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When clothes moths invade your house, here's how to fight back.

Last fall, when I unpacked my stored woolens, I ignored a small dead moth lying on. top of my favorite sweater. But the holes in the wool slippers I pulled from the closet were more difficult to overlook. Closer inspection revealed tiny white wormlike creatures wriggling on the surface. The next day, a pest control company diagnosed the problem: clothes moths.

Thai week I found the critters everywhere - in stored Persian rugs, under upholstered furniture, even on the felt inside my hiking boots. I threw out yards of wall-to-wall carpet, took 187 pounds of clothing to the cleaners; and moved into a hotel while an exterminator treated the house.

Once controlled by now-banned pesticides such as DDT, clothes moths are on the increase, according to entomologists. The moths - silvery brown, with a 1/2-inch wingspread - prefer dark. undisturbed areas and rarely fly where people can see them. The damage is done by the larvae, creamy caterpillars as long as 1/2 inch, which form silken threads or tunnels.

Most clothes moths hitchhike into houses on used or imported woolens, then eat (and breed), preferring animal products such as wool, feathers (and down), fur, leather, or natural bristles. They thrive on lint. Items stained with human sweat, oils, or certain foods are ambrosia to larvae. (They don't damage cotton or other fabrics unless they're stored next to active larvae.)

Regularly inspect any article made of animal products that you don't routinely use. Dry-clean all used or imported articles after purchase. Brushing, shaking, and exposing items to sunlight will kill eggs and disturb larvae; do this every month or so during the summer. Use a vacuum to remove lint and hair from baseboards, air vents, and pet bedding, then vacuum under furniture set on wool carpets.

Items to be stored should be dry-cleaned, placed in sturdy boxes, and sprinkled with paradichlorobenzene crystals or naphthalene flakes placed between layers of paper; seal boxes tightly. Do not depend on cedar-lined storage chests to keep moths at bay unless you treat the chests with cedar oil every two years.

If you find even a single moth or larva, or a hole in wool, inspect every animal fiber item in your home for infestation. Infested clothing should be dry-cleaned (or wrapped with as little air as possible to minimize condensation and frozen for a week at 0 [degrees] to kill eggs and larvae).

If the infestation seems fairly contained, treating the affected area yourself may be adequate. Steam-clean rugs, clean pads, and vacuum thoroughly, then treat carpet edges, cracks, baseboards, and other hiding places with a bendiocarb dust or a spray containing pyrethrin or permethrin (do not use these products on clothes).

If the infestation is widespread, ask a reputable exterminator to fumigate affected rugs and furniture, and apply crack-and-crevice treatment using a residual insecticide.

Since reinfestation can occur at any time, continued vigilance is the only way to thwart clothes moths.
COPYRIGHT 1995 Sunset Publishing Corp.
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Copyright 1995 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Carmichael, Suzanne
Date:May 1, 1995
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