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Garden Q&A: Defeating a clothes moth infestation

My home is infested with small clothing moths that look like feathers. They ate holes in my grandfather’s WWII army blanket! I found larvae and tiny black dots of moth excrement. An exterminator put pesticide strips in the garbage bags I filled with clothes and bedding. The washer and dryer killed some moths. Dry cleaning, too. The exterminator sprayed, but I still have moths. Should I set off a bomb before I travel soon?

Don’t bomb. Released chemicals could prove irritating or unhealthy for people and pets. Adult moths will continue flying and laying eggs. To break their life cycle, ensure no food sources are available for the next generation. You’re on the right path. The primary food of clothes moths larvae is soiled woolens. To complete development larvae require vitamins present only in stained or soiled fabrics. All woolens must be cleaned well and stored in sealed containers. Consider wools besides clothing, e.g. rugs. Think outside the box. Larvae don't go only for wool but for any animal fabric, including feathers, animal hair stuffing, furs, etc. Use moth balls and bag items you can’t wash. Search “clothes moths” on our website and read links, too. Remember, adult moths feed outdoors and are attracted to homes by lights.

I want to identify a houseplant which displays an odd, but infrequent, growing behavior. The plant seems like a cross between a fern and asparagus. Height doesn’t change much, but once in a blue moon a shoot keeps growing like in Jack-in-the-Beanstalk and doesn’t leaf out until way later. One is growing now (I swear, an inch a day) like a hard thin green wire and has reached the ceiling!

This sounds like asparagus fern (Asparagus sataceus). It’s not a fern but in the same genus as vegetable asparagus. The super-long stems are climbing stems. It’s also known as climbing asparagus. The climbing stems do not occur on young plants but, as plants mature, stems exceedingly long — several yards — reach up, probably searching for light and more favorable conditions. An extremely tough, adaptive plant, asparagus fern has become invasive in some places in the U.S. but is not hardy outside here. You can prune off the climbing stems or enjoy them as a novelty.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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