The gross pantry moth (or Indian meal moth as it is also known) is an annoying insect, but the worst part about the pantry moth is not the little flying critter that comes out of the depths of your food storage, but the little wriggly maggot-like moth larvae that are living in your containers gnawing their way through your food and claiming their moth flour.
If you find one food item with wrigglers in it, or have one hovering insect, then you can be sure he has plenty of friends in your pantry just chomping through your dry goods hoping not to be a protein hit as you munch your cereal.
“Pantry moths come into the home in food that we buy from the store,” says Dean Hopping of Knockout Pest Control. “They usually come in dry goods like rice and flour, and they’re often in bags or boxes that aren’t fully sealed.”
Pantry moths normally live anywhere from 30 days to 300 days depending on the conditions. Warmer weather and plenty of food speed the process up.
Adult moths don’t live more than one or two weeks as they don’t feed as adults, however the female can lay 400 eggs in this time so it may appear that they live forever as there is an endless stream of them.
Getting rid of them is tricky, but if you do not do a thorough job then you will be living with those bugs forever. Thankfully, with a little know-how, you can get rid of them and keep them away for good… or until next time they stow away in something at the supermarket.
First, you’re looking for a little brown meal moth. The larvae look like little white maggots and will be found in your dry food products. Also, look for fine web-like silk around the edges of the packaging or cocoons in corners or lids.
Remove EVERYTHING from your pantry. You can do this shelf by shelf if you prefer but you must remove and check every single item in your pantry.
“You can’t just spray to kill them because they’re in your food,” tells Dean. “You need to find the source and throw it out.” Throw away every item that has evidence of contamination.
Don’t try to salvage anything because where there is evidence there will be invisible eggs lurking. Just throw it out.
Put all of your open and easily accessible goods into the freezer for a few days to kill the moth eggs that are already present. Some people swear by doing this to brand new bags of flour in case they arrive at your home contaminated.
“Splitting food into bags is a good way to segregate to see where the problem might lay,” says Dean. “It’s not always immediately obvious where the problem is so this is a way to test and possibly save some stuff from being thrown away.”
Bag your goods that aren’t obviously infested in large ziplock or plastic bags and leave outside for one week. If an adult flies out, into the trash it goes. If not, it’s probably all clear.
Wash and wipe for getting rid of pantry moths and worms.
Wipe every surface in your pantry thoroughly with hot soapy water or kitchen spray.”Ensure you get right into the corner joins and seals of the cabinet because you will often find larvae and cocoons hiding there,” says Dean.
“Wash the shelves well with hot soapy water then wipe them down with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and warm water to kill off remaining eggs. Adding peppermint oil to the vinegar rinse will deter future infestations of pantry moths,” says Housewife How to’s.
In a sink of hot and soapy water, you need to wash all of your containers thoroughly ensuring you also wash in the cracks of the lids in case any cocoons are hiding in there. Dry well before returning food to them.
You can buy sticky pheromone traps in the insect aisle of your supermarket. If you get reinfested, or you miss any, they will be drawn to the pheromones in the moth trap where they will stick and die.
Now that your pantry is clean and pretty, it’s a great opportunity to restore order to the pantry. Place everything back onto the shelves, but ensure you continue to keep an eye out for cupboard moths as they can easily come back into the home and make you need to start this process again.
Take a bunch of fresh bay leaves and tie them up in the pantry, it is believed to deter the cupboard moth. Wherever possible freeze new dry goods like flours and grains for a few days to a week before storing.
Will moth balls get rid of pantry moths?
Only in your pantry, Mothballs should not be used around food or food preparation areas, so no.
Will cedar get rid of pantry moths?
Unfortunately, cedars’ effectiveness for repelling pantry moths is limited as it depends on the freshness of the wood. However, cedar blocks can help, as they can be routinely sanded down with sandpaper to expose fresh fibers.
Free from harmful chemicals, cedar blocks are a great natural way to repel moths and other pests. They also absorb moisture, so your storage areas stay free of moths, mustiness, and odor.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.