Numerous moth species become a nuisance during the warmer months due to their habit of flying around indoor and outdoor lights. Some moth species, however, are more than just a nuisance. For example, a few moth species in the northeast will establish a temporary habitat within closets where they chew holes through clothing. In some cases, clothing moths can inflict costly damage to a person’s wardrobe. With the exception of clothing moths, the airborne insects are never anything more than a nuisance. Well, at least this is what most people assume, but as it happens, moths are medically significant insect pests as well. Although it is not common knowledge, experts have long known that moths can trigger severe allergic reactions in sensitive people These severe reactions include, asthma attacks, respiratory difficulties, eczema, rashes and itchiness.

It is well known that many species of moth larvae (caterpillars) are outfitted with venomous spines that can trigger skin irritation and even breathing problems in people who have never reported allergy problems. However, moths are a more significant source of environmental allergens both indoors and outdoors. Cockroaches and dust mites are two other well documented arthropod allergens, but these arthropods only trigger allergic reactions indoors, not outdoors. Allergens from moths should not be underestimated, as one study found that 60 percent of people who are allergic to dust mites also demonstrated significant allergic reactions to moths. The powdery and easily detachable scales on moth wings is the primary source of moth allergens, and these scales easily float through the air where they are inhaled by humans. This makes indoor moths a potential danger to allergy sufferers. Moth excrement also serves as an allergen when inhaled and making direct physical contact with a moth will likely cause skin irritation. This is because barbed urticating scales on a moth’s abdomen detach and become stuck in human skin. When this occurs severe inflammation and itching result even for those who are not allergy sufferers. Inhaling these barbed scales will lead to breathing problems and asthma attacks. Those with asthma and allergies are particularly sensitive to moth allergens.

Were you aware that moths contribute to indoor and outdoor allergens?