Pantry moths vs. clothing moths

Pantry moths vs. clothing moths

Updated on July 17, 2024

Though they may look similar from a distance, pantry moths and clothing moths are very different from each other, as are their paths of destruction. Without knowing the difference, you could spend a short eternity attempting to eliminate one species, while you actually have another on your hands that is quickly multiplying. 

There are numerous ways that moths can find their way into your home. Clothing moths might have hitched a ride on your favorite bright green cashmere sweater from a second-hand store or on that gorgeous plush leather couch you recently bought from a consignment store, whereas pantry moths may be stowed away inside that massive bag of dry dog food from the grocery store or perhaps that breathable paper sack of whole grain flour or cardboard box of cereal. 

Here, we’ll discuss two of the most common types of moths: the pantry moth and the clothing moth. Both can find their way into your home. Both are a nuisance, can wreak havoc in your abode and are pests that you want to quickly eliminate. 

What is a pantry moth? 

A pantry moth, also known as the Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) is the most common household pantry pest in the United States. 

Appearance: Also known as the grain moth, weevil moth and flour moth, this winged pest is about a half-inch long, with wings that are whitish gray near the body and dark reddish brown at the tips. The pantry moth flies in an erratic, zigzag pattern.

Tip: Pantry moths are not known to carry diseases and ingesting one (or their larvae) will not make you sick.


These moths are often found indoors, where food packaging is stored, such as grocery stores, food storage facilities and food processing plants.

Diet: If (or more likely when) you bring them into your home, they’re going to nest and breed near their favorite foods. If you have a pantry, that’s the spot. The closer they are to stored, typically dry foods—like rice, grains, flour, pasta, baking chocolate, cake mixes, dog food, birdseed, teas, herbs, spices, cereals, dried fruits and beans, spices, seeds, and nuts—the happier they are. 

Life cycle: A pantry moth’s entire life cycle lasts from around a month to possibly 10 months or longer, depending on temperature, food source and environmental conditions. After mating, female moths seek suitable locations for laying their eggs. They choose food-rich environments where their tiny, cream-colored larvae can thrive and develop. When the eggs hatch, the pantry moth larvae eat themselves silly and grow (and grow). As they grow, these worms produce large amounts of silk webbing and fecal pellets, which contaminate food, along with their cast skins and egg shells.

The moth larvae then leave the food source in search of a safe space to make a cocoon. This space may be a poorly sealed food container, a spice lid, a crack, a crevice or a corner directly on or near a food source. It is here that they spin a web, enter the pupa stage and later emerge (just a few short weeks later) as a winged adult who does not feed and is ready to begin the cycle again.   

What is a clothing moth? 

The two most common types of clothing moths in North America are the webbing moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the casemaking moths (Tinea pellionella). 

Appearance: Adult webbing moths are golden to yellowish-gray in color, with reddish-gold to coppery hairs on their heads. Their larvae, about one-third to one-half inch long, look like little caterpillars and are creamy-white with dark-colored small heads. 


The adult casemaking moths are gold in color, have light gold hairs on their heads and have brownish wings with spots. They are easier to identify than the webbing moth, as the casemaking moth makes a cigar-shaped, open-ended silken case that it drags around with it. The casemaking moth feeds from both ends of this case and use it for shelter when disturbed. Their larvae, also about one-third to one-half inch long, look a little bit like white rice grains (that wiggle) and are yellowish with brown heads. 

Diet: Clothing moths eat more than just clothes. Their larvae feed on animal fibers, especially wool, fur, feather, silk, felt and leather, as these materials contain keratin, a fibrous protein that the worm-like larvae can digest. They will also feed on hair and nails, carpets, rugs, blankets, upholstery, piano felts, spices and animal-bristled brushes. Although keratin substances are their preferred food-eating materials, clothing moths will attack other fabrics—such as cotton, linen, silk and synthetics—if the fabrics are strained with bits of protein-rich substances, such as urine, perspiration, oil and beverages, including beer, milk and fruit juice. 

Life cycle: A clothing moth’s life cycle lasts approximately 65 - 90 days. Post mating, the female clothing moth looks for a choice piece of fabric in which to lay her eggs. In the course of three weeks or less, she lays 40 - 50 eggs on this fabric. These eggs hatch into ravenous feasters. With an insatiable appetite, these cream colored or yellowish worms (larvae) swarm their food source and gnaw away, growing and gaining nourishment. They may feed for quite a long time before pupating. To pupate, the larvae snuggly wrap themselves up in their own little sleeping bags, a silken case sealed with fiber and excrement and then drag their sleeping arrangements along as they continue to eat. They then become adult moths and carry on the cycle again. 

How is a pantry moth different from a clothing moth?  

Being able to properly identify whether you have pantry moths or clothing moths in your home is of vital importance. For additional insight into additional key differences between these two moth species (and which trap to use to get rid of them), read: 

Tip: In a home with a severe infestation of pantry moths, you may find that these moths will sometimes use nearby fabrics for egg laying. If a clothing storage area is located close to your pantry or food storage area, it’s possible that pantry moth webbing and larvae may be present. Pantry moths, however, do not consume these types of fibers. If you find holes in the clothing, it’s a clothing moth infestation that you have on your hands.  

Final word on the difference between pantry and clothing moths


I hope that you feel well informed as to the difference between pantry moths and clothing moths.

If you don’t currently have moths, I would still purchase a set of traps to have on hand (or to give to a desperate friend, neighbor or co-worker in need). Unopened, our traps remain potent for three years from the date of manufacture. Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under is our non-toxic kill-on-contact spray that aids in the thorough removal of moth eggs and larvae. 

If you have any questions about these two types of moths or any product questions, please leave a comment, give us a call at 844-525-2779, or chat with us at We would truly be happy to hear from you.

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