When people encounter a moth, they probably imagine a garden or the park where the moths hang near flowers. Or you might think of a swarm of moths hovering around a street lamp. But it is very common to encounter them inside your home, especially in the attic or basement. So, how do these creatures survive inside a human residence?
Species like the carpet moth, pantry moth will spend their entire life cycle inside a house. These moths feed on household materials and food products. Wild moths will not survive indoors for too long. Because they cannot find their preferred food and mating partner inside a human household.
Wild moths don’t survive long indoors.
Moths that have adapted to live inside can become a serious pest problem. Knowing more about these creatures can help you eradicate this infestation. So, in this article, we look at these moths in more detail and discuss their life cycle, food habits, and means of infestation. We also look at ways to deal with these bugs if they do manage to get inside your house.
How Long Do Moths Live?
The lifespan of moths can differ drastically from species to species. And even within the same species, there can be a disparity among male and female moths.
Moths have four distinct phases a moth goes through during its life cycle. From birth to death these stages are egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa, and adult. Each of these stages has its own duration, which once again, varies among different species.
The life of a moth begins as an egg. Usually, it can take a week to a month for the eggs to hatch. After this, they enter their larval stage, which we commonly refer to as caterpillars.
Most moths spend the vast majority of their life as caterpillars.
This period can last for months, sometimes even years before entering the next stage. Within this time, the caterpillars consume a large amount of food to sustain their development into fully winged moths. On the longer side, the Arctic Wooly Bear moth can live up to 7 years as a caterpillar.
When the time comes, the caterpillars will shape into cocoons. Here, their body starts to develop all the features of an adult moth. This can take a couple of weeks to maybe a month, which is shorter than their time as a caterpillar.
Adult moth live for a considerably short amount of time.
Their main, and often only purpose, is to find a suitable mate for breeding. And they have a limited window of opportunity to do that. Species such as the Gypsy moth have about 2 weeks to find a mate before they die. Many other species also have a few weeks as an adult.
Some species of moths can live up to a year as an adult, although this is more of a rarity than the standard.
(Ever wondered how moths do breathe in each stage? Moth’s Respiration System: Explained from Caterpillar to Adult Moth)
How Long Do Moths Live in a House?
Typically, you will find two types of moths inside a home. There are moths that spend their entire lives inside someone’s house. And then you have wild moths that enter the house for one reason or another.
Wild adult moths do not stick around in a home for too long. Their lifespan is very short and not affected too much by staying inside a house, because they don’t lack food as they don’t eat anything as an adult. The lifespan could be decreased slightly due to the higher stress, less darkness, and missing shelter.
Only a few moths do eat as an adult. But the plants and flowers they feed on are scarcely found inside a human residence. Plus, it is significantly harder for them to find a suitable partner for mating in such places. As such, even if they do stay inside the house, they will not survive for long.
These wild species may find themselves inside your home in search of shelter (Moths And Sleep) Or they may be attracted by a bright light and accidentally end up there. During the day, they will look for dark, damp places to hide. So, if you want to find wild moths inside your house, your best bet is to look inside your attic or the basement.
But you also have some species of moths that are almost exclusively found in a human residence and will continue to reproduce there. While individual moths will die in this process, the infestation will be there all the time.
Species such as the carpet moth and pantry moth derive their name from the items they target in a household.
Carpet moths or clothing moths lay their eggs on carpets, closets, rugs, etc. This is because these species’ caterpillars (larval stage) feed on fibers such as wool, cashmere, silk, etc. The eggs hatch between 4 to 10 days. As caterpillars, they can live between 2 to 30 months, depending on the climate. This is when they do most of the damage.
The adults live for a considerably shorter time. They will try to find a mate within 2-3 months and lay eggs. Adults are more or less harmless but they can easily create a large infestation.
So, how long a moth will live inside your house depends on the particular species of moth. If the species is usually found in the wild, they will not survive for long. But if they are residential species, they will spend their entire lifecycle in a house.
Can Moths Reproduce in a House?
Wild moths typically do not find suitable mates in a human household. So, it is rare for them to reproduce inside a house. Even if they do, the caterpillars will struggle to find food in this environment (Moths Vision Explained). So, a house is not a suitable place for them to lay eggs and survive.
Only residential moths (carpet, clothes moths) can reproduce in a house.
Carpet and pantry moths on the other hand will exclusively lay eggs inside household items such as the rug or inside a grain bin. The eggs hatch and the larva will feed on their preferred materials. After they reach maturity, they will look for a mate, which is also inside the home.
After mating, the female adult will look for a dark, damp area for laying eggs, as they will not be disturbed much in these places.
Do Moths Find Food in a House?
Again, this depends on the type of moth you are dealing with here. Common clothing moths feed on materials such as wool and silk. There are plenty of products inside most houses that are made out of these materials. So, these moths do not have any problem finding food inside a house.
The same goes for pantry moths. Their larva can eat flour, cereal, bread, and other human foods. One or more of these foods are quite common in an average household. So, pantry moths can easily locate food and thrive in a house.
Wild moths don’t find food in a house.
The larva of many wild species of moths eats plants to grow and develop. Some moth species will only eat specific plants, as such, they are found in a handful of places. Adult moths drink the nectar of flowers or bird droppings.
All of these items are not common in a human household. So, it is very hard for these species to sustain their lives on the food available in a home.
Why Do Moths Come into a House?
Carpet moths or the common clothing moths usually lay eggs inside furniture or rugs. So, if you buy any such products from a garage sale, thrift shop, you are risking yourself getting a moth infestation.
Pantry moths lay their eggs inside bags of flour or rice grains. So, buying these products without checking them thoroughly can allow these moths to enter your home. Once inside, the larva starts eating the cereal grains or nuts and begins maturing. Given enough time, these larvae will grow into full adults and continue to repopulate.
Wild moths can get inside your home being attracted by any bright lights. Or they may sneak into your basement looking for shelter from the rain or a predator (Feelings of a Moth).
Moths in House: Possible Actions
If you find you have a moth infestation, you need to take action based on the type of moths causing the problem.
If it is a wild moth, it will not want to stay inside too long. You can easily open the window and guide them out. You do not need to kill them with insecticides or anything.
If it is a species like a carpet or a pantry moth, there are several steps you can take.
- Remove Food Source/Infested Materials
Remove the carpet or rug that you suspect the moth is hiding in. Or you can get them properly cleaned and uninfected.
If you find pantry moths in a grain bin or a flower bag, it is better to remove them altogether. You also have to remove all other open food sources as well (because it could contain eggs).
- Clean Hideouts
Carpet and cloth moths love to hide in closet spaces and similar areas. Regularly clean these places. Also, you can clean any rug and carpet to kill any larvae or pupae hiding there.
- Use heat / hairdryer
You can effectively support the pest control by applying heat to the possible hideouts.
The easiest way is to use your hairdryer and heat up all cracks, crevices and other spots the moths could have layed their eggs. This will kill them and interrupt the life cycle.
- Use Glue Traps
You can buy glue traps to trap and kill moths. This will only kill adult moths is not effective as a single measure. But it can support the essential steps and help verifying how many moths are still there.
Moths inside a home can be an accidental occurrence, or it can be a sign of an infestation. You will have to find out if it is a residential moth or a wild one.
Residential moths are carpet and clothes moths. Both are very common and can be found in every household. Treatment is very time-consuming and can take several weeks until all moths are gone. You can apply our 4 steps.
Wild moths won’t harm your house and can’t survive very long inside. The best thing is to simply guide the slow flyer outside by opening a window and help find the right direction (Does Touching a Moth Kill it?)