What do moths love to eat most?
November 24, 2022 5:44 AM   Subscribe

I have a moth infestation in my living room. They've attacked a rug. I also have two chairs in there, both probably considered "mohair," but very different from each other. One is almost demolished by moths; the other is untouched. They've also ignored my velvet sofa. Is there a way of knowing in advance what fabrics the moths will eat and what they'll ignore? Do I have to know what species of moth they are? I would like to use this information to help me buy a new chair.
posted by DMelanogaster to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
They generally eat organic/protein fibres, so wool and cashmere primarily but occasionally silk (it's actually not the moths that do the damage, it's their larvae).

The difference between the two chairs may be that one is heavily used but not the other one? The moth larvae have more of a chance to eat if their food source is undisturbed for a long period of time. For example if a wool jacket is in constant use throughout the winter, it is unlikely to suffer any moth damage during that time, but if it then sits untouched in a dark closet for 6 months during warmer weather that's when the larvae have a chance to do their work.

If you Google clothes moths you'll see that there are two species that do most of the damage and they are fairly widespread throughout the world. The methods for avoiding damage from and eradicating them are basically the same, so you probably don't need to identify the specific species you have (and you may have both).
posted by RubyScarlet at 6:10 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

It's my understanding that clean clothes are less likely to be targeted by moths, even if the fibers are natural. I imagine the same would hold true for upholstery. I'd start by steam cleaning the items (or whatever method is recommended) and also get some moth traps.
posted by marimeko at 7:30 AM on November 24

Vacuum a lot to get eggs, moths and larvae. I use cedar oil and cedar wood with wool, with some success, to discourage moths, dried rosemary is also somewhat effective. They dislike moving air, so running a fan and opening windows will help some. If they aren't attacking something that's wool or silk, it could have been treated with something. I have a vintage velvet couch and chair that had to be re-upholstered because the base of the velvet was wool, I've had rugs damaged, etc. The moths are endemic, so even if you get rid of them, they can come back another time, or eggs can hatch. Dirty clothing smells good to them and helps them locate your favorite wool sweaters. Good luck.
posted by theora55 at 8:16 AM on November 24

This product will help: Killigan's Moth Trap
posted by conrad53 at 8:42 AM on November 24 [2 favorites]

My son bought something vintage that brought moths home and the pheremone traps did the trick eventually. I think we used them consistently for just over a year before there were no new moths caught. Hard to get rid of before we got the traps, they were in every closet very quickly.
posted by readery at 11:19 AM on November 24 [1 favorite]

Shop for a part synthetic blend fabric for the next chair; in my experience they will leave something with as little as 20% nylon or poly, 80% wool alone if their population is kept in check with basic sanitation measures described above
posted by slow graffiti at 5:52 PM on November 24 [2 favorites]

Speaking of vacuums, empty your vacuum a LOT and try to keep the canister empty pretty much all the time. I had an ongoing infestation & we finally figured out that was where there was a huge colony that had built up! Emptying it and cleaning it, and now making sure to keep it emptied after every use has really helped slow the moths down to where there's a couple every so often rather than constantly.
posted by augustimagination at 11:14 PM on November 24 [2 favorites]

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