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Clothes-eating moths making a comeback

The quality of our clothing and temperature we use for washing could be contributing to a rise in moth infestations, according to a pest killer firm.

Call outs to moth infestations have increased by more than 110% from April to May and by 60% over the last four years, Rentokil said.

Some 59% of people prefer to buy high-quality clothes in the hope they will last longer and 54% are more likely to wash their clothes at 30C now than they were five years ago, according to the company’s survey.

But higher-quality clothes are often made with natural materials, such as wool and silk.

These materials contain the protein keratin, the preferred food for moth larvae.

The larvae can only be killed when clothes are washed at 55C.

David Cross from Rentokil said: “May’s unseasonably warm temperatures and the early start to summer has helped to create the perfect conditions for moths to breed and potentially thrive in British households.

“With a prolonged breeding season, clothes and soft furnishings in British homes could be at increased risk to damage caused by moth larvae feeding on the natural fibres they contain.

“Washing clothes at high temperatures or having them dry cleaned are practical methods to help remove moth larvae from clothing.”

Some 13% of people have had a moth problem in their home, according to the Rentokil survey.

Last year, English Heritage launched Operation Clothes Moth after its experts witnessed the numbers of common or webbing clothes moths double.

Members of the public were asked by English Heritage to monitor moths in their homes to help the charity look after its collection of historic wool carpets, tapestries and period clothing.

Thousands of traps were handed out at English Heritage sites for the survey which collected data from 42 counties.

It discovered the reported catch of the common clothes moth was significantly higher in London and the South East, where an average of 23 moths were found per trap – more than anywhere else in England.

Higher and older pre-1950s properties were found to have more moths because they have more voids, fireplaces and attics than newer homes.

Flats or apartments are also more susceptible as they have shared walls.

Tips for preventing clothes moth infestations include checking for moths in the creases, folds and behind labels of clothing, keeping items in vacuum bags, and taking out items from the wardrobe and giving them a good shake at least once a month to disturb the moths.

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