Clothes Moth Research

Operation Clothes Moth: the results

Operation Clothes Moth was launched in 2017 by English Heritage. Members of the public were asked to collect a free clothes moth trap, take it home to leave out for 3 months and log the catch and some other information with us.

Some 4500 traps were handed out and hundreds of you participated and inputted your catch. The results offered up some surprising conclusions…

Crunching the numbers

Data was returned from 42 different English counties, a remarkable figure. This was analysed by Paul Lankester, our Conservation Scientist. Reported catches of webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) were surprisingly high at a total of 3607 and an average of 17 moths caught in each trap. Pale-backed clothes moths (Monopis crocicapitella) numbers caught were also high, at a total of 460.

Results also indicated that flats or apartments were more susceptible to clothes moths (likely to be due to shared walls). Clothes moths numbers were higher in older, pre-1950 properties as they have more voids, fireplaces and attics than modern houses.

A map showing English counties highlighted in different colours indicating clothes moth catches, with darker shades showing more catches clustered in the south east and Worcestershire

Fresh new data

This map summarises the combined catches, by county, of both the webbing and the pale-backed clothes moths. The average clothes moth catch per trap is plotted, and, as you can see, clothes moths are widespread across England.

The reported catch of clothes moths was much higher in the south and west, with figures returned much greater than in other regions.

Next steps

The data will be invaluable in supporting English Heritage in creating strategies to manage these pests in the future, and in swelling the amount of information available. 

For example, the catch of pale-backed clothes moths reported by the public was higher than expected when compared to the numbers we catch in our properties. This gives us an early warning to look out for this ‘new kid on the block’ in our properties to prevent damage occurring. 

This remarkable example of crowdsourcing pest information is the first example of citizen science helping with preventative conservation. Amber Xavier-Rowe, Head of Collections Conservation at English Heritage, summarised the success of the project:

Now that we know where the clothes moth concentration is the highest, we can put in place extra measures.

Top tips for protecting against clothes moths

Our insect pest staff have created this short film to provide some easy guidance about how to protect your homes against these pesky pests, based on the skills and knowledge we use in our historic properties.

Learn more about our conservation work