The hatched larvae will eat wool, fur, feathers, dried skin and leather. It prefers fibres contaminated with other organic matter, such as sweat, skin particles, blood and food. Once grown, the larva nibbles a chamber in the clothes and spins a touch silk cocoon. This is when damage is often done to carpets as the pupating larva nips away at the base of the carpet fibres. The larval stage usually lasts between two and three months, but may last up to four years.
Of the 2,500 species of moth in the UK, only four are clothes-eating pests. There is the common clothes moth Tineola bisselliella, which is golden-coloured and about a centimetre long, and the case-bearing clothes moth Tinea pellionella, which has dusky brown wings with three dark spots and may be anything from half a centimetre to two centimetres long. Less common are the large pale clothes moth Tinea pallescentella and the tapestry moth Trichophaga tapetzella.
Until the 1980's the clothes-eating moth population seemed to have decreased, probably because more homes were centrally heated - moths do not like dry, hot conditions - synthetic materials had become popular, and the use of dry cleaning. Recently their number are rising, probably with the renewed popularity of natural fibres.