Flying clothes moths do not eat your rugs, but the females do lay hundreds of eggs each, and the eggs hatch into larvae that consume wool, fur, feather, and silk fibers. Moths and their larvae thrive in dark, undisturbed areas where a rug gets little traffic and is not often vacuumed. A bad infestation sometimes leaves a cobweb-like veil in the area of the damage, along with fine, sand-like debris. An infestation often involves more than one rug, and can spread to (or from) woolens or furs hanging in a closet or sweaters stored in a drawer. A rug damaged by moths is not difficult to repair, but reweaving a large area of the rug can be expensive.
To identify the presence of moths
- flying moths -- the common clothing moth (tineola bisselliella) is the villain. It's small, 3/8" long or less, and is usually silvery tan or soft brown in color. This moth flies slowly but with a rapid flutter of small wings. If you try to snatch one out of the air, the clothes moth folds its wings and drops to the floor.
- bare spots in the pile -- often moth larvae will prefer the taste of one color yarn over another, and so the bare spots may involve some specific colors but not others.
- webs -- white gossamer filaments covering a patch of the rug's pile (often only present with a bad infestation).
- cocoons -- 1/8" diameter x 1/2" long slightly fuzzy cylinders usually the same color as the rug's pile (larvae camouflage their cocoons to blend in with the color of the wool that surrounds them).
- larvae in the pile -- slender, white, worm-like moth larvae about 3/8" long can sometimes be seen just after hatching, before they've constructed cocoons. It is the larvae that actually eat the wool.
- sand-like particles down in the pile of the rug -- this material, often tan or brown in color, regular in size, and granular in look, is the excretion of the larvae.
- broken/loose plies -- where the larvae have chewed through yarn overcastings or bindings.
To prevent moth damage:
Vacuum the entire face of the rug weekly if possible. At least several times a year, vacuum the back side of the rug and the pad and floor underneath. If the rug is too large to handle, flip the edges over, and vacuum at least one to two feet in along the borders on the back side of the rug. The corresponding areas on the pad and floor should also be vacuumed.