Moths (Order Lepidoptera)

Pest Management In and Around Structures May 20, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF
Management of Pest Insects

in and Around the Home


Moths (Order Lepidoptera)

Species of Lepidoptera are characterized, in part, by the scales covering four wings
and by a proboscis, or sucking mouthparts. Moths, and particularly their larvae, are
major agricultural pests in many parts of the world.

Clothes moths (Tineidae: Tineola and Tinea spp.): Shiny, light gold-colored,
1/4 inch moth with fringed wing margins. The most common species in Georgia
is the casemaking clothes moth (Tinea pellionella). Larvae of casemaking clothes
moths build rectangular to elliptical cases about 1/4 inch that are open at both
ends and spun from materials and/or fibers in their immediate environment,
often fibers they have been feeding on. Larvae live, protected, inside the case.
Larvae have a dark band just behind their head, which is visible only when the
larva projects its head out of the case to feed. Habits: Moths fly at night, usually
in an erratic pattern, in search of mates and food. Adults lay eggs on items of
animal origin, commonly feathers and wool. Larvae crawl around and on the
item while feeding from inside their case. In preparation for pupation, larvae of
the casemaking clothes moth crawl away from the item they are infesting and
attach their case to the wall or other nearby vertical surface. Interventions: Wash,
steam-clean or dry-clean all items of animal origin, especially wool. Have infested
textiles professionally cleaned. If items cannot be washed or steam-cleaned (large
quantities of material, such as area rugs) then consider small-scale fumigation or
storage for at least a month in a freezer. Before cleaned items are put back in the
home, remove, by hand, visible pupal cases from vertical surfaces and from shelves.
Consider storing susceptible fabrics in sealed containers to prevent re-infestation.
Use pheromone traps to capture male moths. If desired, apply a spot treatment
with an appropriately labeled residual spray to the area where moths and larvae
are found. Might Be Confused With: Indianmeal moths; other, small, incidental
moths that fly indoors, from outdoors, when doors are open.

Indianmeal moths (Pyralidae: Plodia interpunctella): Half-copper and halftan-
colored wings. Indianmeal moths are about 3/8 to 1/2 inch. Habits: The most
common pest of stored products in the U.S. Infests common foods (especially hot
and cold cereals) in pantries and food closets. A very common pest of birdseed.
Flies at night in search of mates and food. Interventions: Find infested material (cereal, bird food, crackers, oatmeal, etc.) and discard. Clean up spilled food. Pheromone traps capture only male insects. Store potentially susceptible items
in tightly sealed containers. Never treat human food sources with an insecticide.
For more detailed information see University of Georgia Extension bulletin
#1378, Stored Product Pests in the Home, at caes.uga.edu/publications. Might Be
Confused With: clothes moths; other, small, incidental moths that fly indoors,
from outdoors, when doors are open.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.