What Do Moths Eat?
Last Updated on November 20, 2021 by
What exactly do moths eat? And is there any truth to the rumor that moths eat your clothes? Read on to find out!
Moths exist all over the world, and are famed for their brief nocturnal lives They are often regarded as a pest in the home, but they are beautiful and remarkable creatures.
They are perhaps seen as less attractive than their cousins, butterflies – but they are no less fascinating and wonderful insects.
They are members of the order Lepidoptera, just like butterflies – indeed, moths greatly outnumber the number of butterflies and butterfly species. And they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes too – not to mention the absolutely amazing colors and patterns that they can have
Moths exist all over the world – and with so many of them, they must eat a lot of food! Some people say that they’ll even eat right through your clothes!
Moths only typically live as an adult for a few months, to a year at most – but they can live in a larval stage for much longer before adulthood, and during time, they love to eat! Larvae need to eat a lot in order to have the energy to grow, and so that they can survive to transform into beautiful adult moths!
What do moths eat and drink?
In the wild, eggs are laid by adult moths on or near plants. Inside these eggs, larvae are growing. Moth larvae are also called caterpillars! When the larvae hatch, they need to eat – so they will actually begin to eat the eggshells they just popped out of!
That’s only their first meal, though – larvae absolutely love to eat, and they will spend the next week or so eating as much as they possibly can! Some moths will only eat from certain plants, but they will all make their way through as much food as they possibly can.
It doesn’t take too many caterpillars to completely devour a crop of plants, which is why gardeners and farmers often hate them so much!
The reason they eat so much is because they’re going to need a lot of energy to grow up! Caterpillars will grow so fast that they have to shed their skin several times while they’re growing. Of course, a caterpillar isn’t a moth yet – it doesn’t have wings!
After growing, they become a chrysalis, where their entire body changes. This is where those all-important wings are made, of course – but that’s not the only change that can happen!
Some adult moths, such as the Hercules Moth (Coscinocera hercules) can’t actually eat at all! Like many adult moths, their bodies lack the teeth that they relied on as a caterpillar. They will rely solely on food that they consumed during their larval stage to give them the energy to live.
The adult Hercules Moth can have a wingspan of up to 11 inches – so you can imagine the amount of energy the adult needs to survive for up to nearly 2 weeks if it can’t eat! No surprise then, that the Hercules Moth caterpillar can grow to up to nearly 5 inches long, and spends up to 3 months eating before becoming an adult.
There’s an old rumor that moths are the cause of holes in your clothes. It’s one reason why so many people hate having moths in their houses. The thought of losing your favorite coat pair of jeans to a flying nuisance that feasts while you sleep is a nightmare scenario for most of us. Luckily, it’s not true!
Well, sort of.
It’s not true that an adult moth will eat through your clothes. Even the case-making clothes moth (Tinea pellionella) and the webbing clothes moth (Tineola biselliell) won’t do that – even though their name pretty much says that they will! However, their caterpillars?
That’s a much different matter. Moth larvae will eat pretty much anything that they can – like natural fibers, such as those found in clothing. They feed on a substance called keratin, which is found in natural fibres. Keratin is the substance that fingernails and hair are made from on humans.
Don’t worry though – caterpillars can’t eat your fingernails!
So, yes and no. Technically no, it’s not the moth eating your clothes. After all, a caterpillar and a moth are different! But really? Yeah, sadly the rumor about moths eating your clothes is pretty much true.
It just doesn’t seem fair to allow the adults to blame it on their children – especially as they were no better when they were young!
Best to keep them out of your drawers and wardrobes.
Nectar is a sweet substance made by plants. We’ve all seen bees flying from flower to flower, feeding on nectar. Without nectar, we wouldn’t get honey! It isn’t just bees that love nectar, though! Some species of moth absolutely love to drink the nectar that plants make.
These types of moth, like a bee, have an appendage called a proboscis. This is essentially a tube that the moth can use to suck up the nectar from a flower!
Their proboscis can be used to drink other liquids too! Moths can often drink a wide variety of things for survival. As well as drinking sweet nectar from flowers, they will drink liquid from decaying fruits, and sap from trees.
They will also drink some things that are a little more… well, disgusting, by human standards. Some moths can live on liquids that they drink from animal droppings.
Yeah, it’s pretty nasty to think of… but survival is hard in the animal kingdom! Who can blame them for doing whatever they can?
Moths cannot eat human beings, so don’t worry. They can’t even bite you! Remember, when they turn into a chrysalis, they lose their bitey parts – so they can’t even give you a little nibble! However, they will sometimes land on your shoulders.
Don’t worry, they’re not going for the neck – they’re not vampires! They just want to lick some of your sweat – it’s high in sodium, and very good for them! Yes, it’s a little weird if you think about it – but then, you’re not a moth!