“I’m really freaked out. Please help!” exclaims our reader in her submission concerning the larvae and casings she recently found in her sofa. “The worms are white with a tiny bit of brown on the end.”
Our reader does not send in any pictures, as she “aggressively vacuumed every single” larva and case she could find, but just from the little context above we can tell her right away that the worms she has found are casemaking clothes moth larvae. Before we go in depth with describing these creatures, we think it important to relay the rest of our reader’s story. Our reader is based in Los Angeles, and her sofa is “an angora mohair velvet sofa with down cushions” (which sounds absolutely spectacular). She had noticed “a few small gray moths flying around” but did not think much of it. Then, when she was about to vacuum under the cushions of the sofa, she noticed “larvae embedded in the seams” “and lots of casings all over the fabric”. She is now getting rid of the sofa, but, due to the ongoing pandemic, she reports that it might take a few days to get the sofa out of her home. “It’s super heavy and we have to hire someone to take it out.”
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“Meanwhile, we have taken delivery of a down-stuffed leather sofa” reports our reader, which she found secondhand on Craigslist. She is “terrified” of the possibility that her new sofa will also become infested with the same larvae. She asks us what she can do to ensure that the down-filled cushions do not get infested. “Should I seal the down cushions of the new sofa in plastic bags until the infested sofa is gone? […] Put cedar chips in them? Vacuum every day? Put the down cushion inserts in our dryer (after asking Restoration Hardware if this won’t destroy them)?” There are a lot of questions, and a lot to unpack here, but we will nonetheless attempt to address all of our reader’s concerns concisely.
Firstly, casemaking clothes moth larvae feed specifically on organic- and animal-based materials/textiles. This is why the gray moths (which were very likely the parent moths of the larvae) laid their eggs under the cushions of this sofa, as their offspring would have food to eat upon hatching. This brings us to our second point, our reader’s new couch is definitely in danger of being infested by the same creatures, given that the cushions are not only encased in leather (an animal-based fabric), but they are stuffed with down (which comes from gooses and ducks). This danger is especially high if the old couch is still in the home. For that reason, we do not think it is a bad idea to put the new cushions in plastic bags as our reader suggests. It is probably also best to keep the new cushions as far away as possible from the old couch (possibly in a different room).
Thirdly, we suggest that our reader stay vigilant for signs of more larvae. There is a chance that she did eliminate the infestation by vacuuming up the larvae and cases (as this was clearly the source of the infestation), in which case she would not have to get rid of the couch, but one cannot be sure. She can look for more roaming larvae in other places where organic materials are present, such as clothing, carpets, and other upholstered furniture, for example. Fourthly, putting cedar chips in things to fend off moths is more a myth than a legitimate method; it does not tend to work very often. Fifthly, while we do not think vacuuming the new cushions every day is necessary, doing it a few times per week for however many weeks the old sofa is still present would definitely help. Additionally, it might be a good idea to vacuum her home very often in the same weeks in order to ensure the infestation is eliminated. And when it comes to the couch cushions on the new sofa, we think she may need to vacuum them more often than she did the old ones in order to prevent infestations from occurring (especially considering that “lots of flying creatures” are making their way into her home “all the time”). In addition to this, we will not encourage or discourage putting the cushion inserts in the dryer, as we think this question should indeed be answered by “Restoration Hardware”.
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Generally speaking, some preventative measures that our reader can implement to prevent future infestations of clothes moth larvae include consistent vacuuming of her couch cushions, consistent laundering of her other organic- and animal-based textiles (and vacuuming if it applies), sealing cracks in walling and flooring where possible, ensuring that her window screens are whole rather than littered with holes (pun intended), and letting out any moths that fly into her home that she notices.
In conclusion, the worms our reader found on her couch cushions are casemaking clothes moth larvae. These creatures are not dangerous to humans, but they are incredibly destructive once they start munching on one’s fabrics. We hope that this article answered all of our reader’s questions to a satisfactory degree, and we wish our reader the best of luck with this situation. If there is anything she is still confused about or wants more advice on, she is free to contact us again or share any thoughts in the comments section below.