Hoffmannophila pseudospretella (Stt.)   
Brown House-moth
Endrosis sarcitrella (L.)
White-shouldered House-moth

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Lepidoptera – butterflies & moths

British distribution: Both species are widespread and common around human habitations.
World distribution: Evidently widespread, at least as introductions in areas of human habitation.

Hoffmannophila pseudospretella, Brown House-mothEndrosis sarcitrella, White-shouldered House-moth
Hoffmannophila pseudospretella
Brown House-moth
Endrosis sarcitrella
White-shouldered House-moth
Photographs: Paisley, Renfrewshire, May 2001

House-moths (family Oecophoridae) are much confused with clothes-moths (family Tineidae) but their larvae have much broader feeding habits and do not form silken feeding tubes. Generally they feed on dried animal and plant products, in birds'-nests and no doubt in caves and burrows, and they readily colonise households where a great variety of animal plant materials are used or stored. They can digest keratin, which means they can attack wool and fur.

H. pseudospretella is a very common and often destructive pest, sometimes attacking fabrics, including carpets and upholstery, but more especially infesting dried foodstuffs. Even leather and books can be damaged. It is suited by high humidity levels.

Endrosis sarcitrella is perhaps less inclined to attack fabrics, but can damage carpets, corks of wine bottles, dried plant material and again it will readily infest dried foodstuffs. Outdoors it occurs naturally in dried bracket-fungi on trees.

In households, prevention of infestation largely requires the keeping of foodstuffs, including petfoods, in well sealed containers, e.g. glass storage jars with tight-fitting seals. Young larvae can squeeze through tiny gaps where lids do not fit well, and larvae can also chew their way into cardboard and thin plastic sacks. Bulk storage is to be avoided. Insecticide treatment should not normally be necessary.

Larvae also readily establish where crumbs fall behind kitchen appliances, under furniture, are scattered by pets or wherever food may spill. Where mice are present, they can steal petfood and take it under floorboards, creating the kind of foodstore that these moths use in nature.

The true clothes-moths, notably the Common Clothes-moth (Tineola bisselliella) and the Case-bearing Clothes-moth (Tinea pellionella) are now much less common that the two house-moths described here. They are, however, more secretive, with the females tending to scuttle rather than fly, and their presence may often be detected only when their damage is discovered.

© A.J. Silverside
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