The Most Moths

Features - Stored Product Pests

A ranking of the cities with the most clothes moths, which are spread by person-to-person contact.

July 12, 2018

Adult webbing clothes moth
Mohammed El Damir,

For the first time, Insects Limited has released a ranking of the top clothes moth cities in the United States. New York City topped the list in 2017, followed closely by Boston. (Author’s note: The list of top cities was compiled based on the total number of sales of clothes moth traps by Insects Limited into the greater metropolitan areas of each ranked city during the period of Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2017. The firm also has seen an increase in customer inquiries about clothes moths over several decades.)

The top clothes moth city rankings include:

POPULATIONS ON THE RISE. Similar to the trending that Insects Limited has seen with the elevation of bed bug populations throughout the country, clothes moths, including Tineola bisselliella, appear to be on a rapid rise in many metropolitan areas.

Research has suggested that webbing clothes moths are prevalent in cities and are rarely found in rural areas (Krüger-Carstensen and Plarre, 2011). They do not typically come into our homes and businesses from natural reservoirs (e.g., bird nests, dead animals) unless those natural reservoirs are in an area heavily populated by people. These moths instead travel from person to person, hidden away in our belongings. They are identical to the German cockroach in that webbing clothes moths benefit from an association with humans and the habitats that humans create.

As we pass along our wool rugs and blankets, cashmere sweaters, horse-hair stuffed furniture, fur coats and other materials made of animal-based fibers to other people, we are aiding in the spread of these moths. While the presence of webbing clothes moths in nature in completely rural areas is nearly non-existent, areas like the highly populated northern portion of the Eastern Seaboard (Maine to Washington, D.C.) seem to have more than their share of this moth pest.

There is evidence to suggest that in densely populated urban environments, these moths can move from residence to residence by flight alone. Keeping them from doing that is an essential element in keeping their numbers down. To prevent the spread of this damaging insect, PMPs and their customers need to ensure that all incoming furniture, rugs or textiles are free of moths before they enter homes.

Install exclusion measures (door sweeps, window screens, etc.) to keep neighboring moth populations from entering your customer’s residence or business. Clothes moth pheromone traps are available to inform customers if they have moths or where they might be coming from.

If your customers find suspected moth activity in small items, such as sweaters or individual articles of clothing, these materials can be frozen for a two-week period in any standard freezer or “super-heated” in a clothes dryer for one full hour on the hottest setting. Doing so will kill all stages of the moth (egg, caterpillar, pupae and adult). Larger items, such as area rugs and furniture, must be treated by a professional pest management service.

Krüger-Carstensen, B., & Plarre, R. (2011). Outdoor trapping and genetical characterization of populations of the webbing clothes moth Tineola bisselliella (Lepidoptera: Tineidae) in the broader area of Berlin. Journal of Entomological and Acarological Research, 43(2), 129-135.

Pat Kelley is vice president of Insects Limited. To receive Insects Limited’s quarterly e-newsletter, visit