How Long Do Moths Live? Managing Moths In Your House

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Feb 29, 2024 By Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason
Originally Published on Nov 04, 2021
Small Emperor Moth on tree bark.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.7 Min

Moth species and their relatives, butterflies, are the only group of insects in the world whose scales cover up their wings.

Moths belong to the insect order Lepidoptera, which also includes butterflies. There are 1,600,000 moth species worldwide, compared to 17,500 species of butterflies.

You might think that moths are only known for their dull color; however, some moth species have spectacular color patterns. One of the species of moths known as the giant silkworm moth is known for its unique colors and long tails on its hind leg. One of the moth species you will commonly see, known as the tomato hornworm moth, is generally noticed in its caterpillar stage as it devours into tomato foliage in our gardens. Moths go through metamorphosis; they start as eggs, which later leads to the emergence of moths in the adult stage. Moths are generally considered pests in the environment around us.

If you like reading about the average age of this pest species, why not check out are moths dangerous and different types of moths?

Do moths live for 24 hours?

If you have ever thought of keeping a moth or butterfly as a pet, you will be disappointed to know that moths and butterflies do not have a long life span.

The typical household pest is the brown moth. Typically, adult moths have a life span that ranges anywhere between 2-4 months, after which they die. It is the relative of moths, butterflies who spend two years as larva but only live for 24 hours in their adult stage. They are one of the insects that have the shortest life span in nature. Depending on the species and environment, a moth’s life span ranges from days to months. Brown male moths have a life span that is short by a few days when compared to brown female moths.

Do moths die if you touch them?

People often think that touching a moth or butterfly’s wings or rubbing any scales of their wings would instantly kill them. However, this is not true at all.

Typically, the wings of moths and butterflies are covered by tiny scales, which overlap like shingles on a roof. These scales are responsible for giving patterns and colors to the wings of butterflies and moths, and they make them aerodynamic; they are just like feathers on a bird’s wings.

But unlike birds, moths and butterflies might end up losing the scales of their wings. It all depends on the number of scales the moth or butterfly has lost, it might make their movement airless aerodynamic and would more than often affect their flight patterns, but it would not kill them.

Many moths and butterflies have adapted their wings to fit in with the environmental conditions around them. Some species of moths and butterflies have clear wings, which is a result of having fewer scales on their wings. They do not lose these scales throughout their lifespan. When they emerge from pupae, they might dust off some of the scales on their wings.

How long do moths live without food?

Though the pest moth in your home might appear to be relatively harmless, they can turn out to be a real source of aggravation.

The majority of the brown adult moths feed and survive on a liquid-based diet. You can see adult male and female moths sucking on tree sap, flower nectar, and rotting fruits. This diet helps them by providing the necessary energy to fly and also maintains their hydration. On the other hand, the food source, which clothes moths feed on is natural fibers such as cotton, silk, wool, or anything else these pests can find in your house.

They will feed on synthetic fibers as well if it comes to it just to live and survive. These moths who see clothes as their food source are known as pantry moths. The lifespan of these moths is 1-2 weeks without feeding on any food before it crumbles to its death. The life cycle of adults is not that long without food. When female adults are starving, eggs will be laid by them, which in return, procures their life cycle; the larvae can be dormant for months before evolving to any other stage.

Clothes moths are easier to spot when compared to pantry moths. However, clothes moths do not go that far away from their sources of food. Brown moths can lay eggs on food sources so that the larvae can begin their development as soon as it hatches. Moths strategically start laying their eggs in late fall or winter. These eggs are unhatched during the winter and only begin to hatch with the arrival of spring or summers of June or July. These moth larvae thrive and grow in conditions of humidity.

Does steaming clothes kill moths?

A moth goes through various stages in its life before finally becoming an adult. However, it’s only the larval stage that is responsible for the destruction of materials such as clothes in households.

More than often, a clothes moth’s typical feed would be keratin, a protein found in natural fibers such as silk and cotton. Keratin is also found in our bodily secretion, sweat. It is because of this why moths infest clothes in our wardrobes.

The larval stage of moths destroys clothes as they have mouth chewing parts that infest these clothes. Warmer conditions facilitate the hatching of larva much faster. Then the larval stage can continue for a month to two years, depending on the availability of the food for the larvae. If you suspect a moth infestation, consider steaming your clothes.

Steam would kill all clothes moth’s life cycle as these pests are very much sensitive to temperature conditions around them. If you steam your clothes above the temperature of 56 F (13.3 C), it will cause the protein of moth larvae to denature, which would eventually kill them. Other ways such as washing your clothes in high-temperature conditions would also help you shorten the life cycle of the larva.

House Moth on wall.

Adult Moth's Total Life Span

A moth’s life span depends on the availability of food and the environmental conditions the moth had to grow in.

The color of the wings is brown, which can be riddled with black depending on the moth species. Common household moths are most prevalent in summer and fall.

The only function of an adult moth is to reproduce and produce one generation every year. Gypsy moths do not have mouths to eat food; hence, average gypsy moths live for 2-3 weeks, and in that period, they have to find a partner to complete the process of mating to lay eggs.

Butterfly Vs Moth Lifespan

Butterflies and moths develop through the process of metamorphosis. The word ‘metamorphosis’ stands for transformation or evolution.

Generally, insects have two types of metamorphosis. Insects such as grasshoppers, crickets, or cockroaches have an incomplete metamorphosis because the young one looks like an adult without the addition of wings. On the other hand, insects such as butterflies, moths, and beetles have complete metamorphosis as the young one’s appearance is a lot different when compared to the adult.

Butterflies and moths have four stages of development in their life span; these stages are egg, caterpillar/larvae, pupa, and the adult stage. In the first stage, moths and butterflies tend to lay their eggs on plants or other things, and these become the food source for hatching caterpillars. Eggs are generally laid in August, and the embryo starts developing during the warmer days of June summers.

The larva passes the winter in egg in a dormant stage, and when the conditions are finally appropriate in spring or June summers, the larva hatches. The stage after this is the caterpillar or larva stage, the primary job of the caterpillar is to consume as much food as it can, and as it grows, it sheds its skin 3-4 times.

The food eaten at this stage is used in the adult stage. The stage which comes after this is the pupa stage. The caterpillar stops eating and finally becomes a pupa. Depending on the species of moth or butterfly, the pupae can be found hanging on a branch or hidden in leaves. The final stage after this is the emergence of the adult stage, where adults live just to reproduce.

In the wild, butterfly adults can live for about 7-10 days, and that’s if they are not eaten first by other animals. Some species of butterflies can live as long as 3-6 months, and that’s because they have modified their diet to include rodent fruit and excrement of animals. The modified diet provides butterflies with amino acids, which makes their life cycle longer.

Butterflies produce more than one generation every year, unlike moths. The moth larvae have the most extended life cycle as they can continue for more than two years. Some species of adult moths only live for a week, whereas others can live for 10 months or a full year. Female moth adults usually die after eggs are laid, while males die after mating. The physical size of butterflies and moths is relatively small.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for how long do moths live, then why not take a look at biggest moth or pale beauty moth facts?

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Written by Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason

Bachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

Adekunle Olanrewaju Jason picture

Adekunle Olanrewaju JasonBachelor of Science specializing in Mass Communication.

With over 3+ years of professional experience, Olanrewaju is a certified SEO Specialist and Content Writer. He holds a BSc in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos. Throughout his dynamic career, Olanrewaju has successfully taken on various roles with startups and established organizations. He has served as a Technical Writer, Blogger, SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketing Manager. Known for his hardworking nature and insightful approach, Olanrewaju is dedicated to continuous learning and improvement.
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