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Clothes Moths vs. Pantry Moths

Do you know the difference between Clothes moths and Pantry moths? You've found holes in your favorite sweater, and suspect moths. You've seen moths fluttering around in your kitchen and pantry. What about the moths that cluster around the outdoor lighting on the outside of your home? Are they all the same kind of moth?

Clothes Moths vs. Pantry Moths

What do Clothes Moths Look Like?

Adult Clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella and the less common Tinea pellionella, a.k.a. Casemaking mothsare small (1/2" in length), beige to grey in color, and with narrow, hairy wings. These moths are rarely seen because they avoid light at all costs. They are sometimes mistaken for their Pantry moth cousins, which are slightly different in color.

Casemaking moth

What do Pantry Moths Look Like?

Adult Pantry (Indian meal) moths (Plodia interpunctella) are also about 1/2" in length, with narrow grey wings with about two-thirds that is reddish-brown in color with black striping. If you see them flying around your kitchen/pantry area, that's the first clue you may have an infestation on your hands. Pantry moth larvae are an off-white color, also about 1/2" in length, and will spin silky webs as they burrow around inside containers of dry food.

Indian meal moth

What do Clothes Moths Eat?

Clothes moths crave the natural fibers in clothing (including silk, cotton, wool, etc.), drapes/curtains, upholstery, carpet, bedding, etc.--just about any natural fiber they can find. They will even eat through synthetic materials, on the lookout for any natural fibers that may be hidden inside, so not even polyester is safe from them.

What do Pantry Moths Eat?

Pantry moths, on the other hand, will burrow into and infest food goods you may have in storage, like oatmeal, cereal, flour, grain, cornmeal, rice, and nuts, but will also get into pet food, birdseed, dry pasta, and dried fruits.  

Clothes Moth Life Cycle  

Clothes moths, like many insects, go through a full metamorphosis, from egg to larva to pupa (cocoon), and finally to flying adults. 

Clothes moths have an average life cycle of between 60 and 90 days, and during this lifespan, females can lay around 50 eggs. The tiny, white baby Clothes moths survive in silky cylindrical cocoons (Casemaking moth cocoons are more like hard shells) and leave behind trails that are reminiscent of cobwebs. By the time you see adult Clothes moths flying around, you may already have an infestation on your hands! 

Pantry Moth Life Cycle

Pantry moths also go through a full metamorphosis, but they produce much more prolifically. Female Pantry moths can lay up to 400 eggs at a time (directly on or near food sources) which hatch within a week or so, depending on how warm their environment is (warmer temps mean faster hatching and development).

At the Pantry moth larval stage, they can start chewing and inflicting some damage to your stored food products. This might go on for two to three months until they spin themselves cocoons as pupae. These Pantry moth cocoons can sometimes be found in cracks and crevices, and even buried inside stored food (Oatmeal with webbing, anyone?)

After another two to three weeks, the pupa emerge as flying adult Pantry moths, when the cycle begins all over. At this rate, a few moths can end up being a full-on infestation before long. 

Do You Have Clothes Moths or Pantry Moths?

A Clothes moth infestation likely won't be noticeable until you see the damage done to your clothes (usually collars, cuffs, and inside seams).

Adult Clothes moths will be more difficult to spot than Pantry moths (eggs and larvae are even more difficult to spot), but adult Clothes moths will not typically go far from their food sources. Pantry moths are known to fly around your home hunting for food if they can't find it in obvious areas.

Pantry moth infestations are much more noticeable. Pantry moth larvae spin webs around themselves as they burrow and eat through your food products, and you will notice webbing and "caterpillars" in the food. After the larvae pupate, the adult Pantry moths can easily be seen flying around.

It can be difficult to get rid of moths once they get a foothold in your home. Be vigilant so you can spot any problems quickly and then take quick steps to stop them from spreading. Don't lose it if you happen to have discovered an infestation. There is plenty you can do to get rid of these moths.

Traps for Clothes Moths

If you have Clothes moths, you can add pheromone traps, but note that these will not work for Pantry moths. Pantry moth traps use a different type of pheromone to attract them. Clothes moth traps can kill off adult male moths, preventing them from mating and reproducing. Some traps are specifically designed for webbing Clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella), and won't work for Casemaking moths (Tinea pellionella).

What Kills Clothes Moths?

Mothballs contain a chemical called 1,4-dichlorobenzene (paradichlorobenzene) that suffocates moths and their larvae, and are useful in helping you to get rid of these moths…This chemical is also poisonous to children and pets, so handle with care.

Are There Pantry Moth Repellents?

The best defense you can mount against Pantry moths (or any moth or pest) is to make your home as unwelcome for them as possible. Cleanliness does matter, though cleanliness alone is no guarantee you'll never have moths or other bugs indoors. Be watchful and as proactive as possible (prevention, lots of prevention!) to help keep moths and other pests in check.  You can also spot treat for Pantry moths, Clothes moths (if you can see them) and other flying insects with a good home bug spray or flying insect killer.

Remember to never use pesticide sprays in your pantry or cupboards near your food. Use non-toxic Pantry moth traps instead, as they can be used around stored food. They will catch Pantry moths you might have missed, and can remain effective for several weeks.

Pantry moth trap

See our 6 Easy Steps to Keep Bugs Out of Your Home

Steps to Get Rid of Bugs Easily and Effectively

Guide to Spraying for Bugs Indoors

Guide to Selecting the Best Indoor Bug Spray

See our guide here to selecting the right pest control product to use to address a specific bug problem 

If a Clothes moth or Pantry moth infestation seems like more than you can handle, be sure to call a pest control company.

How do you keep your home moth-free? We want to hear about it! Leave us a comment below! 


For scientifically-tested, effective moth control in your home that is friendly to the environment, try Maggie’s Farm pest control products. Our promise is that our plant and mineral-based products are developed by scientists and seasoned pest control professionals to be the most effective.

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