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Your Guide to Identifying, Controlling, and Preventing Pantry Moth Infestations

Food Motte (Plodia interpunctella) from above

Pantry moths are also commonly referred to as Indian meal moths; however, their scientific name is  Plodia interpunctella. These insects are considered pests for homeowners because they lay their eggs in foods and grains and infest a variety of items in your cupboards. Before you can take steps to remove pantry moths, it is important that you properly identify them. Once you implement control measures, you can then take steps to prevent a future infestation.

Identification

Adult Indian meal moths are easy to identify when you examine their forewings. The outer forewings are reddish-brown, while the inner areas have a whitish-gray hue. The back wings are gray without any patterns, and the total wing expanse of this moth species reaches three-quarters of an inch. If you have an infestation of adult pantry moths, you'll notice them flying around at night, typically near light bulbs and any other light sources.

It is possible to spot the pantry moth before it has reached adulthood. In this case, you'll need to look for either the tiny white oval-shaped eggs that are resting on the top of your grains or moths that have reached the larvae stage. Larvae can be either pink, green, or yellow with a brown head. Just before transitioning into a moth, which can take as little as one month, larvae reach between one-half to fiveeighths of an inch in length.

Identifying an Indian meal moth infestation also includes looking for webbing. Larvae spin webs that are easy to spot, so be careful to examine grain bins before using the food to make a delicious meal. 

Control

In the past, it was common for individuals to use mothballs to try to eliminate pantry moths. When not used properly, however, mothballs can be dangerous to pets and humans. It is best to leave the use of any chemical treatments to a pest control expert. Also, pheromone traps and yellow sticky traps can be used to capture a pantry moth for identification purposes, but it won't control the infestation. 

After you make an appointment with an exterminator, you'll want to locate all of the food that is currently contaminated with Indian meal moths and toss it in the trash. Immediately tie up the trash bag and place it outside in a trash can with a lid until trash collection day. Next, take a vacuum cleaner and use the hose attachment to vacuum out your pantry shelves and any corners that may have webs. Finally, you'll need to wash the shelves in your pantry with soapy water to remove any stuck-on foods or moth eggs that you may not see.  

Prevention

Since larvae can chew through plastic bags and thin cardboard, like that of a cereal box, you'll need to store grains in actual storage containers to prevent future problems with this pest. In addition to grains, some of the food items you'll need to store properly include cereal, dried fruit, flour, herbs, chocolate, nuts, and beans. If you have pets, birdseed and dry animal foods are also susceptible to pantry moths. Store pet food in containers with tight lids and clean up the food area as soon as your pet has finished with their meal. 

If you spot evidence of pantry moths in your home, contact Beebe's Pest & Termite Control. In addition to insect control, our team of professionals are also skilled at removing unwanted wildlife and eliminating havoc-wreaking termites. We pride ourselves on using only EPA-approved products, so you can be confident that our methods are both safe and effective.

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