Clothes Moths / Fungus Moths

Case-bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella)

Clothes moths, of which there are two common species (the Common/Webbing Clothes Moth and the Case-bearing Clothes Moth), belong to the family Tineidae. They are small, and hold their wings roof-like over their body when at rest. Both of these species have adapted to feeding (in the caterpillar stage) on stored fabrics, especially wool, but many other natural fibers are at risk as well.  They are considered a serious pest because of the amount of damage they can cause due to their larval feeding.

The family name of Tineidae is often labeled as “clothes moths” but another apt label for the family is “fungus moths” because the majority of the 3000+ species in 300 genera feed on fungi, lichens, and detritus.  Some species will also feed on stored grains.  At least three species in the Nemapogon genus, for example, feed on shelf fungi as well as stored grains and possibly stored produce, rather than on clothing or animal furs; they are: N. cloacella, N. variatella and N. granella, the latter of which is known as the European Grain Moth or sometimes, “Corn Moth.”  All three of those species are native to Europe but are now found in North America; they are believed to have been accidentally introduced.  It is worth nothing that occasionally Maine residents will catch Nemapogon and/or Niditinea moths indoors in the commercial clothes moth pheromone traps.  Moths in those two groups are generally darker with wings that are very intricately patterned (see examples in the links below).

Additional Information:

  • Clothes Moths [pdf] (Cornell)
  • Clothes Moths (University of Kentucky)
  • Genus Nemapogon examples:
  • See also Niditinea fuscellaBrown-dotted Clothes Moth / European House Moth (similar to Nemapogon granella in both appearance and in its non-clothing diet, even though one of its common names is brown-dotted clothes moth) (