Henry Jeffreys

The moths are coming!

They’ve eaten my best trousers. And thanks to this mild winter, they’re coming for yours

Last month a friend invited me to lunch at the Garrick Club. As an impoverished writer, I don’t get many offers like this, so the week before, in a state of anticipation, I took my good suit out of the cupboard to check it wasn’t too rumpled. To my horror there were two holes the size of a five-pence piece in the trousers. Moths! I tore through my wardrobe and found web-like trails all over my coats, suits and sweaters. ‘No!’ I cried and shook my fist at the heavens.

This year we’ve enjoyed the warmest winter since the 17th century, so you may not have been snuggled up in your woollens. But something else almost certainly has been. Mild weather is perfect for Tineola bisselliella, the clothes moth. Insect experts are warning of an unprecedented epidemic.

Whatever the weather, central heating and the ever-improving quality of home insulation has made the past 30 years a golden age for the moth. They flutter inside, mate and look for a warm place to lay eggs. Thanks to your radiators, your home is full of them. Over a three-week period, the female lays around 40 eggs before dying. These hatch into tiny larvae, which then feast for up to two years on your clothes before turning into moths. Then the whole process starts again.

In the age of smartphones and self-parking cars, you’d think science would have an effective way to deal with this problem. One brutal-sounding solution is the Pheromone Destruction System, which the Natural History Museum used last year to protect its stuffed animal collection. This consists of a system of traps filled with the love chemical given off by female moths. The smell is irresistible to male moths, which fly in and become coated in it.

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