Moth Life Cycle Explained – Detailed Guide

Published Categorized as Moths

Moths may cause enormous amounts of chaos in your home despite their tiny size and frequently innocent demeanor. Not the adult flying moths, but their rice-sized larvae, are the gods of fabric devastation. The larvae not only eat holes in your pricey wool garments or antique carpets, but they may also leave a messy aftermath.

Knowing the moth life cycle will help you target them at the most effective time if you have a moth problem. This article will teach you everything you need to know about the life cycle of a moth.

Different Types of Moths

When we talk about a moth’s life cycle, it’s important to be aware of which type of moth we’re talking about as their life cycles may vary. Inside your home, you’re likely to be dealing with pantry moths, carpet, and clothing moths.

The latter two are typically the same moth as they prey on the keratin fibers of carpets and clothing. Let’s take a brief look at the various moths that we will later describe their life cycles. For more detailed information, visit our House Moth Identification guide.

Carpet and Clothes Moths

A few different types of moths feed on the keratin fibers found in garments and carpets. Identifying the Rug and the Clothing Although they are typically categorized by the area they have inhabited, such as your closet, moths can be more simply classified by looking at their size and color.

But there isn’t really a distinction between carpet and clothing moths. The old carpets are also in jeopardy if they are gnawing on your clothes.

The webbing moth and the case-making/case-bearing moth are the two kinds of moths that consume fabrics, or more specifically, the keratin found in fabrics. Because of this, case-making moths and webbing moths will establish colonies in areas with keratin-rich fibers, such as silks, furs, and wools.

Furthermore, any food, drink, or sweat stains can lead moths to flock toward clothing or carpets since these textiles may hold moisture, which moths and their larvae can “drink”.

The webbing moth (Tineola bisselliella), often called the Common Clothes Moth, is golden around the head and has whitish wings. The older they get, the less active they will be; they are more active at night. All through the year, case-bearing or case-making moths (Tinea pellionella) are visible. Their wings are black and brown with brown flecks, and the bottom border is fringed.

Pantry Moths

One of the more common pests in kitchens are pantry moths, often known as Indian meal moths. They are everywhere, including North America and Europe. Pantry moths love to eat cereals, grains, and nuts, so they frequently enter homes through these items.

Pantry moth adults are easy to recognize. They have bronze wings that may be decorated with patterns like a black line that runs through the center. Some will have a somewhat paler appearance.

To learn more about the two common types of moths you find at home, visit our Pantry Moths vs Clothes Moths guide!

What Is the Moth Life Cycle?

Like most moths, clothes and carpet moths have a distinct life cycle. There are four stages of the moth life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae/cocoons, and adult. Each stage represents a significant step in a moth’s lifespan. Knowing the life of a moth is important when trying to handle an infestation, too.

1. Egg Stage

The egg is the first stage of a moth’s life cycle.

Clothes Moths Egg Stage

Adult female webbing moths and case-bearing moths can lay about 40–50 eggs at a time after selecting an acceptable nest. That amount can reach 100 eggs at times. These are not all laid at once but rather over a few days. Moth eggs typically hatch in 4 to 10 days, though this considerably depends on humidity and temperature levels.

Pantry Moth Egg Stage

A single female pantry moth can produce up to 500 eggs, with 300 being the norm. These eggs might be laid over the course of 18 days or all at once by the moth. The little eggs will be around meals, especially those that smell strongly or are not well packed. These eggs will then hatch seven days after being placed. Sometimes it takes up to 14 days.

2. Larval Stage

Moths are particularly harmful during the following stage. The newly hatched larvae swarm their food source with an insatiable appetite, gnawing away to obtain nutrition that aids in their growth.

Clothes Moths Larval Stage

Imagine discovering dozens of larvae crawling all over your cashmere and wool clothing. It’s gruesome. And as you can expect, they keep going until it’s time to transform into a cocoon.

Larvae, however, don’t have a defined period of time when they determine it’s time to metamorphose. Sometimes, it only requires two months. Sometimes, the larval stage of the clothing moth lasts between 30 months and 2.5 years.

Because they can survive the winter while consuming keratin-rich fabric, clothes moths can be a real annoyance.

Pantry Moths Larval Stage

When Indian meal moths are in their larval stage, they cause the most damage. They will continuously eat food because of their insatiable desire, excreting waste known as frass. The frass and webbing will cause the food to become polluted and worthless.

In general, the larval stage lasts between two and three months, depending on the surroundings and the accessibility of food. In contrast, the larvae might take up to 210 days to develop in other conditions.

3. Pupal Stage

Larvae pupate when the environment is warm enough. The pupae are typically concealed, either behind radiators or in the darkest nooks of closets, so few people will observe this stage.

You should know that when moths (and butterflies) transition from their larval to adult stages, specific cells in their bodies are activated. These cells disassemble the body into a mass of goo that progressively remodels. Histolysis is the name of this procedure.

The environment has an effect on the rate of histolysis, which is why moths in warmer areas typically hatch and grow considerably more quickly than those in cooler climates.

Look for debris or the remains of their cocoons if you suddenly notice moths flitting around. Webbing casings, from which webbing moths derive their name, are typically present.

Clothes Moths Pupal Stage

Although the pupal stage can last up to 50 days, it usually only takes 8 to 10 days for adult clothes or carpet moths to appear.

Pantry Moths Pupal Stage

About 15 to 20 days pass while pupae are maturing into adult pantry moths.

4. Adult Stage

Clothes Moths Adult Stage

Adult webbing moths and case-bearing moths are harmless in and of themselves, but their presence in your home should raise some red flags. Their sole objective is to mate and deposit eggs wherever there is sufficient food. They cannot consume food or liquids.

Some adult moths only have a week of life, while others have a lifespan of up to 10 months or even a full year. Male moths typically pass away shortly after mating, whereas females typically die after laying their fertilized eggs.

Pantry Moths Adult Stage

This typical grumbling and bumping into light bulbs is a way of humorously enticing a mate for reproduction. It’s fascinating to notice that adult pantry moths do not require food and lack mouths.

Their only objectives are to find a light, mate, and lay eggs that will eventually die. You typically won’t see mature moths until you come across them when cleaning away dust bunnies because they only have a lifespan of 5 to 25 days.

Visit our Pantry Moth Life Cycle guide for more information!

What Do Moth Eggs Look Like?

Both case-bearing moths and webbing moths place their eggs among the materials that their young will eat. The eggs, which are only approximately 0.5 mm in diameter and difficult to see, resemble little white orbs that have been laid in a row or cluster. You might be able to see the eggs more clearly depending on the color of the fabric, particularly if many have been laid together.

Eggs laid by pantry moths are small, round, and grayish-white in color. Within seven days, pantry moth larvae might develop from the eggs.

What Do Moth Larvae Look Like?

Larvae resemble white rice grains that are writhing slightly. When they first hatch, they are only a few millimeters long, but they quickly develop to be between 1 and 1.5 cm long.

Larvae of the webbing moth and case-bearing moth both have spherical, brown heads and white or yellow bodies. As they move closer to their pupal stage, they could leave webbing trails behind.

The larvae of pantry moths are grayish-white and roughly half an inch long. They burrow themselves inside food containers and make silk webbing. The webbing clumps and tiny, white “worms” will start to develop

Before undergoing metamorphosis, progressed larvae use their legs to move around the pantry area (for instance, into gaps between themselves).

How Long Do Moths Live?

Moths may appear to have an endless lifespan when you consider the variables that govern their life cycle.

To recap:

  • Egg-laying takes 4-14 days.
  • Eggs hatch in 4-14 days.
  • Larvae eat for 2-3 months. In ideal circumstances, larvae can eat for up to 30 months.
  • A cocoon’s metamorphosis may take 8 to 10 days (sometimes up to 50 days).
  • In most cases, adults mate and lay their eggs 4-6 days after hatching.

So a moth can live anywhere between half a year and three years when not impacted by modern technology, heating, or the environment.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the clothes moth life cycle?

The female adult moths live for about 30 days and may lay up to 300 eggs during their approximately 65-90 day life cycle.

What do moth larvae look like?

Larvae resemble white rice grains that are wriggling slightly. When they first hatch, they are only a few millimeters long, but they quickly grow to be between 1.0 and 1.5 cm long.

How long do moths live?

This depends on the species. Moths typically live between one and six months. For instance, while silkworm moths only survive a week or two, the ordinary brown house moth can live up to four months.

By Travis Amos

My house is my castle, and there is no space for unwanted neighbors.

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