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An attempt to reconstruct the natural and cultural history of the webbing clothes moth Tineola bisselliella Hummel (Lepidoptera: Tineidae)

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It is generally accepted that the natural habitats of most pest insects can be found outside the synanthropic environment in layers of leaf litter, under bark, as well as in rodent or bird nests. Indeed, most of the common pests have been reported as being facultative nidicolous. Therefore infestation of commodities by pest insects out of these reservoirs is one considerable possibility. However, the likelihood of a pest´s occurrence and survival out-doors largely depends on its ecological potential and competitiveness against other species of the same ecological guild. Some pest species are rarely found in wild habitats, especially in those regions where they are not native and where they have been introduced by man. The fabric pest Tineola bisselliella serves as a good example. Most likely originating in Central or Southern Africa this insect was introduced into Europe probably not earlier than the late 18th century. Being more tolerant to dry environments than other fabric pests its economical importance increased during the 20th century when in-door climates changed because of central heating systems. Its occurrence in out-door natural habitats must be regarded as accidental. Reported founds of webbing clothes moth larvae in bird nests e.g. have been largely overstated in the literature. T. bisselliella should be regarded as an eusynanthropic species.
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R. PLARRE, B. KRÜGER-CARSTENSEN
An attempt to reconstruct the natural and cultural history
of the webbing clothes moth Tineola bisselliella Hummel (Lepidoptera: Tineidae)
Abstract - It is generally accepted that the natural habitats of most pest insects can
be found outside the synanthropic environment in layers of leaf litter, under bark,
as well as in rodent or bird nests. Indeed, most of the common pests have been
reported as being facultative nidicolous. Therefore infestation of commodities by
pest insects out of these reservoirs is one considerable possibility. However, the
likelihood of a pest´s occurrence and survival out-doors largely depends on its
ecological potential and competitiveness against other species of the same ecologi-
cal guild. Some pest species are rarely found in wild habitats, especially in those
regions where they are not native and where they have been introduced by man.
The fabric pest Tineola bisselliella serves as a good example. Most likely originat-
ing in Central or Southern Africa this insect was introduced into Europe probably
not earlier than the late 18
th
century. Being more tolerant to dry environments
than other fabric pests its economical importance increased during the 20
th
century
when in-door climates changed because of central heating systems. Its occurrence
in out-door natural habitats must be regarded as accidental. Reported founds of
webbing clothes moth larvae in bird nests e.g. have been largely overstated in the
literature. T. bisselliella should be regarded as an eusynanthropic species.
Key words: evolution, pest insect, phylogeny, synanthropy.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF MORPHOLOGY AND PHYSIOLOGY
The adult webbing clothes moth is a small moth that ranges in size from 4 to 9 mm
and weighs up to 16 mg (Kemper, 1935; Hannemann, 1977; Becker, 1983). The head
and the rest of the body are covered with long hair. The rusty yellow head hairs point
towards the front. The eyes are black. The mouth parts are reduced, the mandibles are
rudimentary, the maxillary palps are very short or missing, and only the labial palps
are apparent and well developed (Fig. 1). The wings are lanceolate and are fringed at
their ends and rear edges. The forewings are yellowish, and the hind wings are grayish-
yellow. There are no striking markings on the wings. The wingspan ranges between 12
to 16 mm. In flight, the hind wings are interlinked through a setaceous frenulum to the
retinaculum of the forewings. The male moths are generally smaller than the female
moths and have a few small tufts of hair on the last three abdominal segments.
J. Ent. Acarol. Res.
Ser. II, 43 (2): 83-93
30 September 2011
The larva, which reaches 7 to 9 mm, has yellowish to yellow-whitish coloring
(Hinton, 1956). The color of the food in the intestines often shines through the thin
body covering. The head capsule is brown, sometimes with an almost black posterior
border. Ocelli are missing. The back of the neck is light to yellowish-brown. The coxae
are not fused through the median. The larvae create silk tubes in which they live and
eat, which are securely interwoven with the substrate. Feces and substrate particles are
integrated into the silk tubes.
Adult clothes moths do not take in any more nourishment. Only the larvae feed
and are capable of metabolizing keratinous materials through the respective enzymes
and special intestinal environment (Lotmar, 1942; Day, 1951a; 1951b; Powning et al.,
1951; Hinton, 1956; Gerard, 2002; Hughes & Vogler, 2006). The developmental time
of the webbing clothes moth is related to the quality of its food, and is closely depen-
dent upon temperature (Titschack, 1925; 1926). The moisture level also has a great im-
pact on the length of the larval period. With good nourishment, a constant temperature
of 28°C to 30°C, and relatively high humidity, the total development from an egg to
moth takes from about 45 to 70 days. Under poor developmental conditions, however,
this development can take years. The number of larval stages correlates with the length
of development and can lie between four and ten, as well as up to 40 stages (Titschack,
1927; Griswold, 1944).
The guild of keratophagous insects incorporates only few species, including some
moth as well as hide and skin beetle species. Usually the relative humidity of a habi-
tat directly corresponds to the substrate moisture content, which strongly influences
successful infestations by the various species. However, in contrast to the guilds of
xylophagous wood damaging or granivorous stored product-insects, for keratin feeding
insects substrate moisture is not a limiting factor for intra-guild competition. Because
of high levels of the protein keratin in wool and feathers, this diet is by far less hygro-
scopic than the cellulose in wood or the starch in grain. The moisture level of keratinous
material is therefore more or less constantly low and not influenced by the relative
humidity of the surrounding. Since textile pests are all capable of utilizing the dry sub-
strate, the adaptive status varies therefore with their ability to physiologically conserve
water. In comparison with e.g. the case-making clothes moths (Tinea pellionella L.) or
carpet beetles (Anthrenus spp.), the webbing clothes moth is more tolerant to low rela-
tive humidity of up to 20% (Griswold, 1944; Hinton, 1956), and due to changing living
climates to drier homes, the importance of this pest has been constantly increasing. It
has widely replaced the case-making clothes moth (Weidner, 1970; Klausnitzer, 1993),
which used to be prevalent in homes but requires lower temperatures and higher levels
of humidity (Cheema, 1956). Webbing and case-making clothes moths can, however,
co-exist (Key & Common, 1959), when locally suitable microhabitats allow for differ-
ent levels of humidity. The feeding tube of the webbing clothes moth which is tight to
the substrate may serve better in the aspect of preventing water loss than the portable
sacks by other tineid moths.
Journal of Entomological and Acarological Research, Ser. II, 43 (2), 2011
84
Geographic origin, global spread, and current habitats
The biogeographic origin of T. bisselliella is basically still undecided, but is con-
jectured to be in South to Central Africa (Hinton, 1956; Weidner, 1970; Robinson &
Nielsen, 1993). Webbing clothes moths are not autochthon to Europe, as they were first
explicitly mentioned there not before the 19
th
century. Neither Linné nor Frabricius
described them in their systematic works, and in a report about controlling moths in
textiles by Réaumur to the Paris Academy in 1728, the webbing clothes moth in its
true sense was not mentioned (Weidner, 1970). Thus one can rightly assume that T.
bisselliella arrived relatively late in Europe, possibly introduced accidentally with the
trade of natural produce and game trophies from Africa, and later spread throughout the
world. Mentioning of “clothes moths” in the classic literature of the Antiquities, e.g. in
Aristotle and Aristophanes (Beavis, 1988), or in the Bible (Bodenheimer, 1960) clearly
does not refer to T. bisselliella. The decisive evidence for this assumption comes from
a description of the destructive larvae, which are described to live in a “mobile enclo-
sure” of a sack. This is not the case for T. bisselliella, as the larvae of this species live in
immobile silk tubes, which are securely woven into the substrate (see above). Portable
woven sacks are created, for instance, by Tinea spp. and Monopis spp. In the citations
from the Antiquities, they are thus more likely describing an entire group of diverse
facultative synanthropic keratophagous moth species (Robinson, 1979).
Although T. bisselliella today is more or less globally distributed, it is a neozoon
in most parts of the world. Its cosmopolitan propagation is strictly synanthropic and it
is one of the most economically significant textile pests (Kemper, 1935; Becker, 1960;
1983).
New species, introduced into new environments usually do not outcompete natu-
rally occurring species within their ecological guild because the latter are ecologically
well adapted to their habitats. However, factors may exist in the close vicinity of hu-
mans which favour or even enhance the establishment of introduced species over native
species.
Reports of damages caused by T. bisselliella to wool, feathers, hair, and fur, as well
as clothing and basic commodities made from these materials inside households and
museums are numerous (Hinton, 1956; Hammers, 1987; Parker, 1990; Pinniger, 1994;
Rajendran & Parveen, 2005). Reports in the literature regarding the presence of web-
bing clothes moths in natural habitats away from human housings are, in contrast, rare
and confusing. For example, in his summary of bibliographies on nidicolous insects
Hicks (1959) lists 15 references to T. bisselliella findings in bird nests. Thus, in second-
ary and tertiary literature, it is often listed as a common species in bird nests (Nietham-
mer, 1937; Uhlmann, 1937/1938; Hinton, 1956, Petersen, 1969; Hannemann, 1977;
Klausnitzer, 1988; Pinniger, 2001; Cox & Pinniger, 2007). Our own studies of the listed
original references, however, do not allow for this general conclusion. First one notices
duplications of citations as well as generalized faunistic reports from secondary lit-
erature without specified data. This limits the number of works reporting the presence
of webbing clothes moths in bird nests to only six original references. In addition, the
abundances of individuals in these finding are very small. According to Kemper (1938),
while 63% of the 64 nests studied (nests of house and tree field sparrows,
R. Plarre, B. Krüger-Carstensen: Natural and cultural history of Tineola bisselliella Hummel 85
great and blue tits, barn swallows, house martins, and “city pigeons”) contained moth
larvae or moths, only 10% of them contained webbing clothes moths with a total of 24
individual specimens. The largest portion (95%) housed the so-called “case-bearing
moths” (s. below) with over 2000 individual specimens. Furthermore, after a yearlong
study on numerous common swift nests, Büttiger (1944) also reported on only finding
one moth and one pupa. According to Boyd (1936), while webbing clothes moths, case-
bearing clothes moths, and other moths are commonly found in swallow nests, there is
no differentiation as to what species are found, so that the actual percentage of T. bis-
selliella remains unclear. In their studies of nests of various species of birds, Woodroffe
& Southgate (1951/1952) and Woodroffe (1953) only found a very small quantity of
webbing clothes moths in only 3% of the nests studied, exclusively in house sparrow
nests. Herfs (1936) also does not include any absolute data, but does report on a very
small number of webbing clothes moths compared to the high number of case-bearing
clothes moths. In addition, an updated literature search revealed, that Weidner (1961)
found only one webbing clothes moth larva in one out of six pigeon nests. The larvae
of case-making clothes moth (T. pellionella) and the brown house moth (Hofmanophila
pseudospretella Stainton), as well as the “pigeon moth” (Tinea columbariella Wocke),
all “case-bearing” moth larvae, were more frequently found. On the other hand, indi-
rect negative reports on T. bisselliella exist: Nordberg (1936) did not find any webbing
clothes moths in a total of 422 nests of various bird species, while he did find large
numbers of case-making clothes moths, brown house moths, and brown-dotted clothes
moth (Niditinea fuscipunctella Haworth), and Hinton (1956) never found any webbing
clothes moth in bird nests. Similarly, the webbing clothes moth is not listed in the re-
sults of the faunistic investigations by Green (1980) and Krall (1981).
T. bisselliella must then be considered to be an exception and a seldom to very
seldom occurrence in bird nest biocenoses. The females’ very poor flight ability (Hin-
ton, 1956), as well as the strong competition from other species in natural habitats may
be the causes. Other tineids, especially the case-making clothes moth and the “pigeon
moth”, as well as the Oecophoridae brown house moth and several species of Anthrenus
and Attagenus dermestid beetles are the most common keratinophagous nidicolous in-
sects found in mild climate zones. In tropical regions of Asia, away from human settle-
ments, the known bird nest inhabitants are not webbing clothes moths, but rather other
kinds of tineids (Robinson, 1988a).
The seldom occurrence of webbing clothes moths as nidicolous insects in birds
nests is thus certainly tied to secondary infestation from housing or businesses in urban
spaces, as for all of the positive instances listed above the few nests in which webbing
clothes moths were found had direct contact to human living quarters. Infestation the
other way around, from the bird nest to human dwellings, is unlikely – the economi-
cally relevant new infestations by webbing clothes moths do not usually occur through
natural habitats, but rather through the displacement and receipt of infested materials
(Kemper, 1935).
These general and rather theoretical considerations of T. bisselliella being a eusyn-
anthropic species are supported by out-door pheromone trapping results carried out in
Journal of Entomological and Acarological Research, Ser. II, 43 (2), 2011
86
the year 2008/2009. In and near Berlin (Germany) several trapping locations outside
houses were set up inside and outside the city limits. Trapping was performed from
August to July with sticky traps containing a pheromone lure for T. bisselliella provided
by Insects Limited (Indianapolis, USA). Traps were checked and lures were changed
Fig. 1 - Original drawings by Herrich-Schäffer (1853) of systematic details regarding Tineola
bisselliella labial palps.
Fig. 2 - Trap captures of webbing clothes moths and brown-dotted clothes moths at different trap-
ping locations in and around Berlin, Germany, sorted from city center to countryside. Numbers
of trapped male moths are cumulative for 1 year.
87
R. Plarre, B. Krüger-Carstensen: Natural and cultural history of Tineola bisselliella Hummel
on a biweekly basis. Fig. 2 shows catch data arranged from city center to country side.
The further away from the city the fewer was the number of T. bisselliella captures up
to total absence of this species in the country side. Interestingly, another tineid moth,
the brown-dotted clothes moth (N. fuscipunctella), was also caught in high amounts.
It is known that males of this species are attracted to alcohol compounds (Hwang et
al., 1978), and most likely they were lured into the trap by the webbing clothes moth
pheromone´s solvent. The brown-dotted clothes moth is a well documented and typical
species from bird nests in Central Europe (see above) and frequently trapped with alco-
hol based lures (Trematerra & Fiorilli, 1999). Trap catches of N. fuscipunctella, how-
ever, were reciprocal to those of T. bisselliella with highest numbers in the country side.
Biosystematics and annotations on phylogenesis
The first scientific description of the webbing clothes moth (in its classic sense) as
Tinea bisselliella comes from Hummel in the year 1823 (Herrick & Griswold, 1933).
Zeller (1852) produced the first detailed description on the morphology and disper-
sion. Due to morphological characteristics, including the lack of maxillary palps and
a reduced glossa (Fig. 1), Herrich-Schäffer (1853) established the genus Tineola with
Tineola bisselliella and three additional species, which were later reallocated to differ-
ent taxa, due to the characteristics of the genitals. Currently, but with reservations, only
one other species, Tineola anaphecola Gozmány, is included in this genus (Gozmány
& Vári, 1973) but the authors do not explicitly specify whether or not both species
truly form a sister clade. Due to newer genital morphological traits (Petersen, 1957) as
well as biochemical traits (Cook et al., 1997), Tineola spp. likely should be included
within the “Tinea-group” and should no longer be considered to be the sister-taxon to
the “Tinea- and Monopis-group” (Hannemann, 1977) (Fig. 3). Due to the unclear status
of T. anaphecola, one could consider other Tinea species as potentially the most closely
related taxa to T. bisselliella.
Tineola anaphecola is so far known to exist only in tropic West Africa, where it
was found nidicolously and entomophagously in caterpillar nests. As it has frequently
been conjectured, it is possible that the natural origin of T. bisselliella can also be found
in the same region (see above), where it may have had an entomo-nidicolous lifestyle,
under mummified conditions or possibly also living on cadavers. Their presence has
been proven both in nests of social hymenoptera (four separate cases) and on a cadaver
(singular incident) (Linsley, 1944; Weidner, 1952 cited in Petersen, 1963).
Feeding behavior among Tineidae is very divers and can best be described as de-
trito-mycetophag (Robinson & Nielsen, 1993, Davis & Robinson, 1999). Taking the
phenogram by Cook et al. (1997) (Fig. 3 right side), which is based on similarities of
cuticular fatty acids, as a blueprint for phylogenetic relationships among the Tineidae,
and incorporating feeding ecology into this phenogram, the following evolutionary sce-
nario regarding food exploitation could occur (Fig. 4): The common ancestor of the Ti-
neidae, including Hieroxestinae (with Amphixystis ssp.), Scardiinae (with Morophaga
ssp.), Nemapogoninae (with Nemapogon ssp.) and Tineinae (with Monopis spp. Tine-
ola spp. and Tinea spp.) was feeding more or less on rotten plant detritus
Journal of Entomological and Acarological Research, Ser. II, 43 (2), 2011
88
Fig. 3 - Comparative relationships of Tineola bisselliella within the Tineidae which are com-
prised of the Tineinae (dashed box) + Nemapoginae + Scardiinae, based upon Hannemann (1977)
according to morphological genital traits (left) and upon Cook et al. (1997) according to data
analyses of cuticular fatty acid percentages “centroid cluster analysis” (right).
(Note on the right phenogram: Morophaga represents the Scardiinae and Amphixystis stands for
the Hieroxestinae, which Hannemann (1977) did not discuss).
Fig. 4 - Relationship among the Tineidae (according to Cook et al. (1997), see also Fig. 3), with
added feeding ecology.
89
R. Plarre, B. Krüger-Carstensen: Natural and cultural history of Tineola bisselliella Hummel
which includes facultative feeding on various fungi and lichen (Hannemann, 1977).
For Amphixystis ssp., Morophaga ssp. and Nemapogon ssp. decomposing fungi are
still the preferred food source (Petersen, 1969). The common ancestor of the Tineinae
(Fig. 4 large dotted box) also fed on fungi but was able to partly consume keratin as
well, maybe through the enzymatic synergism of keratinases by fungi. Finally, in the
Tineinae some taxa like the “pellionella-group” (Fig. 4 small dotted box) specialized
and shifted obligatory on keratinous food, while others including T. bisselliella (which
is not part of the “pellionella-group”) remained oligophagous. Interestingly, among all
described subtaxa in the Tineinae, the specialized “pellionella-group” hosts the major-
ity of species being known as pests on textiles (Robinson, 1988b). Compared to those,
T. bisselliella is not restricted to food of animal origin. It can successfully live not only
on cholesterol but also on pure phytosterol containing food sources (Becker, 1980;
Sellenschlo, 1990; Stejskal & Horak, 1999), whereas T. pellionella e.g. cannot survive
on botanical materials (Ishii & Kawahara, 1966).
Other behavioural characteristics in tineid moths, like the differences in construct-
ing frass-tunnel or making cases, certainly reflect different strategies to prevent desic-
cation by minimizing water loss because of shelter tubes. However, case building and
their structures are by no means consistent within phylogenetics (Davis & Robinson,
1999).
CONCLUSION
The summary of autecological, behavioral, and historical data in combination with
critically analyzed published faunistic records make the webbing clothes moth appear
to be a true synanthropic species in most parts of the world. Its local spread is favored
only by trade and exchange of infested commodities. New infestations from natural
reservoirs are most unlikely. Preventive pest control strategies should therefore focus
on proper quarantine measures.
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UDY PLARRE, BAM, Unter den Eichen 87, 12205 Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: ruediger.plarre@bam.de
BIANCA KRÜGER-CARSTENSEN, BAM, Unter den Eichen 87, 12205 Berlin, Germany.
E-mail: bianca.krueger-carstensen@bam.de
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R. Plarre, B. Krüger-Carstensen: Natural and cultural history of Tineola bisselliella Hummel
... This is because moth development depends primarily on temperature and food quality [60]. The impact of relative humidity seems small as Tineola bisselliella can survive dry conditions by metabolising food to provide water [58,59,61,62]. A Scandinavian research project [17] examined the expansion of Attagenus smirnovi to habitats of Northern and Western Europe in a changing climate. ...
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Climate change not only affects the biodiversity of natural habitats, but also the flora and fauna within cities. An increase in average temperature and changing precipitation, but additionally extreme weather events with heat waves and flooding, are forecast. The climate in our cities and, thus, also inside buildings is influenced by the changing outdoor climate and urban heat islands. A further challenge to ecosystems is the introduction of new species (neobiota). If these species are pests, they can cause damage to stored products and materials. Much cultural heritage is within buildings, so changes in the indoor climate also affect pests (insect and fungi) within the museums, storage depositories, libraries, and historic properties. This paper reviews the literature and presents an overview of these complex interactions between the outdoor climate, indoor climate, and pests in museums. Recent studies have examined the direct impact of climate on buildings and collections. The warming of indoor climates and an increased frequency or intensity of extreme weather events are two important drivers affecting indoor pests such as insects and fungi, which can severely damage collections. Increases in activity and new species are found, e.g., the tropical grey silverfish Ctenolepisma longicaudatum has been present in many museums in recent years benefitting from increased indoor temperatures.
... As lagartas de várias espécies da família Tineidae alimentam-se de tecidos (roupas, cobertores) feitos de fibras naturais, como é o caso da lã e da seda (Plarre & Krüger-Carstensen 2011). Apesar desta particularidade, muitas espécies de borboletas noturnas não têm qualquer impacto negativo para os seres humanos. ...
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... Among insects, this ability is limited to some bird lice and the larvae of certain carpet beetles (e.g., Attagenus unicolor, Trox sp.) and moths (e.g., Tinea pellionella, Hofmannophila pseudospretella) [1,2]. The clothes moth, a synanthropic species that lives mostly in urban areas, is the best-known example [3]. While adult clothes moths do not feed, their larvae are classed as industry and museum pests due to their voracious feeding behavior. ...
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The clothes moth Tineola bisselliella is one of a few insects that can digest keratin, leading to the destruction of clothing, textiles and artwork. The mechanism of keratin digestion is not yet fully understood, partly reflecting the lack of publicly available genomic and transcriptomic data. Here we present a high-quality gut transcriptome of T. bisselliella generated from larvae reared on keratin-rich and keratin-free diets. The overall transcriptome consists of 428,221 contigs that were functionally annotated and screened for candidate enzymes involved in keratin utilization. As a mechanism for keratin digestion, we identified cysteine synthases, cystathionine β-synthases and cystathionine γ-lyases. These enzymes release hydrogen sulfite, which may reduce the disulfide bonds in keratin. The dataset also included 27 differentially expressed contigs with trypsin domains, among which 20 were associated with keratin feeding. Finally, we identified seven collagenases that were upregulated on the keratin-rich diet. In addition to this enzymatic repertoire potentially involved in breaking down keratin, our analysis of poly(A)-enriched and poly(A)-depleted transcripts suggested that T. bisselliella larvae possess an unstable intestinal microbiome that may nevertheless contribute to keratin digestion.
... For example, Tineola bisselliella (Hummel, 1823) was widely thought to infest human habitations via bird nests, which acted as natural population reservoirs. However, it has recently been discovered that this non-native species seldom occurs in rural bird nests and can be regarded as wholly synanthropic in Europe, where it was introduced from Africa around the turn of the 19th century (Plarre & Krüger-Carstensen, 2011;Plarre, 2014). ...
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Bird nests can support diverse communities of invertebrates, including moths (Lepidoptera). However, the understanding of the natural history of these species is incomplete. For this study, 224 nests, from 16 bird species, were collected and the adult moths that emerged were recorded. The majority of nests contained moths, with 4,657 individuals of ten species recorded. Observations are made on the natural history of each species and some novel findings are reported. The absence of certain species is discussed. To gain deeper insights into the life histories of these species, it would be useful to document the feeding habits of the larvae in isolation.
... For example, the common clothes moth Tineola bisselliella (Hummel, 1823) was thought to infest human habitations via bird nests, which acted as natural population reservoirs. It has recently been discovered, however, that this non-native species seldom occurs in bird nests and can be regarded as wholly synanthropic in Europe, where it was Correspondence: Douglas Boyes, Brasenose College, Radcliffe Square, Oxford OX1 4AJ, U.K. E-mail: info@douglasboyes.co.uk introduced from Africa around the turn of the 19th Century (Plarre & Krüger-Carstensen, 2011;Plarre, 2014). ...
... A few species of moths are found inside buildings and are important pests, predominantly the webbing clothes moth (Tineola bisselliella), which is probably the most important pest on textiles, fur and feathers [25,26,[60][61][62][63][64][65][66]. The webbing clothes moth is a pest on the textiles of animal wool (sheep or goat for example), fur, feathers, hair, felt, silk, carpets, rugs, blankets, upholstery, piano felts, fishmeal, milk powder, brush bristles, but often also come from dust [25]. ...
Article
Keratophagous insects consume proteinaceous foods (animal hair, feathers, and other substances containing keratin) that are low or even lacking in water, which necessitates a source of moisture beyond the primary diet. Tinea occidentella Chambers 1880 (Lepidoptera, Tineidae), which feeds upon the keratin in fur and feathers in mammalian carnivore scat and in pellets of birds of prey (foods very low in water), affords an understanding of the ecology of keratophagous insects in nature. The common name “western clothes moth” is a misnomer as it does not eat clothes but only scat and pellets. In laboratory experiments, we found that larvae did not absorb water vapour directly from the atmosphere, and they died at 45% rh–55% relative humidity (rh). We found no evidence that larvae drank. Larvae grew normally, had high survival, pupation, and eclosion only when feeding at very high (>88%–99%) rh upon fur from pellets and scat; the fur absorbed water from the atmosphere. While scat and pellets are abundant throughout North America, T. occidentella is mostly restricted to the moist, mild climates of coastal central and southern California, where fog, dew, and morning high rh of 99% are common. Outside of this coastal envelope where growing season climate is warmer, drier, and becoming more so, the species is rare. An intriguing notion, requiring research beyond the present report, is that the warming and drying climate of southwestern North America will contract the range of this insect. The larvae of Tinea occidentella feed upon the keratinaceous, undigested fur and feathers in the pellets of raptors and the scat of carnivores, protein containing no water. The species is concentrated in coastal regions with very high relative humidity, develops upon food that has absorbed moisture from the atmosphere, and fails to develop at lower relative humidity. The warming and drying of southwestern North America could lead to a shrinking range of this insect.
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The evolutionary success of insects is promoted by their association with beneficial microbes that enable the utilization of unusual diets. The synanthropic clothing moth Tineola bisselliella provides an intriguing example of this phenomenon. The caterpillars of this species have adapted to feed on keratin-rich diets such as feathers and wool, which cannot be digested by most other animals and are resistant to common digestive enzymes. Inspired by the hypothesis that this ability may be conferred by symbiotic microbes, we utilized a simple assay to detect keratinase activity and a method to screen gut bacteria for candidate enzymes, which were isolated from feather-fed larvae. The isolation of DNA from keratin-degrading bacterial strains followed by de novo genome sequencing resulted in the identification of a novel bacterial strain related to Bacillus sp. FDAARGOS_235. Genome annotation identified 20 genes with keratinase domains. Proteomic analysis of the culture supernatant from this gut bacterium grown in non-nutrient buffer supplemented with feathers revealed several candidate enzymes potentially responsible for keratin degradation, including a thiol-disulfide oxidoreductase and multiple proteases. Our results suggest that the unusual diet of T. bisselliella larvae promotes their association with keratinolytic microorganisms and that the ability of larvae to feed on keratin can at least partially be attributed to bacteria that produce a cocktail of keratin-degrading enzymes.
Article
Profiled species: Aerial Yellow Jacket • American Carrion Beetle • Black Imported Fire Ant • Blue Mud Dauber • Camel Cricket • Case Making Clothes Moth - Done • Colorado Potato Beetle • Dark Eyed Fruit Fly • Downy Yellow Jacket • Eastern Treehole Mosquito • European Hornet • Evergreen Bagworm • Four-Lined Silverfish • Fruit Fly • German Yellow Jacket • Gray Silverfish • Great Golden Digger Wasp2 • Ground Yellow Jacket • Hister Beetle • Kissing Bug • Larder Beetle • Larger Yellow Ant • Lesser House Fly • Margined Blister Beetle • Masked Hunter • Mason Bee • Northern Paper Wasp • Old House Borer • Powderpost Beetle • Rove Beetle • Smaller Carpenter Ant • Spider Beetle • Striped Blister Beetle • Surinam Cockroach • Warehouse Beetle • Webbing Clothes Moth • Western Conifer Seed Bug • Wheel Bug • Yellow Fever Mosquito
Article
Species of invertebrate animals, notably insects, are undergoing an alarmingly high rate of extinction, coupled with minimal support for their protection, even from the world’s leading conservation organisations. This is intolerable, as invertebrates constitute over 95% of the world’s species, have indispensable economic values and provide ecological services without which life on earth would virtually cease. Much of the lack of public and governmental support for invertebrate conservation is due to the abhorrent tiny pests that have persuaded most people that ‘bugs’ are bad and consequently the only species worthy of support are the charismatic superstar mammals like pandas and tigers that currently are the mainstays of biodiversity fundraising. Just as these respected, highly attractive icons are effective ambassadors of biodiversity conservation, so certain detested pests have poisoned the public image of invertebrates, and indeed have made it seem to many that most wildlife is hostile. The ‘dirty dozen’ bugs that particularly are a hindrance to improving public investment in biodiversity are: bedbugs, clothes moths, cockroaches, fleas, houseflies, leeches, lice, locusts, mosquitoes, spiders, termites and ticks. Except for spiders, these species, admittedly, are responsible for enormous damage to health and economic welfare. Nevertheless, this paper shows that most have at least some compensating values, their harm has often been exaggerated and all have related species that are good citizens. Six of the dozen ‘least wanted’ invertebrates highlighted are blood parasites of humans, and these ‘bad apples’ are very hard to defend since parasitism seems abhorrent. Remarkably, however, at least half of the world’s tens of millions of species are also parasites, and without them most ecosystems would be in danger of collapse. To improve invertebrate conservation, it is advisable that efforts be made to educate the public regarding their importance. Since prejudices against ‘bugs’ are primarily acquired during childhood, special attention is needed to persuade the young that most invertebrates are harmless, valuable and entertaining. Recent advances in genetic engineering (‘synthetic biology’, ‘genetic drives’) have led to very serious consideration of deliberately eliminating the world’s worst pests of humans. While these extermination technologies could greatly increase support for invertebrate conservation by annihilating their most despised representatives, the dangers of unforeseen damage to ecosystems and hence to biodiversity are substantial.
Book
The introductory chapters of this book give a detailed review of the phylogeny, morphology, classification and biology of Tineidae on a worldwide scale. Detailed morphological treatment of each genus is complemented by illustrations of wing patterns, head structure and head vestiture, venation, and male and female genitalia of representative species.
Chapter
Textilfasern sowohl tierischer wie pflanzlicher Herkunft können von manchen Insekten und von gewissen Pilzen und Bakterien zerstört oder beschädigt werden. Auch künstliche Fasern sind nicht ausnahmslos widerstandsfähig. Die wirtschaftliche Bedeutung der Schäden läßt sich nicht lediglich am Umfang des zerstörten Fasermaterials messen; denn bereits geringfügige Beschädigungen können erhebliche Wertminderungen zur Folge haben.
Article
A study of the tracheation of nine tissues and organs of five species of insects reveals that the arrangement of tracheae and especially of tracheoles is determined by the structure of the tissue supplied. Adaptations are found in the ovary permitting the supply of the oocyte during its rapid enlargement. There is a correlation between the abundance of the tracheal supply of a tissue and its probable oxygen requirements.
Article
The eHects of a number of protease activators and inhibitors, namely cyanide, iodoacetate, thioglycollate, enterokinase, ovomucoid, Ascaris inhibitor, and soybean inhibitor, have been studied on crude proteinase preparations from the midguts of the following five species of insects: Tineola bisseUiella larvae, Tenebrio molitor larvae, Musca d()mestica larvae, Periplaneta americana, and Locusta migratoria, and the results compared with their eHects on trypsin and papain.
Article
The larvae of Tineola bisseUiella digest wool fibres. The scales, resistant to most enzymes, are, except for the epicuticle, as readily digested as are the cortical cells.