You pull out a favorite wool sweater that you have stored from last winter, only to be dismayed by a hole in it from insect damage. If you are lucky it is in an inconspicuous spot. Most likely it is front and center, which means that the sweater is unwearable for public appearances. Maybe it will be consigned to wearing around the house, at best, or tossed to the trash. So, what attracts insects to clothing? Believe it or not it depends on the insect and the fabric.
Moths are what comes to mind when we think of clothing damage. There are actually a variety of them that are harmless, but the one that is particularly destructive to clothing is the Webbing Clothes Moth. This pest loves to hide out in dark places and can be evident by the silken webs spun by the larvae. The larva is actually the culprit that causes damage to clothing. The female moths will lay their eggs in nutrient-rich fabrics that contain keratin. This a protein that is found in fabrics made from animal fibers (wool, mohair, feather, fur, alpaca, etc.). The larvae feed on the protein, by eating their way through the fiber and thus creating holes in the garment. Cloth moths are also attracted to other fabrics such as linen, cotton, silks and synthetics, if they are blended with animal fibers.
Much like the cloth moths, the larvae of this pest can cause damage to garments made from animal fibers. Unlike cloth moths, the eggs are not laid directly on the fabric. They are laid in dark places that are hidden from normal view and foot traffic. After they hatch, the larvae find their way to nutrients which they may find in cottons, silks and other fabrics. It should also be noted that both cloth moths and carpet beetles will attack fabrics containing detritus of nutritional value. So, that slice of pizza, soda or juice you enjoyed are an attractive food source for these pests.
These easily recognizable insects have slender, scale-covered bodies that are sometimes silvery, usually with a metallic sheen. There may be infestations almost anywhere in a house, including attics, wall voids, and sub-floor areas. They are mostly attracted to human foods on garments (such as crumbs and liquid spills) but they will also snack on starched cotton, linen and silk. The damage they leave on fabrics includes their discarded scales, droppings, or yellowish stains. As a note, they seldom injure wool, hair, or other fibers that are of animal origin