Moths are a common household pest that can cause damage to clothing, carpets and soft furnishings. These are known as clothes moths. However, some other varieties are attracted to seed and grains. These are called meal, flower and wax moths. While each of these two major categories has general characteristics, each subspecies also has some of its own unique traits and habits.

clothing moth
credit: Dawid Zagórski/Hemera/Getty Images

Clothes Moths in General

The clothes moth's name is quite self-explanatory; they are attracted to clothing and cloths. Adult clothes moths are colored pale gold. One of the most marked features of the clothes moth is their reluctance to fly; when threatened, clothes moths will often run quickly as opposed to flying. They are small insects with a wingspan of 10 to 20 millimeters. Clothes moths tend to like dark environments.

Common Clothes Moths

Common clothes moths are also known as webbing clothes moths. This species is characterized by its attraction to all materials containing keratin. This includes hair, wool, silk and feathers. In addition, common clothes moths are also attracted to vegetable matter, which includes cotton and cereal.

Case-Bearing Clothes Moths

Case-bearing clothes moths are not as hazardous to fabrics as the common strain of house moths. This species gets its name from the case constructed by larvae, spun from their silk as well as whatever other materials are close at hand.

Tapestry Moths

Tapestry moths are attracted to coarser types of fabric than the other varieties of clothes moths. They will attack thicker, heavier fabrics, hence their name.

Brown House Moths

Brown house moths are not as closely related as the other species mentioned above, and are most often found in bird's nests, but can still break into houses and attack fabrics and foods.

Meal, Flour and Wax Moths

Meal, flour and wax moths are a bit larger than clothes moths, but also more fragile and delicate. More often than not, they are light brown colored. They have a wingspan of 20 to 40 millimeters, with narrow forewings and wide hindwings. These species are characterized by their attraction to stored food.

India Meal Moths

India meal moths are the most common type of meal, flour and wax moths. Their larvae feed on grain products, but also other products as wide ranging as cornmeal, flour, granola, pasta, cake or cookie mixes and oatmeal. India meal moths are colored brownish gray and grow to be about 1/2 inch long. However, it is the larvae that pose a threat to food.