Moths in your garage? They’re mostly harmless, but that doesn’t mean you want them turning your garage into their new home.
It’s common to find them chewing on the clothing or books you have stored in your garage. Worse, moths are food for larger, more dangerous pests that you definitely don’t want living in your garage.
In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about getting rid of moths in your garage. We’ll look at identifying when you have a moth problem, understanding when to call a professional, and some prevention strategies.
First, we’ll explain what attracts moths to your garage and some of North America’s most common moth species.
Table of Contents
(Image credits at the end of the article)
What Attracts Moths to Your Garage?
You may be wondering why these little creatures choose your garage as their new home. However, it comes down to three main factors: food sources, hiding places, and suitable temperature and moisture levels.
Food Sources: Moths aren’t picky eaters. They eat a variety of organic materials, many of which are commonly stored in garages.
If you’re storing old clothes, blankets, leather jackets, or rugs in your garage, these could become an all-you-can-eat buffet for moths.
And it’s not just fabrics. Moths will also find nourishment in paper goods, dried flowers, and even pet food or birdseed.
Hiding Places: Your garage, with its dark corners and potential clutter, is the ideal place for moths to hide from predators. Bags, boxes, behind cabinets, and underneath shelves all provide the perfect hideout.
Moisture and Temperature: Moths thrive in warm, humid conditions, which can create a prime breeding environment. If your garage is humid or a leaky pipe or damp spot creates moisture or mold, it’s like rolling out a welcome mat for moths. Poor lighting or leaving the garage door open at night can worsen the situation, offering them easy access.
Types of Moths Found in Garage
There are many varieties of moths that you can potentially come across. Here are the most common types of moths found in garages in the United States and Canada.
Clothes moths are often the culprits behind damaged fabrics in homes. These tiny, pale moths are drawn to items made of natural fibers such as wool, silk, fur, and feathers, damaging clothing, carpets, upholstery, and other items as they feed.
There are two primary species of clothes moths:
- Common Clothes Moth (Tineola bisselliella): This is one of the most prevalent types of clothes moths. Adults are typically gold or light brown with no distinctive markings. However, it’s the larvae, which are creamy-white caterpillars, that cause damage to materials.
- Case-bearing Clothes Moth (Tinea pellionella): This species is similar in size to the common clothes moth but has a distinctively different lifecycle. The larvae carry a noticeable silken case around as they feed, hence their name.
Pantry moths infest stored food products such as grains, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, and pet food, contaminating foodstuffs with their eggs, larvae, webbing, and droppings.
Some common species include:
- Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella): Known for its coppery-colored wing tips, this moth is commonly found in pantries, hence its name. Its larvae feed on a wide range of dried foods.
- Mediterranean Flour Moth (Ephestia kuehniella): Slightly larger than the Indian meal moth, it’s usually pale gray with wavy black lines on its wings. Its larvae primarily feed on flour and grain products.
- Brown House Moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella): Though technically a fabric moth, it’s often lumped with pantry moths because it’s not picky about its diet. It has a dark brown color with a few lighter, cream-colored spots.
White-shouldered House Moth (Endrosis sarcitrella)
The white-shouldered house moth is a small, grayish-white moth distinguished by dark spots on its wings and white “shoulders” at the head’s base.
It feeds on various organic materials, including wool, hair, feathers, dead insects, and animal droppings. They are typically found in dark, seldom-disturbed places like attics, basements, closets, and garages.
Brown-shaded Gray Moth (Crocigrapha normani)
The brown-shaded gray moth is a medium-sized, grayish-brown moth with a distinctive dark band across its wings. It feeds on various plants, including clover, alfalfa, and grasses. The species tends to be attracted to light and can enter homes and garages through open windows or doors during nighttime.
Remember, identifying the type of moth infesting your garage is the first step in a successful extermination process.
Each species has unique behaviors and preferences that can inform the approach and tools you use to eliminate them.
How to Safely Eliminate Moths from Garage
Here are some of my favorite tips to safely eliminate moths from your garage using natural remedies and chemical products.
Using Natural Remedies to Repel or Kill Moths
Natural remedies can be effective against moths. Some of these include:
- Plants, herbs, spices, oils, and vinegar emit scents that moths dislike or find harmful. Place them around your garage or spray them on your items to deter moths. Cedar, lavender, cloves, peppermint oil, and white vinegar are some examples.
- Traps and sprays can attract and capture or kill moths using simple ingredients. Examples include sticky traps with pheromones or food bait and cardboard traps with glue or sticky tape. Spray bottles with water and soap or alcohol can also be used.
Here are some instructions for making and using these natural remedies:
- Cedar oil spray: Mix 10 drops of cedar oil with 2 cups of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray on your items or around your garage.
- Sticky trap with food bait: Cut the cardboard into strips and coat them with honey or molasses. Hang them from the ceiling or place them on the floor of your garage.
Using Chemical Products to Eradicate Moths
Chemical products can be potent against moth infestations. These include:
- Insecticides, pesticides, and mothballs can kill moths and their eggs and larvae. Examples are pyrethrin, permethrin, naphthalene, and paradichlorobenzene.
- Foggers, bombs, and aerosols release chemicals into the air that can kill moths and their eggs and larvae. They can be used to treat large areas or hard-to-reach places. Raid, Hot Shot, and Spectracide are some examples.
When using chemical products, keep the following precautions in mind:
- Read instructions carefully: Always follow label instructions. Do not exceed the recommended amount or frequency, and do not mix different products together.
- Wear protective gear: Gloves, masks, and goggles can protect you from chemical exposure. Avoid contact with skin, eyes, mouth, or nose, and wash your hands and clothes after use.
- Keep children and pets safe: Keep children and pets away from the treated areas. Do not let them touch or ingest the products or the dead moths.
- Ventilate your garage: After using chemical products, open windows and doors, then use fans to circulate the air. Do not re-enter the garage until the effects have dried or dissipated.
Remember, both natural remedies and chemical treatments require careful handling and use. Always ensure your safety and that of your family and pets while dealing with moths.
How Moths Can Damage Your Stored Items or Vehicles
Moths may seem harmless, but they’re capable of causing a surprising amount of damage to your stored items and even vehicles.
Here’s a look at some of the havoc these tiny creatures can wreak.
Feeding on Fabrics and Organic Materials: Moths are known for turning your belongings into their next meal. However, most of the damage is done by moth larvae, not adult moths. Moth larvae feed on organic materials containing keratin, a protein found in animal hair, feathers, and some plant fibers.
This results in holes in your clothes, blankets, upholstery, leather jackets, books, and other items. I once found holes in a wool sweater I’d stored in my garage.
Creating Unpleasant Odors: Ever noticed a foul, musty smell from your garage? Moths could be the culprits.
They help contribute to mold growth and decay and even produce chemicals that attract other pests. All of which can contribute to an unpleasant smell.
Staining and Discoloring Items: Moths can leave behind fecal pellets, silk threads, casings, cocoons, or body fluids that can stain or discolor your items.
Spreading Diseases and Allergens: Moths can carry or transmit bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that can cause infections or illnesses. Some people may even develop allergic reactions or asthma attacks due to exposure to moth hairs, scales, droppings, or body fluids. It’s common for homeowners to develop a rash after touching a moth or having an asthma attack triggered by inhaling moth dust.
Attracting Other Pests: It’s not just the damage moths themselves can cause. They can also attract other unwelcome visitors to your garage. Rodents, beetles, or mites may be drawn to the presence of moths, leading to further damage and potential disease spread.
Moths are more than just a nuisance. They’re capable of causing significant damage to the items you store in your garage while potentially posing health risks.
Health Risks of Having Moths in Your Garage
Moths in your garage may seem like a simple nuisance, but they can pose significant health risks that you might not be aware of. Here’s a look at some of the potential health risks associated with a moth-infested garage:
Allergic Reactions: Some homeowners may experience allergic reactions to moth scales, hairs, droppings, or body fluids. These reactions can range from skin irritations to respiratory problems or asthma attacks. Those sensitive to moths should avoid direct contact with these insects or their infested areas and take precautions like wearing protective clothing, gloves, and masks when dealing with them.
Infections: Moths are capable of carrying and transmitting bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites that could lead to infections in humans and pets. These can manifest in symptoms like fever, diarrhea, vomiting, skin lesions, or organ damage. Moths can transmit serious diseases like anthrax, leprosy, typhus, plague, and tapeworms.
Poisoning: Some species of moths can produce toxins or venom that can cause harm when ingested, inhaled, or injected. These toxins can lead to symptoms like nausea, dizziness, convulsions, paralysis, and in severe cases, even death. Use caution with species like the lonomia caterpillar, the io moth caterpillar, the puss moth caterpillar, and the oleander hawk-moth.
Exposure to these moths should be avoided, and medical attention should be sought immediately if signs of poisoning occur.
Let’s take a closer look at some of these species:
- The Brown-tail Moth (Euproctis chrysorrhoea): Native to Europe but also found in North America, the caterpillars of this moth possess urticating hairs that can cause skin rashes, eye irritation, respiratory problems, or anaphylaxis in humans and animals. The wind can carry these tiny hairs, affecting even those not in direct contact with the caterpillars.
- The Io Moth (Automeris io): This moth is found in North and Central America. Its caterpillars have venomous spines that can cause a painful sting and swelling. In some cases, this sting can trigger allergic reactions or infections.
- The Puss Moth (Megalopyge opercularis): Native to the southern United States, Mexico, and Central America, the caterpillars of this moth have venomous spines that can lead to a severe sting and inflammation. Symptoms of a sting can also include headache, nausea, shock, and in rare cases, death.
A garage infested with moths can pose more than just an inconvenience. It can also be a severe health hazard.
Becoming aware of the risks is a crucial first step in taking the necessary steps to ensure your safety and the safety of your loved ones.
When You Need a Pro to Get Rid of Moths in Garage
Moths can sometimes be a persistent and damaging nuisance in your garage, leading to substantial material damage or health issues. Sometimes, it might be necessary to call a pest control professional.
Here are some situations in which consulting a pest control professional could be warranted:
Severe or Persistent Infestation: If you’re dealing with a large number or variety of moths in your garage and traditional methods, either natural or chemical, aren’t effective, it may be time to call in a professional. This could happen when moths resist the methods you’re using or can’t locate or access their hiding places, eggs, or larvae. A pest control professional can accurately identify the type and extent of the infestation and subsequently suggest the most effective and safe treatment.
Damage to Valuable or Irreplaceable Items: When valuable or irreplaceable items made of organic materials like fabric, leather, paper, or wood are at risk or have already been damaged by moths, a pest control professional could prevent further damage and future infestations.
For example, if you store antique books or heirlooms in your garage, you don’t want to risk them being destroyed by moths.
Health Concerns or Medical Conditions: Moths can also cause or exacerbate health issues. If you’re allergic to moths or sensitive to their hairs, scales, droppings, or body fluids, they could cause skin irritation, respiratory problems, or asthma attacks.
A pest control professional can help you minimize exposure to these risks and advise you on how to treat any symptoms.
Uncertainty about the Infestation or Treatment: If you’re unsure about the type of moth infesting your garage, their habits, life cycles, or effects, or if you’re uncertain about the safety and effectiveness of the control methods you’re using, then a pest control professional can provide valuable guidance. They can help identify the type of moths and the extent of the infestation, then recommend the best solution to eliminate them.
Storage Tips for Moth Prevention
Storing your items properly can help prevent moth infestations in your garage. Here are some tips on the best practices to prevent moths from damaging your items.
Air-tight Storage Containers: Vacuum-sealed or air-tight containers are the best option for preventing moth damage. These containers do not allow air or moisture to enter, protecting your items from moth eggs, larvae, adults, and other pests and mold. Clean, dry plastic bags, boxes, or bins with tight-fitting lids can also be effective.
Cleaning and Preparing Items for Storage: Before storing items, inspect them for signs of moth activity, such as holes, stains, webbing, cocoons, or droppings. Items showing these signs should be discarded or treated accordingly. Wash or dry clean your items to remove any dirt, stains, or sweat that may attract moths. Dry your items thoroughly in medium heat or in the sun to kill any moth eggs or larvae that may be present.
Materials More Prone to Moth Damage: Moths are particularly attracted to materials containing keratin, a protein found in animal hair and feathers. This includes wool, fur, silk, leather, feathers, and felt. While moths can feed on plant fibers such as cotton or linen, they prefer animal fibers. Synthetic fibers such as polyester or nylon are typically resistant to moth damage.
Optimal Garage Temperature and Humidity: Moths thrive in warm and humid environments. Thus, maintaining a cool and dry garage can discourage moth activity. Ideally, keep your garage temperature below 18°C (64°F) and humidity below 50%.
Moth-Safe Storage Areas in Garage: Moths avoid well-lit, well-ventilated, and well-sealed areas. These areas expose them to predators or can dry them out, and they lack hiding places for laying their eggs.
Inspect & Clean Storage Frequently: Inspecting and cleaning stored items at least once every six months can help detect early signs of moth activity. This can prevent minor infestations from becoming widespread.
These tips can help protect your belongings from moth damage.
Moths in Garage: Wrapping It Up
Taking care of your garage goes beyond simple organization and cleaning. Ensuring it remains a moth-free space is critical to maintaining your possessions’ quality and safety, especially if you store clothing, fabrics, or food items within this space.
By storing your items correctly, maintaining an environment that discourages moth activity, and regularly inspecting for signs of infestation, you can often avoid a full-blown moth problem.
Once moths find their way into your garage, we’ve discussed some natural remedies and chemical products to help eliminate them.
But don’t be overwhelmed.
With the right tools, knowledge, and persistence, you can reclaim your garage from these pesky invaders.
And remember, it’s not just about eradicating an existing problem. It’s about preventing future invasions, too.
- “Tineola bisselliella – Common clothes moth – Моль платяная (39446568840)” by Ilia Ustyantsev from Russia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/?ref=openverse.
- “Hofmannophila pseudospretella, Trawscoed, North Wales, July 2012” by janetgraham84 is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0
- “Endrosis sarcitrella” by dhobern is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.
- “Crocigrapha normani” by Quinten Wiegersma is licensed under CC BY 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/?ref=openverse.
- “Southern Flannel Moth – Megalopyge opercularis, Canaveral National Seashore, Titusville, Florida, December 11, 2021” by Judy Gallagher is licensed under CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/?ref=openverse.