What Bugs Eat Leather – The Likely Suspects

There are several bugs that will eat leather. They include:

  • Carpet beetles
  • Clothes moths
  • Crickets
  • Silverfish
  • Termites

While these bugs are the common suspects, you may have just one, several, or a combination of these species.

Below, I will discuss why they damage your leather items as well as how to identify, get rid of, and prevent them from returning.

  • Leather is not naturally part of these bugs’ diets or their first choice, but they will still put holes in your favorite leather jacket.
  • Identifying the bugs present in your home can be easy. Just look for specific damage styles and refuse.
  • Insect infestations can be eliminated through a number of methods. This can include insecticide, traps, and hired professionals.
  • An ounce of prevention is a pound of cure. Preventing infestations can be accomplished by diligence and routine cleaning.

Why do these bugs eat leather?

Man-made leather is not found in nature of course (except for cases of littering) so these bugs normally eat other items. The question is, why do they gravitate towards leather when they are within a home? Especially since they don’t encounter it in the wild.

It may come as a surprise that some bugs can actually gain sustenance from leather. Leather is composed of fibrous proteins, primarily collagen. Like many other proteins, insects can break down collagen for its amino acids.

This protein is found in nature though not in the form of leather. Bugs most often find collagen in the bodies of dead animals. It is most common in mammals but can be found in other animals. It is typically present in connective tissue.

In addition to sustenance, some bugs can use the leather they eat to help them create cocoons or other casing. Webbing clothes moths (Tineola bisselliella) are one such insect.

This incorporation of the material they feed on helps camouflage the casing.

It is important to note that it is the larva stage of clothes moths that eat fabric – not the adults. 

However, while some bugs can gain sustenance from the collagen in leather, it is often not their first choice. Termites for one will prefer wood over leather.

Carpet beetles and clothes moths both prefer objects that contain keratin such as silk, wool, or hair. 

As for the other two, both crickets and silverfish will go for soiled clothes before they eat leather.

So while many will not go for leather first, the above insects are the likely suspects for ruined leather. But how do you know which one so you can effectively remove them?

How to identify the bugs

Just like any other good sleuth, you need to know what clues might look like. Luckily you won’t need the world’s greatest detective to figure it out. 

These bugs will leave signs of their passing or you might catch them in the act and be able to identify them directly. Let’s start with the indirect clues.

Telltale signs

Damage details and excrement will be your most helpful clues here. As these bugs are different shapes and sizes, both will be different.

Clothes moth larvae will create damaged rows which won’t necessarily be straight. Only in large numbers will they create holes.

Carpet beetles, silverfish, and termites will all create holes in the material. The holes will vary in size depending on the insect. Termites will likely create the biggest, followed by carpet beetles, silverfish, then clothes moths. 

Crickets will create long gashes and holes in the material. If there’s just one, the damage will be hard to notice. Naturally, there’s never just one of any of these bugs.

Another way to identify which insect is plaguing you is their refuse. 

Carpet beetles will leave behind their shed skins while termites may leave behind wings. On the other hand, silverfish will leave yellowish stains and clothes moths will leave behind their casings. 

Crickets leave fewer signs other than the damage to clothes. The easiest way to tell if there are crickets in your home is to wait for nighttime which is when they chirp the most.

Identification by sight

It would be helpful to be able to recognize them if, in the search for your culprits, you see one. These insects are fairly different from each other so they should be easy to distinguish.

The carpet beetle has the most variation. There are three common species that will vary in coloration but will look similar in shape.

Carpet beetles are roughly ⅛ to ½ inch long and oval-like in shape. The larvae will look like caterpillars.

Clothes moth adults are small brown moths, but as mentioned before, it is the larvae that cause the damage.

The larvae will be white if webbing or tan if casemaking clothes moths. They are often between ⅜ to ½ inches long depending on development.

Crickets are recognizable by the bent legs that they use to chirp. They are usually on the bigger side of the above insects at ½ to 1 inch long.

Silverfish are completely silver as the name implies. Their body shape is wider at the head then tapers to a point. They are usually ¼ to ½ inches long.

Finally, termites are most commonly tan in color and can be anywhere from ¼ to ¾ inches long depending on the type. 

Tips for getting rid of insects

While a great option is hiring professional pest removers, sometimes that isn’t an option or isn’t the first. Whatever the case, here are a few tips to eliminate the above pests in your home.

  • Install insect traps. Many traps use pheromones to lure insects. There are traps available that work for multiple bugs such as carpet beetles and clothes moths.
  • Use insecticide. While you shouldn’t use insecticide around food or clothes, you can use it on likely hiding spots.
  • Clean infected materials. Vacuum any affected areas and wash any affected clothes. Vacuuming will remove some food sources and washing clothes will kill any bugs on them. When vacuuming, be sure to go over infested areas multiple times.
  • Freeze infected materials. Freezing for roughly 2 days will kill the eggs and hatched insects on an item. This works great for items that are hard to launder.

Tips for avoiding future infestations

If you can prevent these bugs from getting a foothold in your home, you will be in a great position should a few wander in. Here are a few ways to prevent infestations.

  • Seal any gaps. Making it harder for bugs to get in will help greatly.
  • Use insecticide. This time, use it around any potential entrances to your home.
  • Clean clothes before storing. Since many of these insects are attracted to soiled items, cleaning will make them less attractive.
  • Use mothballs. Any storage container or closet should be sealed with mothballs inside.
  • Inspect plants. Bugs can easily sneak into your home on flowers and any other plants brought inside.
  • Maintain your surroundings. If you remove the common breeding places for these bugs in the area surrounding your home there will be fewer of them in the area.


Bugs that eat leather and other materials in your home are a pest. Hopefully, with this article, you will be able to identify, eliminate, and prevent any infestation from carpet beetles, clothes moths, crickets, silverfish, or termites.

Alright, that’s it for this article, here are a few hand-selected articles that you might also find interesting reads:

7 Bugs With the Most Legs – You’ll Love This

The Worst Bugs In Winter You Should Know about!

Which Bugs Are Attracted to Light? Let’s Find Out

Steve Foster

Mad about bugs and wanting to publish as many articles as I can to help educate people about these amazing beautiful creatures! For more info check out my about page https://schoolofbugs.com/about-steve-foster/

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