It’s the larvae (the grub) that causes the damage and they’ll eat almost any natural fabric – they will feed on coats, shirts, socks or anything else in your wardrobe.
There are two main insects that cause fabric damage: clothes moth and carpet beetle – however, the name doesn’t indicate where you’ll find them. The larvae are very different: clothes moth larvae look like 7-8mm long ‘pipes’, usually the same colour as the fabric they’re living on, while carpet beetle larvae are very distinctively ‘woolly’ (hence it’s nickname: the woolly bear) and will usually avoid light, curling up when disturbed. Either will be found in less-frequently vacuumed places like under furniture, behind bookcases or in storage areas such as wardrobes.
The harm they do
As anyone who’s lost a favourite jacket to moths will tell you, they’re trouble! Because they usually bred in quiet, less disturbed places, there’s a very good chance of damage occurring until it’s too late and it’s not uncommon to have to replace an entire carpet or wardrobe as a result of their feeding.
The usual approach is to vacuum the room thoroughly to remove as many of the eggs and larval stages as possible. In addition, an insecticide – water based, odourless and colourless – is applied to affected carpets and so on to form a barrier to stop any further development. Items that that can’t be treated can be placed in a bag and put in a freezer for 48 hours or washed in a suitably hot program.