feed on these materials. They cut holes in the clothing and other fabrics.
How to Get Rid of Clothes Moths
- Invest in moth-repellent products, such as mothballs or moth traps which contain naphthalene, moth crystals, or moth cakes
- Consider using natural moth repellents like cedar wood, lavender, and eucalyptus.
- Vacuum regularly to remove larvae, egg cases, and adult moths
- Clean off any food spills in closets, drawers, and cupboards
- Wash or dry clean clothing before storing
- Use natural sunlight to disinfect clothes and fabrics
- Freeze susceptible fabrics and materials
- Hire a professional pest control company to fumigate infected areas
Generally, crickets are not known to cause any damage to clothes, but they can still be pests. Crickets are attracted to beverage and food stains, body soil, and laundry starch. They may leave excrement stains or cut the fabric’s thread when feasting on these stains. The damage may go unnoticed until it’s washed or worn.
How to Get Rid Of Crickets
The first step to getting rid of crickets is figuring out where they are. The best way to do this is to be stealthy and follow their chirping sound. You must also reduce moisture areas and sources since they like to nest in dark, moist environments. If you suspect their presence, enlist your vacuum. Even if you don’t see any, the vacuum should help suck them away, including the tiny eggs.
If the vacuuming doesn’t work, you can use pesticides. However, this may not be a safe solution as some pesticides are toxic to humans. So ensure you read and follow the instructions on the label carefully. A non-pesticide solution like sticky traps or glue boards can also be effective. Place the traps where crickets are likely to be, like dark corners and behind furniture.
As with crickets, termites won’t be pointed out as pesky cloth-eating bugs. They are known to consume wood but can eat anything that contains cellulose. This includes fabric and clothing made from plant materials containing cellulose, a nourishment source for termites. While searching for cellulose, termites are attracted to soil matter, beverages, or food you might have spilled on your clothes. As they munch the spills, they often end up tearing the fabric.
How to Get Rid of Termites
Termites spread extremely quickly and can be hard to eliminate. To get rid of them, you must first identify the termite source, which could be your clothing area. That source should be treated to eradicate the termites. If you want to do it yourself, there are some methods you can try.
- If they’ve infested your house, you must vacuum up any debris, wash soiled clothing, and replace damaged fabrics.
- Using a Pesticide: You can buy an insecticide meant to target termites and apply it to the source.
- Boric Acid: You can sprinkle boric acid around your clothing area to repel termites. You can also sprinkle it on your laundry.
- Heat Treatment: You can use a portable heat treatment machine to remove the termites from their hiding place.
- Professional Extermination: If the methods above don’t work, you may need to call a professional team to eliminate the termites.
Silverfish are a common household pest; they feast on clothes made of natural fibers. They are attracted to dark and damp or humid areas like bathrooms and basements.
Silverfish are wingless insects with silvery bodies, measuring about 0.5 – 1 inch long. They can severely damage clothing, carpet, or materials rich in natural fibers such as wool, cotton, silk, and paper. These pesky bugs don’t feed on fabrics for the actual material but rather for the nourishing substances in the fabric. As they are nocturnal, silverfish can be difficult to detect and often go unnoticed until the damage is done.
Silverfish have small mouthparts that can only take tiny bites and scrape edible material off surfaces. As a result, they leave behind irregular holes in clothes and yellowish stains.
How to Get Rid of Silverfish
The first step to getting rid of silverfish is to seal off cracks and crevices in your home that they can use as entryways or hiding places. Check around baseboards, plumbing fixtures, windows and doors, and other potential entry areas.
The next step is to clean your home thoroughly before treatment. This will help remove any dust or food sources that may attract silverfish. Vacuum your carpets, floors, and upholstery to remove dust and debris. Silverfish thrive in damp and moist areas, so you can reduce humidity by using dehumidifiers. This will create an environment that is less favorable for silverfish.
Place sticky traps or glue boards in areas where the silverfish congregate. Insecticides can also be used for more severe infestations. Boric acid is an effective alternative to chemical insecticides and can be sprinkled in areas where silverfish congregate.
Summary of Five Pesky Bugs That Eat Clothes
Here is a list of the five bugs that eat clothing:
The photo featured at the top of this post is © 2Dvisualize/Shutterstock.com
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- Waltham Pest Services, Available here: https://www.walthamservices.com/blog/silverfish-control/do-silverfish-eat-clothes/
- The Spruce, Available here: https://www.thespruce.com/how-to-control-clothes-eating-insects-2145853