Most pests can be gross and upsetting, but very few can be as gross and upsetting as pantry pests. They go after your food. Your food. You eat that! Not only can pantry moths contaminate the food you eat, you could actually run into them while you eat it. That’s just traumatizing. You don’t want to be traumatized while eating. Eating is supposed to be a happy occasion!
Opening the pantry only to have moths fly out is an experience we wouldn’t wish on our worst enemies. And we kind of like you. That’s why we put together this exhaustive guide to pantry moths. This is all about what they are, what they want, why you have them, and how to stop them. Because no one deserves to worry about the food they’re eating.
What They Are
The most common of the so-called “pantry moths” that infest stored food products is the Indianmeal moth. The Indianmeal moth (Plodia interpunctella) is ¼ to ⅜ inches long, with a wingspan of around ¾ inches. These wings are their most distinctive feature. Indianmeal moth wings are bi-colored. They have lustrous, red-brown or copper markings on the outer two thirds. Nearer to the moth’s body, the wings take on a duller, white-grey color.
Indianmeal moth caterpillars (or larvae) grow to around ½ an inch long. They’re usually dirty white, pale yellow, or light pink in hue, with a brown head capsule. The caterpillars leave behind thin silken threads wherever they crawl and feed. Upon reaching maturity, they spin these threads into a loose cocoon, which they use to pupate. This cocoon is light brown, and often found directly on a food source. Indianmeal moth eggs are whitish and very small. They’re deposited onto food products.
Why They’re a Problem
Adult Indianmeal moths generally only live long enough to reproduce, lay eggs, and die. In fact, they can’t even eat! After reproducing, meal moths deposit their eggs directly onto stored food sources. A single female Indianmeal moth can lay up to 400 eggs in her lifetime. The length of the egg’s incubation stage is determined by the temperature of the environment where the moth laid her eggs. In the right environment, the eggs could hatch in as few as two days.
Indianmeal moths only actually damage stored food during their caterpillar stage. While growing, caterpillars burrow into nearby food sources and eat continuously. When caterpillars grow large enough, they spin their cocoons either on the food itself or nearby. Indianmeal moth infestations contaminate and ruin any food the Indianmeal moth eggs, larvae, or cocoons come into contact with. The entire meal moth life cycle may only take 6-8 weeks, so infestations progress quickly.
Why You Have Them
Indianmeal moths want to infest places where they can ensure their young have access to food. True to the name, meal moths seek out most pantry products. Indianmeal moth larvae can easily infest grains, seeds, nuts, pet foods, spices, cereals, candy, pasta, and more. Moths also seek out dark and isolated areas, where they won’t be bothered while they reproduce and lay eggs. Larvae don’t require much food, so even spare crumbs or discarded leftovers may attract the moths.
None of the Indianmeal moth’s stages can muscle through packaging. Instead, they either need to find uncovered food or openings big enough to let them sneak past packaging. Most meal moth infestations are a sign that your pantry food products aren’t stored as securely as they could be. There may be crumbs left over from meals, open boxes inside the pantry, baked goods on the counter, etc. Once infestations establish themselves, moths may live in the pantry itself, or in hidden places nearby.
How to Get Rid of Them
Start with a deep and thorough cleaning of the area where you have the infestation. Take all the food out of your pantry. Consider throwing out any food that the moths could have possibly infested. If you throw anything out, take it to your outdoor dumpster directly. Even if you don’t throw away food, you should inspect it for signs of infestation carefully. Look for larvae, eggs, silk strands, or even signs of burrowing or bite marks.
Once you’ve removed all the food from your pantry, use a vacuum hose to suck up crumbs and eggs. Make sure you reach both the high and low corners. Scrub down applicable surfaces with soapy water and cleaning agent after vacuuming. Dry wet surfaces completely before replacing the food. Once you’re finished cleaning, store vulnerable foods in hard, airtight plastic containers. The most important way to prevent pantry moth infestation is to make food inaccessible.
Trust us: you don’t want to wait to deal with pantry moths. Infestations grow exponentially worse the longer they go on. Plus, there are few things more demoralizing than feeling paranoid about eating a sandwich. Sandwich time is supposed to be relaxing! If you don’t have sandwich time, what do you have?!
Well, you do have one thing: us. Give Varment Guard a call anytime with your pantry moth infestation problem, or any other pest problem. We’ll make sure you get your sandwich time back.BACK TO BLOG