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Fabric Pests - how to eliminate these difficult infestation problems in New York City


By Ralph H Maestre BCE

Fabric Pest Control Management in NYC and Long Island

Fabric pests present a difficult problem for a Pest Control Professional since pesticides alone rarely solve the infestation. This is where Integrated Pest Management helps to control the infestation. There must be a combination of several pest control approaches; inspection to determine the extent of the infestation and pest control plan, habitat modification to stress the pest and force it to evacuate and eliminate it from the infested area, education to help the client find and ID the pest in the earliest stages, use of the appropriate pesticide to target the infestation at its source, to re-evaluation of the plan to make sure it worked.

Not all materials are consumed by a fabric pest. Mostly wool-based materials are eaten. Most fabric pest in nature feed on dead animals. Their job in nature is to decompose the skin and hair of a dead animal. The soft tissues (insides) are first consumed by flies and other beetles. So, what inside your home is made of animal hair and skin? Wool, leather, clothing, carpets, tapestries, etc. Not only are these items fed on by the fabric pests, so are other substances of high protein base keratin. Dead animals such as mice, squirrels, and birds, but this also includes grains and seeds. Insects are capable of digesting keratin.

Several carpet beetles and two species of clothing moths are the most common and can be identified in either the adult or larval stages.

Carpet Beetles

The carpet beetles include the Larder Beetle (Dermestes Lardarius), Hide Beetle (Dermestes maculatus), Black Carpet Beetle (Attagenus unicolor), Common Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus scrophulariae), Funiture/Varied Carpet Beetle (Anthrenus verbasci), and the Warehouse/Cabinet Beetles (Trogoderma).

The adults have a hard-shelled set of front wings called the elytra. They may be oblong or round in shape and range from 1/8" to 3/8" long. Some are solid in color while others look like a dull Lady Bird Beetle (Lady Bug).

The larvae range from 1/8" to 1/2" long at can be very hairy. The larvae are the main feeders that cause the damage to the fabrics.

Only the Hide and Larder Beetles feed on material other than fabrics, they feed on bird and mammal flesh. They prefer feeding on dry food rather than spoiled. These beetles feed on cured meats such as ham or feed on dead birds, mice and such. These beetles also cause lots of damage to museums pieces and leather.

An infestation is easily noted when in the spring many adults are found on windowsills. These beetles are very hardy and can survive inside a sealed container for many years feeding on grains. I have a container of chicken bouillon for close to ten years with beetles still feeding inside.

Clothing Moths

There are two types that are most common, the Webbing Clothing Moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the Casemaking Clothing Moth (Tineola pellionella)

The adults are very secretive, small and choose to remain in dark places. They need humidity. It is usually soiled fabrics. Their size ranges from 1/4" to 1/3" long.

The larvae are small and very light in color with dark heads. The Casemaking Moth will construct a case around its body and carry it around while feeding. While the Webbing Clothing Moth will leave telltale signs of a silky material as it feeds.

Control and Management

Inspection is required to pinpoint the location of the infestation. Look for accumulation of the caste skins and large amounts of fecal pellets. Look for damage to fabrics. Woolen cloths should be removed from the closets and brushed. This includes inspecting furs. The brushing helps dislodge eggs and larvae from the clothing. Inspection should include areas where fabrics are stored. Storage containers, basements, attics, under furniture, behind headboards (human hair) pantries (grains), etc.

Use of pheromone traps may be helpful in pinpointing the area of infestation. Do no use more than label recommendations, since this may bring in the pest from outside.

Habitat Modification

It may become necessary to discard or clean any wool of fur product. Fumigation may be an option. Recommend moving furniture to clean underneath Pet hair is a great source of food for these pests. Wool carpets may have to be removed or professionally cleaned. Vacuuming of all rooms especially where dust bunnies hide. Clothing will have to be separated into the infested, and items that will need professional cleaning. Dry cleaning will kill all stages, but it may be more expensive that fumigation. Finally have all cleaned and inspected items stored in a tight sealed container such a space saver bags. Furs are best kept in refrigerated vaults at furriers.

Pesticide Application

Where the infestations are found crack and crevice applications using labeled products is best. Hire a professional to make the pesticide application.

Follow-up and Re-evalution

Routine monitoring at least on a seasonal basis is recommended. The use of pheromone traps and maintain proper storage of fabrics when not in use is essential.

Magic Exterminating has the experienced personnel to eliminate fabric pests in and around your home. Call us for a free estimate.