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What are moths? Why are they considered pests?
There are about 160,000 species of moths around the world, with nearly 11,000 of them found in the United States. Moths, together with the butterflies and skippers, constitute the order Lepidoptera. These insects have wings made up of thousands of overlapping tiny scales, much like a roof. However, compared to butterflies and skippers that are diurnal, moths are mostly active at night.
Just like butterflies, moths feed on nectar and are responsible for pollinating many types of plants. As nocturnal insects, moths use their heightened olfactory senses to locate flowers that bloom at night.
You can tell that it is a moth by the way its wings are placed while at rest. Butterflies hold their wings vertically, whereas moths fold their wings tent-like over the body, wrap them around, or extend them on their sides.
Moths come in all shapes and sizes. Their colors and patterns vary greatly, with some even rivaling the butterflies. While many moths are drab in appearance, some moths like hawk moths, tiger moths, and giant silk moths are natural beauties. Some moths don’t look like moths at all, like the clearwing moths that appear like wasps to avoid predators from attacking them. Others have excellent camouflage that makes them difficult to be seen, like hook-tip moths that look just like dry leaves. As for their sizes, moths’ wingspans range from less than 1-inch wide to an astounding 10 inches!
- Egg – Female moths lay hundreds of eggs on plants so their larva can feed on them. Some species can eat a wide variety of plants, but most only feed on specific types.
- Larva (Caterpillar) – After the caterpillar eats away its egg, it will start feeding nearby plants. Its only job is to eat and grow. This stage is the only one in its entire life cycle where growth is possible. The caterpillar sheds its skin several times as it grows, and its pattern and color may change each time.
- Pupa (Cocoon) – When the caterpillar reaches a certain maturity, it searches for a secure site to form its cocoon. The cocoon looks like a sleeping bag with a hard outer case that stays still. Inside it, the caterpillar dissolves into a liquid, soupy substance, then reforms itself to become an adult moth after 5 to 21 days.
- Adult (Moth) – When the cocoon finally splits open, the adult moth crawls out. It now has wings and can fly and search for a mate to start the life cycle all over again. Most adult moths only live for a few days or weeks, so they have to find a mate quickly. Although, some species can survive for months and even hibernate during the winter.
Moths don’t bite you. They can’t. Most species of adult moths don’t even have mouths and are incapable of biting anything. They also don’t sting like bees and wasps. In short, you don’t have to worry about a moth hurting you. But they can still cause skin irritation or worse in humans.
Some moths can be a nuisance. Moths have an infamous reputation for ripping holes on our beloved clothes. But it isn’t right to point our fingers at the moths. It is their juvenile stage that causes most of the trouble. Their larval stage is where they do damage. Moth caterpillars are known to be ravenous feeders. They can eat just about anything within their reaches, such as paper, hair, furniture, fur, and textile. There are also moth caterpillars that can sting, so it’s best not to touch them, especially children.
There are two types of moths that cause most of your problems at home. You can know them as pantry moths, and you’ll find where you store food items like grains and dry goods. These moths feed on them. They can also eat nuts, spices, and even chocolates. You might be surprised to find webbing or caterpillars wiggling on your food when you open it. Then there are the clothes moths that like to stay in dark areas like the attic or your closet. The larvae of clothes moths are the ones who feed on natural fibers like silk, wool, fur, and linen. These caterpillars can ruin your wardrobe in just a short time.
Like other pests, moths are attracted to your house because they have something to eat inside. For pantry moths, your kitchen is a rich source of food for their larvae, so they will take the chance and lay their eggs there. As for clothes moths, it is the same. Your closet is full of fabrics that their larvae can feed on.
How they enter your house can vary, though. Of course, there is a good chance that these moths or larvae entered your home through open doors or holes on the window screen. But some probably got inside through the ornamental plants that you brought in or the clothes you picked up from the dry cleaner.
If you spot moths inside your house, there are probably more hiding somewhere around. You should take the necessary measures to prevent them from proliferating and causing significant damages to your belongings.
For example, dealing with pantry moths will require you to dispose of affected food items. Also, you may want to invest in hard plastic or glass storage bins that moth larvae cannot enter. On the other hand, clothes moths are more tedious to deal with. You’d have to take out all of your clothes and brush them all off to make sure you remove all the caterpillars. Or you can launder washable items in hot water and detergent to kill the caterpillars and remove substances that can cause skin irritation.
However, hiring a professional pest control service provider is the best option! Rocklin Pest Control will not only remove all those pesky moths inside your house but will also prevent them from coming back. Call us as soon as you spot these pests so you can avoid further damage to your belongings!
Same Day Emergency Services may be available at additional cost. Check with one of our Team Members for appointment availability.