Pantry moths might seem harmless at first glance, but here’s something to think about: these nuisance pests will lay their small, grayish-white eggs in areas where your flour, beans, nuts, cereal, dried fruit, birdseed, oatmeal, chocolate, candy, pet food, spices, and many other types of stored goods are kept.
The eggs eventually hatch, and a wiggly, hungry cluster of larvae start burrowing around in and chowing down on your dry goods. They will later begin to spin webbing to build cocoons, then hatch into full-grown adults after some time. The adults will reproduce (females will lay up to 400 eggs at once!) and the cycle will continue. Heavy infestations of pantry moths can take many months to fully get rid of.
What Are Pantry Moths?
Pantry moths (a.k.a. Indian meal moths, Meal moths, Flour moths, and Grain moths) are common household pests that reproduce and lay their eggs in dry, stored food products. They typically get into your home by stowing away in food product shipments from infested warehouses, grain storage facilities, etc. They can be found all over the United States, though they are most present in the Southeast U.S., particularly in Florida.
Adults are about a half-inch long with colored gray and reddish-brown wings. If you see one flying, there’s a good chance you’ve already got an infestation on your hands.
Pantry moth larvae are grayish-white, also measuring about a half-inch long. They spin silk webbing while buried inside food containers. Progressed larvae have legs, which they often use to move around inside the pantry area (e.g. into cracks between selves), before going through metamorphosis.
Indian meal moths have gray wings with patches of brown on the outer part of their wings. Larvae are white with a brown head and grow to about ½ʺ in length. They often leave behind webbing on pantry items and shelves. These pests eat a variety of stored goods including grains, nuts, seeds, and even chocolate.
Flour moths are pale-gray and their wings are decorated with black wavy lines. The larvae have a dark head and an off-white body. Some flour moth larvae have a pink tint to their coloring. Like Indian meal moth larvae, they grow to ½ʺ. Despite their name, flour moths don’t just feed on flour. They’ll eat many things in your pantry including grains and beans.
Grain moths usually infest food items before being brought into homes. Larvae are small, reaching about 1/8ʺ. They have a white body with a yellow tint and a yellowish-brown head. These moths are known to develop in the kernels of corn or wheat. Though difficult to spot as larva, these pests do have an unpleasant odor, which can be a sign of an infestation.
Are pantry moth traps effective?
Pesticides are not very effective on pantry moths as it can be difficult to find the larvae, and besides, you likely don’t want to use them in any areas where you store your food.
Sticky moth traps work much better. Moth traps use pheromones to attract male moths into a small, enclosed area. Once the moths get inside, they will get stuck to the glue and later die.
This not only kills individual moths, it also disrupts their mating, so new eggs that you’ll have to deal with won’t be appearing.
The traps alone won’t solve your moth problem for you, but they will help you beat back an infestation, and prevent future ones. Consistent cleanliness of food storage areas will help even more. As you see fewer and fewer moths in the traps as time goes on, that’s a sign the traps are working.
Tips for Using Pantry Moth Traps
- Place traps where you have seen moths. While pantries and kitchens are the most common spots, pantry moths will show up wherever they can find food sources.
- It’s best to place one trap in an area at a time.
- Replace traps every 3 months or sooner if they fill with moths or become dusty.
Are Pantry moths attracted to light?
Yes. Pantry moths are attracted to lights, they fly mostly at night, and in a zig-zag pattern.
How do pantry moths get into the house?
Pantry moths are crafty hitchhikers and can make their way from infested grain storage facilities and into your home in boxed and bagged food you buy at the grocery store.
How do pantry moths get in sealed bags?
Pantry moth larvae can chew through plastic bags and thin cardboard, so even unopened packages can become infested. They can set up camp in a wide range of dried food storage products, like grains, flour, cereal, beans, etc.
What do pantry moths eat?
Pantry moths will consume just about any dried food storage product, such as flour, beans, nuts, cereal, dried fruit, birdseed, oatmeal, chocolate, candy, pet food, spices, and many other types of stored goods.
What does a pantry moth egg look like?
Pantry moth eggs are tiny, round, and a grayish-white color. Pantry moth eggs can hatch within seven days, and larvae will emerge. The larvae spin webbing within stored food. Clumps of webbing and small, white “worms” will appear. Though they start small, they can grow up to 2/3” long with black or brown heads. The larvae also cast off their skins as they develop and move away.
What should I do if I cannot find where pantry moths are coming from?
Pantry moth larvae are crafty at hiding in very tiny spaces. We recommend thoroughly inspecting the infested storage area with a flashlight and magnifying glass. Inspect food items and packaging (look for small holes), and corners, cracks, underneath shelves in corners, etc.
Pour out stored food and sift through thoroughly. Look for any sign of living moths or larvae (off-white, wormy pests, with a dark head). If you see such signs, it will indicate where to focus your treatment efforts.
How do you get rid of pantry moths?
Again, if you’ve seen flying adult pantry moths or larvae, you’ve likely got at least a minor infestation. And if left untreated, more and more of them will continue appearing. Start to get rid of them by throwing away any opened dry goods (open boxes of cereal, rice, etc.).
Thoroughly Clean Your Pantry
Get everything out of your pantry and vacuum the shelves to get rid of any remaining moths, larvae, cocoons, etc. With hot, soapy water, thoroughly wash your pantry shelves with hot, soapy water, then wipe them down well with half warm water/half white vinegar to kill off any unnoticed eggs.
By adding peppermint oil to the water/vinegar mix, you can help prevent future pantry moth infestations. Peppermint oil is also excellent for killing and repelling spiders, ants, roaches, and other unwanted guests.
Wash Food Containers Well
Thorough cleanliness will help prevent pantry moths in the future. Wash and dry the inside and outside of all your food storage containers, even if they don’t look like they are infested. This will help kill any unnoticed hidden eggs.
Take the Trash Out
After throwing out any infested foodstuff, seal the trashbag tight, and discard it outside. Thoroughly clean your kitchen trash receptacle(s), as well.
If you’re dumping infested food into the garbage disposal, keep hot water running and run the disposal for a full minute or two, then add just a few drops of liquid dish soap along with some ice cubes to get the blades nice and clean.
Don’t Restock Just Yet
Wait a full week at least before replacing stored food in your pantry. As with any other pest, once the food supply dries up, pantry moths will go elsewhere.
How to prevent pantry moths?
Pantry moths, like other pests, can be easily prevented by eliminating the conditions that bring them around to begin with. More clean/tidy = fewer pests.
Wash, or at least wipe down with a disinfectant wipe or soapy washcloth all your cans and bottles when you bring them home from the grocery store.
The Big Freeze
Rice, flour, cereal, and other stored dry goods frequently have small, “acceptable” traces of insect parts, etc. in food, as permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Freezing dried goods in tightly sealed plastic bags for two or three days before storing them in your pantry will help prevent conditions that might lead to an infestation.
Storing your flours, grains, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate, candy, cereals, etc. in air-tight storage containers (preferably glass) or Mason jars will also help prevent infestations. Larvae will not be able to chew their way out of containers either if an infestation is underway.
Bay leaves are not only great spices, but they are also repellent to pantry moths. Scatter a handful onto your pantry shelves, or keep them in shallow, open containers.
How do I kill eggs from Pantry moths in fabric?
Use a space heater in any space you want to eliminate the eggs of Pantry moths or any other pests. Monitor the area closely to avoid a fire hazard. Pest strips and pantry moth traps also work well as a way to immobilize them and disrupt their mating/laying egg process.
Do pantry moths eat clothes?
Pantry moths are not known for eating through clothes. They will eat through paper and thin cardboard to get at stored foods, but will not go after your clothes like clothes moths.
Pantry Moths vs. Clothes Moths
If you’re noticing holes in your clothing, then it’s possible you’re dealing with a clothes moth. These moths are similar in appearance to pantry moths, which is why there is often confusion. Clothes moths grow between 3/8ʺ-½ʺ in length and larvae are about ½ʺ. Like pantry moths, clothes moth larvae are the ones responsible for eating your clothes.
How do you deal with Pantry moths? Leave us a comment below!
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