Moths Have Been Partying in Your Dark Closet. What Now?

She originally studied ornithology but shifted course when she realized the limited professional opportunities for bird specialists, and began working in pest control in the early 1990s. “It was really a good old boys’ club,” she said, interrupted by her whining Newfoundland puppy, Karina (named for the Bob Dylan song).

During the pandemic, Dr. Gordon said, the rats effectively took over New York. “This year there is a rodent population in places I’ve never had problems,” she said, noting that buildings with pandemic-shuttered ground floor restaurants were as challenged as more publicized outdoor dining spaces, if not more so. “A restaurant closes and the rat has to get their food somewhere so they go up. A rat eats an ounce of food a day.”

One client, she said, left a condo in Boca Raton, Fla., unoccupied during the first months of quarantine. When the owners returned, three dozen rats were living in the apartment with litters of baby rats nestled in their clothing drawers. The couple has since embarked on a gut renovation.

“Moths don’t get as much attention as rodents,” Dr. Gordon said, “but they should and they’re definitely on the rise.” (Climate change, she said, is also a factor; moths thrive in warmer weather.)

Lloyd Garten, the president of Select Exterminating Company, which specializes in “high end residences” and businesses in Manhattan and Long Island, concurred. “We’ve seen a tremendous increase in clothing moth complaints in the last six months,” Mr. Garten said. “Really, really dramatic, to the point that we have specialists running all over the city every day for moths, which wasn’t always the case.”

He was not surprised. “Clients are in the Hamptons all of Covid, they’re not wearing the suits to work, then they’re coming back into New York and moving the clothing around and finding webbing and damage,” said Mr. Garten, 67 and a grandfather of 12. “Before they were cycling through their garments the insect wasn’t producing. A lot of people always had webbing clothes moths, maybe a few, but left uninterrupted with the temp at a constant and the lights off, it’s an ideal situation.”

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