Facts about fur moths
Occurrence: Fur moth (Tinea pellionella) is together with clothes moth the two most common pest moths in Denmark.
FoodThe fur moth caterpillars are the real pests. They feed mainly on fur, hair, feathers and textiles, but can also feed on a few other things such as dry food.
Combat: The key word in the fight against fur moths is cleaning. All areas of the home where fur moths can develop should be cleaned. Moth bags can also be used, while insecticides are not recommended. Read more about combating fur moths below.
Fur moth control
If you see fur moths flying around your home, it's almost a sure sign of infestation. To prevent the moths from breeding, you should kill any adult fur moths you see.
However, the problem won't be solved until you have also removed the eggs and larvae of the fur moths - and the best way to do this is to thoroughly clean your home.
The best way to combat fur moths is to prevent them from establishing themselves in your home. One of the most important tools is the vacuum cleaner and its brush head, which is used to clean your home of hair, dust and other materials that fur moths can feed on.
Particular care should be taken when cleaning home textiles and hard-to-reach areas such as:
- Cabinets (especially wardrobes)
- Drawers (especially clothes drawers)
- Upholstered furniture
- Under all furniture
- Cracks between walls and ceiling
- Ceiling partitions (stucco, moldings, etc.)
- Corners and nooks
- Cracks and fissures
- Skirting boards
- Door frames
- Lists and the like.
If you discover a fur moth infestation - or even suspect it - you should discard the vacuum cleaner bag and immediately throw the trash can into the dumpster. This will minimize the risk of fur moths establishing themselves and spreading to other parts of your home.
Clothing and textiles
Clothes and places where clothes are stored should be thoroughly checked. Any clothes that are not used regularly should also be packed in tightly sealed paper or plastic bags. Of course, it is very important that the clothes are moth-free when packing.
- Wardrobes with clothes
- Drawers with clothes
- Fur jackets and other fur clothing
- Tablecloths, cloth napkins etc.
- Woolen clothing, yarn, etc.
If you find clothes or textiles with signs of moths, the following methods can kill eggs, larvae and moths:
- Wash your clothes in the washing machine at minimum 50°C
- Dry cleaning at a dry cleaner
- Freezing at -18 degrees or below for 2 days
Remember to vacuum all drawers and cupboards where clothes have been stored. You can also treat these storage areas with a moth repellent, but remember to be careful about using chemical products in places where you store clothes (and in general!).
We recommend the clothes moth trap and moth bags above as they are effective and environmentally friendly - NOTE: please note 1) that despite its name, the clothes moth trap is intended for catching fur moths and 2) that one variant of the moth bags is for closets, while the other is for drawers
When cleaning the kitchen, you should also check dry foods in kitchen cupboards such as spices, cereals, seeds, tea, etc. for any signs of the presence of fur moths. They can also be found in other stimulants such as tobacco.
If there are signs of fur moths in your dry goods, you should discard them immediately and dispose of the garbage bag right away. In addition, all kitchen cabinets should be thoroughly cleaned (both vacuuming and cleaning) and you should consider where the moths are coming from; it could be the store, warehouse, manufacturer, neighbor or your own home! Fur moths in food should always be controlled where they originate.
If you have pets, their sleeping areas (dog baskets, cat beds, rabbit cages, etc.) should be cleaned regularly. This also applies to other places where pets spend a lot of time, such as dog houses, scratching posts, bed shelves, etc. Other types of furniture where fur moth larvae can thrive include:
- Home ventilation
- Stuffed animals
- Animal trophies
- Insect collections
It's also a good idea to check your basement, attic and garage for fur moths - especially if you store any textiles, upholstered furniture, etc.
If you discover fur moths in your furniture or carpets, knock them with a carpet beater and possibly also brush them. Then vacuum them. If it's frosty, it's a good idea to leave the furniture outside overnight and bring it inside during the day for a couple of days. The fluctuating temperatures effectively kill eggs, larvae and moths, which can survive a couple of days in freezing weather.
Many pieces of furniture are treated with cedarwood oil to keep moths at bay, but the oil's effect diminishes over time and in theory, you should treat your furniture with a cedarwood product every two years. Of course, this can be more work, but if you have a recurring problem with moths in certain furniture, you should follow this advice.
We generally advise against the use of chemical moth repellents, as they are typically harmful to both the environment and health, and have a limited effect. Read more about this in our article on moth sprays.
Unlike the clothes moth, which originates from warmer countries, the fur moth is native to the Danish nature. Therefore, the moth is adapted to our surroundings and can be found in bird nests, among other places. Therefore, abandoned bird nests near your home should always be removed if you have problems with fur moths.
Rodents and all other types of pests (especially insects such as bees and wasps) must also be controlled, as fur moth larvae can feed on rodent fur, insect exoskeletons, etc.
Dead pests such as rats or mice (or bats) can also give rise to fur moth infestations, as these moths can feed on dead rodents. For example, if you've used poison against rats or mice, chances are you have one or more dead rodents lying in an inaccessible place in or around your home, which can allow fur moths to establish themselves.
Description of the fur moth
Adult fur moths are 0.5 - 0.8 cm long and have a wingspan of 1.2 - 1.7 cm.
Fully grown moths have 3 dark spots on each wing, but these spots may be less visible if the scales on the wings have been worn off. The hindwings are smaller than the forewings and are also more 'fringed' with hair and scales.
Male moths are smaller and lighter in color than female moths. Males are also more active flyers than females and the latter tend to fly only short, interrupted distances.
Both genders are also shy, which means, among other things, that you may not notice their presence right away.
Fur moth larvae are white and have reddish-brown heads. Fur moth eggs are very small and fragile, and are destroyed by normal cleaning (e.g. vacuuming, beating, brushing, etc.). Both eggs and larvae are barely visible to the naked eye and when people claim to have seen them, it's usually the larvae's feces.
Fur moth caterpillars spin cocoons that they live in and drag around with them - in other words, they migrate in their cocoons. They are often overlooked because their cocoons are roughly the same color as their food source (i.e. the fur or textile they feed on). When they start to migrate - and are on materials other than their food source (such as walls) - they immediately become more visible.
Confusion with other moths
Fur moths are roughly the same size as clothes moth and the two can easily be confused - especially if the fur moth has lost its black wing spots. Besides the wing spots, the most obvious difference between the two is that fur moths are more brownish than clothes moths.
However, you can easily tell the difference between the two species of moth caterpillars; the fur moth caterpillar wanders and drags its cocoon around, whereas the clothes moth caterpillars do not.
Fur moths can also be confused with seed mothHowever, they have several dark spots on their wings, whereas fur moths only have 3 spots on each wing. Seed moths are generally larger than fur moths and their wingspan is significantly larger.
Signs of a home attack
The following are the most common signs of fur moth presence in the home:
The above are typically found in clothing, fur, furniture upholstery, ceiling parts, etc. In individual locations, the presence of fur moths can be seen in the following ways:
- Clothing: Spiders, cocoons or excrement on clothing in closets or drawers (typically on discarded clothing). Clothes may have holes, although these are usually caused by clothes moths.
- Furs: Furry clothes typically develop large patches where fur is missing (furless areas). This is because the larvae bite the fur hairs at the root and they then fall off. Because the larvae then move on to the nearby hairs, the fur loss manifests itself in the form of patches. Spiders, cocoons and excrement can be difficult to see in fur because they can be hidden between the hairs.
- Furniture upholstery: Fur moth caterpillars mostly attack upholstery from the dark inside. From the outside, this can be seen by individual threads in the upholstery breaking. On the inside are spider webs, cocoons and excrement.
- Ceiling parts: Spindles and cocoons are seen in the cracks between the walls and ceiling, and possibly also in the corners and ceiling parts such as panels, moldings, stucco, etc.
Larvae and eggs are difficult to spot due to their tiny size and because they are usually well hidden.
Fur moth caterpillars drag their cocoon behind them and often settle in the cracks between the walls and ceiling
Fur moth life cycle
Female moths generally live a little shorter than male moths and both sexes live for a maximum of around 1 month.
- Eggs: Female moths lay between 40 and 300 eggs* in their lifetime. Male moths live slightly longer than female moths, but no more than a month. The eggs are typically laid between the hairs in fur, carpets, etc. or in folds, ridges, joints, etc. Whether larvae hatch from the eggs depends largely on the temperature. Under normal or good conditions, this time is 4 - 8 days. At freezing (0 degrees) or sub-zero temperatures, the eggs do not hatch but die in about 3 weeks.
- Larvae: The fur moth caterpillar spins a cocoon around which it drags with it. When the fur moth caterpillar is fully grown, it often migrates with a tendency to move upwards. It often settles in the cracks between the walls and ceiling and in ceiling parts such as moldings, stucco and the like. Its length here is 6 - 9 mm. Read more. more about moth caterpillars here.
- From caterpillar to mothUnder optimal conditions (around 26 degrees and with the right humidity), a larva can develop into a full-grown fur moth in 6 weeks. However, this is rarely the case and will typically take 8-10 weeks in the summer and several months in the winter. However, in heated homes where the temperature is fairly constant and the moths have good access to food, the development time can easily be 8-9 weeks.
- GenerationsThere are around 2 generations per year, but under optimal conditions, up to 4 generations can develop per year.
*The amount of eggs varies in several sources and some sources state them to be as low as 40 – 50 on average per female moth, while others state that the figure is as high as 300. Our figures therefore represent the minimum and maximum from the sources used. You can read more about the moth life cycle here.