Here's what to do if you find moths in your house

Moths can be an expensive and time-consuming nuisance, but there's no need to panic.
Extreme magnification - Moth on cloth
Extreme magnification - Moth on clothGetty Images stock

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/ Source: TODAY
By Aly Walansky

At some point, many people experience the frustrating reality of moths in the home. Whether it's a gaping hole in a favorite sweater or a rush of flying insects as a pantry is opened, moths can be an expensive and discomforting intrusion.

Unfortunately, they can also be labor-intensive and time-consuming to eliminate.

What causes moths in the house?

As with any sort of rodent or insect, eliminating the problem often involves determining the method of entry.

"Like other bugs, moths can enter the home through torn screens or cracks in window and door frames," Angela Tucker, manager of technical services for Terminix, told TODAY.

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"Clothes moths can enter homes by hiding out in clothing, furniture or home goods purchased from thrift stores, garage sales or consignment shops; and pantry moths can enter via eggs laid in foods like flour, cereal, beans and dried fruit," added Tucker.

How do you get rid of a moth infestation?

When it comes to treating a moth infestation, it depends on the type of moth.

"If your home is infested with clothes moths, for example, regularly and thoroughly clean the home, including vacuuming inside drawers and closets, on and around upholstered furniture, and even along baseboards," said Tucker.

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Identifying the species of moth and addressing the infestation can be confusing. It is always best to call in a pest control provider who can assess the situation and implement a plan to address it.

When dealing with a moth infestation, people often see the adult moths first, but the real pests are larvae that are small, white and frequently hidden in food sources.

"In the case of clothing moths, cleaning the appropriate areas, such as carpet and/or fabric surfaces, is critical for removing larvae," said Tucker.

For pantry moths, the main area of focus should be shelves that contain infested food items.

"There are several DIY products available for cleaning, but when used improperly or on a misidentified pest, homeowners can create lulls of 'success' followed by a resurgence of the pest," said Tucker.

This can often lead to frustration and loss of items that can be damaged by the larvae before being successfully treated.

"Through a proper inspection, a pest control company can determine what is infested, provide instructions on how to treat those items (dry, freeze or throw away) and provide guidance on treatment options," said Tucker.

"Depending on the species, there are multiple pheromone lures (chemical scents that attract the adults) that can be used to collect adult moths for identification and/or remove them from infested items. Infested foods or cloth items still need to be cleaned by the owner as pesticides are not registered for these areas," said Tucker.

How do we get rid of larvae?

Here's the gross part: Even when all the moths are gone, they may leave eggs behind, and that can cause the problem to return.

"Wash and dry contaminated clothing items, or freeze them for seven to 10 days, to eliminate larvae," said Tucker. "If pantry moths are the issue, on the other hand, dispose of open boxes of dry foods like cereal; and storing ingredients in airtight, durable glass or plastic containers to help mitigate the larval pests."

"Washing shelves with a standard cleaning agent before placing food items back on the shelves can be effective in dealing with Indian meal moths," added Tucker. "I’d recommend using a vacuum to clean the carpets and a duster to remove dust and pet hair from items, which can help remove the clothing moth larvae."

Cleaning is essential to physically removing the larvae from the environment.

How can you get rid of mothball smell in the house?

Mothballs are a key solution to keeping moths away.

"Mothballs are not preventative, but they are a kill agent, so they will work as long as the product is still releasing fumes," said Tucker. "It is important that items that are stored with mothballs are in a tightly sealed container where the fumes cannot easily escape."

The fumes can kill adult moths, larvae and eggs, but it's essential to use them correctly.

"A home remedy to address the smell of mothballs out of clothing is to soak the affected items in equal parts water and vinegar — although, like most home remedies, this hasn't been scientifically proven," said Tucker. "If you prefer not to use mothballs, you can try using storage units made from eastern red cedar trees, which may help repel young moth larvae," said Tucker.