We received a question from Christina in Baltimore about the sleep cycle of clothes moths.
First, I just want to say “thank you” for all the great information on your site! I took the steps you said in your attack plan and it seems to be working. The moths in my house are slowly going away, but it’s taking a while. Cleaning the baseboards and closets has helped the most, I think. I have noticed, though, that the moths seem to come out at night. When this happens, they are easier to find and kill, but I wonder why they come out in the evening? They aren’t attracted to light like other moths. It’s kind of weird. Thanks for what you do!
This is an excellent question. As you have noted, clothes moths are not like the usual moths to which we are accustomed. As anyone who has left on an outdoor light has noticed, most moths are attracted to bright lights and will frequently encircle them, seemingly in a trance.
This is because the typical outdoor moth relies on lunar light to navigate. In a state of nature, the brightest light in the evening is the moon. Man’s harnessing of fire, and later, electric light, has introduced interference into the nocturnal navigation systems of these creatures, rendering them powerless to resist the soft glow of a light bulb. As such, when outdoor moths sees an artificial light source at night, they are immediately attracted to it, as the saying goes, “like a moth to a flame.”
The clothes moth is a different beast. While they share many of the genetic characteristics of their moth brethren, they are altogether unique in how they reproduce, navigate, and feed. The objective of the clothes moth is to obtain a source of keratin and stay close to that source so that offspring may feed on it. This requires them to remain clandestine and secretive during the waking hours. Like other moths, they are nocturnal. Unlike other moths, they are not attracted to light.
In my observations, I have noticed clothes moths make their appearance in the hours immediately after dusk. Depending on the season, this is between six and nine o’clock pm. At this time, they emerge from the fibrous crypts in your closet and attempt to move about your home, identifying new shelters on their wayward journey. In fact, if you have an infestation, I would recommend limiting your reconnaissance efforts between these hours to maximize your likelihood of finding them. That’s not to say you won’t ever see them during the day, because I have, but your best bet is at night.
-The Moth Guy