AppearanceTineola bisselliella is a small moth of 6-7 mm body length and 9-16 mm wingspan . It is distinguished from similar species by its yellow-brown or ochreous colouring and red-orange tuft of hair on the head.
BehaviorFemales lay eggs in clusters of between 30 and 200 which adhere to surfaces with a gelatin-like glue. These hatch between four and ten days later into near-microscopic white caterpillars which immediately begin to feed. They will also spin mats under which to feed without being readily noticed and from which they will partially emerge at night or under dark conditions to acquire food. Development to the next stage takes place through between five and 45 instars typically over the course of between one month and two years until the pupal stage is reached. At this point, the caterpillars spin cocoons and spend another approximately 10–50 days developing into adults.
After pupation is complete, the adult moths emerge and begin searching for mates. Females tend to move less than males, and both sexes prefer scuttling over surfaces to flying— some adults never fly at all. Adults can live for an additional 15–30 days, after which they die . Life cycle may be completed within one month under the most favorable conditions and 70-75% relative humidity) but may take several years and can survive up to 33 °C ).
Unlike the caterpillars, the adult moths do not feed: they acquire all of the nutrition and moisture they need while in the larval stage, and once they hatch from cocoons their only goal is to reproduce. They have only atrophied mouth parts and cannot feed on fabric or clothing. All feeding damage is done by the caterpillar form. Heated buildings allow clothes moths to develop year-round. The overall life cycle from egg to egg typically takes 4–6 months, with two generations per year.
HabitatThis moth's natural range is western Eurasia, but it has been transported by human travelers to other localities. For example, it is nowadays found in Australia. The species' presence has not been recorded in France, Greece, Slovenia and Switzerland, though this probably reflects the lack of occurrence data rather than absence.
This species is notorious for feeding on clothing and natural fibers; they have the ability to digest keratin protein in wool and silk. The moths prefer dirty fabric for oviposition and are particularly attracted to carpeting and clothing that contains human sweat or other organic liquids which have been spilled onto them; traces of dirt may provide essential nutrients for larval development. Larvae are attracted to these areas not only for the food but for traces of moisture; they do not require liquid water.
The range of recorded foodstuffs includes cotton, linen, silk and wool fabrics as well as furs. They will eat synthetic fibers if they are blended with wool. Furthermore, they have been found on shed feathers and hair, bran, semolina and flour , biscuits, casein, and insect specimens in museums. In one case, living ''T. bisselliella'' caterpillars were found in salt. They had probably accidentally wandered there, as even to such a polyphagous species as this one pure sodium chloride has no nutritional value and is in fact a strong desiccant, but this still attests to their robustness. Unfavorable temperature and humidity can slow development, but will not always stop it.
Both adults and larvae prefer low light conditions. Whereas many other Tineidae are drawn to light, common clothes moths seem to prefer dim or dark areas. If larvae find themselves in a well-lit room, they will try to relocate under furniture or carpet edges. Handmade rugs are a favorite, because it is easy for the larvae to crawl underneath and do their damage from below. They will also crawl under moldings at the edges of rooms in search of darkened areas where fibrous debris has gathered and which consequently hold good food.
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