“I really hope you can help us” pleads this reader in Oklahoma, who is concerned about the “long, very thin, clear worm things” she has been finding in her clothes. “I don’t think that they are parasitic, but they are seriously horrible.”
Upon moving in to a new place, our reader discovered these organisms on her clothing. After drying her clothes, the spots in which the worms were found were still damp. “I have tried everything I could think of to get them out of our clothes, but nothing has helped,” she reports. At this point, all of her clothes are infested, and she is looking for help from us.
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To be frank, this is nothing we have seen before. We have heard of hair-thin worms before, but never ones that look like this and infest clothing. Typically, the type of pests people find on their clothing are clothes moth larvae and carpet beetle larvae, but neither of these two organisms look like the ones our reader found. Contrarily, they are an ovate shape, and either white (in the case of the clothes moth larvae) or brown/black (carpet beetle larvae). The hair-think worms people typically find are horsehair worms, but these creatures are usually black in color and do not infest clothing.
What we recommend that our reader do is be on the lookout for casemaking clothes moth larvae. These little guys make silken cases for themselves as they feed on various textiles. These cases can often leave behind strands of silk, and this could be what our reader is finding. So, she can look for the cases themselves, which will look like little tubes of the same clear-white material, as well as any roaming larvae. If she does find larvae, then a mix of consistent laundering (of all organic-based materials in the home) and vacuum/steam cleaning (of all carpets and other textiles which can withstand this treatment), should be enough to eliminate the infestation. She should repeat this a few times a week for a couple of weeks. If our reader is sure that the strands themselves are the organisms, then we recommend that she take some samples to her local county extension office (provided that they are open during the pandemic) to get them identified.
In conclusion, it is unfortunate that we are not able to identify these organisms. We really have never seen anything quite like this and we do not want to give any potentially false identifications. Nonetheless, we hope that the information and advice in this article proves helpful to our reader, and we wish her the best.
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