Carpet Moths

April 08, 2019

Posted by D. A. Burns

Carpet Moths

Carpet moths – In our house?

No one wants to believe that it is true. How can it be that the home we live in, love and care for, our “castle”, is being inhabited by insects in all stages of their life cycles, and whose mission is to damage the floor coverings that we have so carefully selected and dearly paid for? What have we done wrong? For what it is worth, you are in no way alone…here at D. A. Burns we see moth-damaged rugs on a regular basis.

Sometimes it is our duty to let clients know that their wool rugs have been damaged by case-bearing moths, which have been in existence ever since humankind first learned to create textiles made from wool, and are currently thriving in the Puget Sound area. 

There are more than 100,000 different species of moths. The vast majority of them are vegetarian, feeding off of plant materials, but a few species specialize in consuming animal hair fibers, and these moths can do an amazing amount of damage to rugs and clothing while no one is watching.  

If you own hand-knotted or hand-tufted wool rugs there is a good chance they will be targeted by case-bearing moths.  It has been our experience that most of our clients are not aware they have a moth damage problem until they send their rugs to us for cleaning.

What are the first signs of moth damage?  

When we examine rugs prior to our cleaning process, we sometimes find that there are small areas where the yarn is missing. In some cases a certain color of yarn is gone while surrounding tufts of a different color remain intact (it seems that moths find some colors tastier than others).

In addition there is often the presence of what appear to be grains of sand – this is the solid waste matter that moth larvae leave behind.

Upon closer inspection we usually find flattened moth casings that are about the size of a grain of rice, about 1/8 inch wide and ½ inch long. These cocoons are left behind after moths have done their damage and flown away.

Last but not least there may be living, wiggling larvae, some surrounded by their casings and others still wearing nothing but their birthday suits. Regardless of their attire, these little grubs are voracious, and your beautiful rug looks and smells to them like a holiday-season feast, and they are quick to dive in.

How do carpet moths get into your house?  

Carpet moths are tiny and are comfortable living either outdoors or indoors. They thrive on eating any animal fibers, including bird feathers or the hair of cats or dogs. Just like house-flies, they welcome the chance to come indoors whenever a door or window is left open. Unlike flies though, once they are indoors they seem to disappear.

Inside your home these moths become masters of reproduction. One moth can lay from 100 to 300 tiny eggs. By the time you see actually see a moth flying around, the damage to your rugs or clothing may already be severe.

What is the life cycle of moths like?

The mated adult females do not live long. They deposit their eggs in or on wool or silk rugs. Or clothes that are in dark, undisturbed areas such as under furniture or in closets, seldom used rooms, or storage units. Within a period of 5 to 10 days the eggs hatch into larvae whose mission in life seems to be to seek out your most valuable textiles and do their best to destroy them.

Live larvae can be identified by the silken case that they weave to protect themselves while eating your textiles. The larva’s head is exposed so it can eat your rug while the rest of its body is under cover as it moves around. Often the case is the same color as the dyed wool fiber that the larva has recently consumed.

After the grub has had its fill, it seals itself into it’s case (a tiny, thin cocoon) and undergoes a pupation stage of about two weeks before slowly emerging as an adult winged moth to begin the cycle all over again.

How can moth damage be prevented?

Regular vacuuming is one of the best ways to avoid moth damage.The key is to make sure that you vacuum the entire surface of your rugs. Most home-owners concentrate on the high traffic areas, since that is where noticeable soiling occurs. Damage often happens under furniture that is never moved, such as king-size beds, armoires or china cabinets.

If you have not moved your bed’s headboard away from the wall for a few weeks (or months) you may be shocked to see how much lint, hair and dust have accumulated there. This setting is a prime breeding ground for dust mites and other bugs. If the floor covering happens to be a nice wool rug, moth larvae are not shy about quietly feasting on it while you sleep just a couple of feet away. Sorry if this sounds disturbing, but it happens!

Wool area rugs should be sent in for cleaning every two years or so. Be sure to choose a reliable company that specializes in the cleaning of Oriental and specialty rugs. This will assure that your rug is dusted to remove dry particulate soil (including moth eggs) prior to a thorough wash process, which will remove ground-in soil as well as any residue from food or drink spills or pet accidents. It is also important that the cleaning facility has a heated and ventilated dry room, so that your rug can dry completely within a few hours. Heat completes the sanitation process when rugs are cleaned. 

When you have D. A. Burns & Sons, Inc. clean your wool rugs you should also consider having us apply a preventive insect repellent treatment to keeps moths and other insects from damaging them.

Repair and Reweaving

If your fine handmade Oriental or specialty rug has sustained visible damage from moth larvae - or any other culprit - we can come to the rescue! D. A. Burns’ meticulous hand-repair experts can repair or reweave the affected areas to restore your rug’s appearance and value – to be enjoyed by your next generation. If you would like to have our service coordinator preview your rug and provide a written service proposal please call us a 206-782-2268.  

D. A. Burns & Sons, Inc., in business since 1935, is honored to be the company selected by thousands of Greater Seattle and Eastside home owners for the care and cleaning of their Oriental and other area rugs; installed carpet; stone, tile and grout; and fabric and leather upholstery. 

To inquire about our cleaning and custom carpet services – or request a complimentary quote – contact us today.


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