Knit Together with Cynthia MacDougall
Decades ago, when spring cleaning was an all-out ritual, housewives would wash all the winter woollies. Then they would wash down all the cupboards before replacing the winter garments. Woollen rugs were draped over the clothes line and beaten soundly. Walls were washed and baseboards scrubbed or vacuumed. One of the reasons such care was taken was to avoid an infestation of clothes moths.
The webbing clothes moth, tineola bisselleilla, is a small creature, about 6mm [¼ inch] long. Like other moths, it has a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, pupa, and flying adult. The adult lays eggs in clusters in a place that will provide a food source for the larvae. Eggs hatch in four to ten days. The larval stage usually lasts just over 35 days, but it can last up to two-and-a-half years! At the end of this stage, the larvae leave the food source and travel to dark crevices to pupate. Pupation lasts from 4 to 28 days, depending upon the season. Overall, the life cycle of the clothes moth lasts from four to six months.
There are a number of myths circulating about clothes moths. Let’s dispel a few of them:
Myth No. 1 Moths only like wool.
Moths like any protein fibre, even silk. The only times I have found moths they were in exotic fibres – camel down, qiviut, and angora. It seems the clothes moth is not a cheap date! Although moths don’t like bast (plant) fibres, they have been known to eat through cotton, especially if they will be rewarded by a feast of protein fibres.
Myth No. 2 Moths will only attack clothes with dirt specks on them.
Moths are attracted to body oil, traces of food, and other dirt on garments, but they will munch on clean clothing, too. Cleaning clothes thoroughly before storage is a good preventative, but it is not a guarantee that moths won’t stop by for a bite.
Read more in our Spring 2012 issue.