Tinea pellionella, the casemaking or case-bearing clothes moth, is a small tan-grey moth with feathered hind wings (wingspan about 1.5 cms) in the fungus moth family, Tineidae. Found world-wide, it is one of the two most common clothing moth pest species (the other species being Tineola bisselliella). The larvae of casemaking clothes moths have the rare ability to feed on fabrics of wool, feathers and furs, and even synthetic fabrics if blended with wool, from which they can metabolize keratin into protein. They are particularly attracted to soiled fibers, with traces of sweat, oils, or food. Larvae live within a portable silk case that they enlarge as they grow, and finally pupate in the same case. Infestations of casemaking clothes moths are usually tidier, with less webbing and frass remains, than infestations of the similar, common, and closely related clothes webbing moth (Tineola bisselliella). The adult moths do not eat, and live solely for the purpose of mating and laying eggs. Adults seek out tight spaces and can crawl through small cracks and openings to find appropriate food sources upon which to lay their eggs. Unlike many moths, they are not attracted to light. Some methods to control infestations include freezing, heating, trapping with pheromone adhesive strips, laundering or dry-cleaning, vacuuming and storage in dry conditions. Pyrethrin insecticides and moth balls (although traditional naphthalene-based mothballs are banned due to carcinogenicity in some countries) are also commonly used.
(Cranshaw 2011; Diagnostic services at Michigan State University, 2006; Potter 2001; Wikipedia 2011a; Wikipedia 2011b)
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Tinea pellionella
Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Tinea pellionella
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 30
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
The case-bearing clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) is a species of tineoid moth in the family Tineidae, the fungus moths. It is the type species of the genus Tinea, which in turn is the type genus of the subfamily, family, as well as the superfamily Tineoidea. Its scientific name is derived from "tinea", a generic term for micromoths, and the Latin term for a furrier, pellionellus.
This species has a cosmopolitan distribution, occurring nearly worldwide. It is synanthropic; the adult is typically encountered during summer and early autumn, but populations that live in human dwellings may be seen at other times of the year.
Tinea pellionella is silvery grey to shiny light brown in color, with dark grayish hairs on the top of its head. The adult of this species has a wingspan of 9 to 16 millimeters. Its forewings are grizzled brown with one large spot and a few smaller, indistinct black spots. The hindwings are plain pale brown-grey. The forewings, but especially the hindwings are surrounded by a hairy fringe. The larva eats mainly fibrous keratin, such as hairs and feathers. It can become a pest when it feeds on carpets, furs, upholstery, and woolen fabrics. It also consumes detritus, cobwebs, bird nests (particularly of the domestic pigeon), stored vegetable produce and wallpaper. It stays inside a snug case it constructs from debris such as fibers and hairs.
Control measures for the case-bearing clothes moth are similar to those for the common clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella), and include physical, chemical, and biological measures.
Being a widespread species and often affiliated with humans, T. pellionella was among the first moths to be scientifically described in the modern sense. At that time most moths were included in a single genus "Phalaena", but Tinea was already recognized as a distinct subgenus. Some later researchers who studied this moth erroneously believed they had discovered populations formerly unknown to science and described them as new species, but today these are all included within T. pellionella. Obsolete scientific names for this moth thus may be encountered in the literature, and include:
- Phalaena (Tinea) pellionella Linnaeus, 1758
- Phalaena zoolegella Scopoli, 1763
- Tinea demiurga Meyrick, 1920
- Tinea gerasimovi Zagulajev, 1978
- Tinea pelliomella (lapsus)
Media related to Tinea pellionella at Wikimedia Commons
- Pitkin, B. and P. Jenkins. (2004). Tinea. Butterflies and Moths of the World. Natural History Museum, London.
- Species Tinea pellionella Linnaeus, 1758. Australian Biological Resources Study. Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities. Australian Government.
- Tinea pellionella Linnaeus, 1758. Fauna Europaea. Version 2.4, 2011.
- Cheema, P. S. (1956). Studies on the bionomics of the case-bearing clothes moth, Tinea pellionella (L.) Bulletin of Entomological Research 47(1), 167-82.
- Kimber, I. Case-bearing Clothes Moth, Tinea pellionella. UKMoths. 2013.
- Grabe, A. (1942). Eigenartige Geschmacksrichtungen bei Kleinschmetterlingsraupen ("Strange tastes among micromoth caterpillars"). Zeitschrift des Wiener Entomologen-Vereins 27: 105-09. (in German)
- Tinea pellionella. Global Taxonomic Database of Tineidae (Lepidoptera). Natural History Museum, London.
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