Entomology (Study of Bugs)/moths


QUESTION: I live in Atlanta, Georgia and, before the temperature here dropped below 50 (I believe) had a terrible problem with very tiny greyish-tan colored moths eating all my clothes. I never was able to find large numbers of them but found isolated ones along the molding near the ceiling, on the side of my dining room table and, occasionally, flying from my cedar closet near my front door. Although I've had a problem with moths in my kitchen cupboards in the past, I have not seen any there recently but, to be safe, threw away all my wheat products and put everything in airtight containers. I checked my basement and threw away some old blankets stored there (for my dogs)
A local pest control company was not helpful, giving me an open box-like container with sticky stuff which didn't catch a single bug.
Another company said they suspected it was a type of beetle that transforms into a moth and that the bug likely is dormant in cold weather.
I am afraid when the weather returns the moths will return and continue to eat all my favorite clothing.   Any advise you might regarding what I could do or who I could contact to try to get rid of them would be greatly appreciated.  Thanking you in advance. Beverly

ANSWER: Dear Beverly - I really can't comment much without being able to see images of what you are finding. If the moths you have are clothes moths, you should see the very characteristic damage patterns of their larvae - see http://tinyurl.com/loqrwb9 for some images. If you do have clothes moths, detailed control recommendations can be found at http://tinyurl.com/753pfmj.
  The 'open box-like container' likely was a monitoring trap baited with a chemical attractant (pheromone) targeting a specific insect species, see http://tinyurl.com/kouo27b and http://tinyurl.com/no2vaxs for some examples. These are not intended as control devices, but serve to let you know if the insect(s) in question are present. The fact that nothing turned up in the one you wee given only means that the species it targeted likely is not present in your home, you need to find out what it was supposed to trap.
  As for the other pest control company, whoever you talked with appeared to be either ignorant or incompetent, as there is no such thing as a 'beetle that transforms into a moth'; that would be like a cat transforming into a woodchuck. I suggest that you contact your county Cooperative Extension Service for advice; see http://tinyurl.com/lfzxwam for links to contact information. This is also where you could submit any specimen(s) that you may capture for identification.

Hope this helps,

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QUESTION: Thank you for the thoroughness of your response.
A couple of months before I noticed the moth problem I spent several hundred dollars having my carpet cleaned and "moth proofed".  The moth proofing obviously didn't work since I have noticed extensive new damage around the edges of the carpet.  Would turning the carpet over and vacuuming the backside, then putting it in the sun be sufficient to eliminate the problem or would you suggest I get it professionally cleaned again.

Dear Beverly - I believe that the damage to your carpet more likely may be caused by carpet beetle larvae than clothes moth larvae. If that is the case, routine vacuuming, paying especial attention to the carpet edges and any nearby/adjacent baseboards should help prevent any infestation from getting out of hand. Adult carpet beetles often gain entry to homes, as they are good fliers and also being pollen feeders, may 'hitchhike' on cut flowers, bouquets, etc.
   See http://tinyurl.com/yun78p for detailed information on carpet beetle control and http://tinyurl.com/nhxuct7 for information on mothproofing carpets.

Hope this helps,

Entomology (Study of Bugs)

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Ed Saugstad


Will accept most questions in general entomology, including those related to medical entomology, taxonomy, ecology, arthropod surveillance, and pest management. If you are requesting a 'mystery bug' identification, PLEASE either attach an image to your question, or post an image on a web page (such as Flickr) so that I can look at it, as verbal descriptions frequently are insufficient for a definitive identification.


21 years in the U.S. Army as a medical entomologist; duties varied from surveillance of pest populations (including mosquitoes, cockroaches, ticks, and stored products pests) to conducting research on mosquito-virus ecological relationships and mosquito faunal studies. Ten years as a civilian analyst for the Department of Defense, primarily on distribution of vector-borne diseases worldwide. Limited experience on surveillance of agricultural insects in North Dakota and Indiana.

Entomological Society of America, West Virginia Entomological Society, Society for Vector Ecology, National Speleological Society, West Virginia Association for Cave Studies.

American Journal of Public Health, Contributions of the American Entomological Institute, Japanese Journal of Sanitary Zoology, Journal of Economic Entomology, Mosquito News, and Mosquito Systematics.

B.S. in entomology from North Dakota State University in 1963, M.S. in entomology from Purdue University in 1967.

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