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What’s the Deal with Moths?

  • Najib Benouar
What’s the Deal with Moths?

This time of year, as you begin to pull out your finest wools for winter, the threat of moths looms large.

But what exactly is the deal with moths anyway? Why the hell do they have a bloodthirst for fine wools? (In fact, most of them don’t.) Is this all just a big conspiracy perpetuated by Big Cedar to sell mothballs?

Don’t fret, we’ve got the answers to all the moth questions you were too afraid to ask...

So I just saw a moth flutter by in the general vicinity of my closet. Time to freak out, right?
Not exactly. There are thousands of kinds of moths. Only two kinds affect clothes. That one you just saw is probably the kind that is obsessed with bright lights.

Well, just in case, I went out and bought a small forest of cedar mothballs and hangers. Do those things even work?
The fumes act as a masking agent to confuse moths, but don’t really deter them unless the fumes are very concentrated to a point of toxicity—and that’s not great for you to breathe in either. Plus, those fumes dissipate quickly. Your best bet is to make sure everything in your closet is clean and moth-larvae-free.

Cleanliness is next to... mothlessness?
Exactly. The process should have begun well before you’re pulling the wool, cashmere and mohair out from the depths of your closet this winter. Before storing them away, you should make sure everything has received a hot bath or dry cleaning.

What’s the best way to store my good stuff?
Maximum security detail requires an airtight seal in plastic storage bins or vacuum bags. Otherwise, a clean and well-maintained closet will do.

What about vintage finds?
Be sure to clean them before they intermingle in your closet, because they could be harboring moth eggs or larvae. Consider it a sartorial flu shot.

So, it sounds like you’re saying that by the time they’re moths, it’s already too late?
Wow, excellent inference there. Nailed it. The real culprit is the larvae, which feed on your wool fibers—which is why cleaning everything is so important. Even giving the floor a good vacuum is not a bad idea.

Anything else I should know about moths?
They’ve been around for nearly 190 million years, according to some fossil records.

I didn’t want to know that.