You open your kitchen pantry, take out a box of crackers and a swarm of tiny moths fly out of the box. Perhaps you’re ready to do some baking and reach for the flour only to find the bag is crawling with tiny worms! Sound familiar? If so, you probably have pantry moths. These are one of the most frustrating and persistent kitchen pests. They can often go unnoticed until there is a major infestation.
These persistent pests are only about three quarters of an inch long. You'll often find them hanging out on your ceilings.
There are two types of pantry moths: The Indian meal moth has pale grey wings and a reddish tint to its body; the Mediterranean flour moth is grey and white without any discernible color on its body. Most of us simply refer to both species in general as pantry moths. Pantry moth larva feed on cereal, crackers, rice, nuts, pet food, spices, grains and other carbohydrates.
Once in your home, in the right conditions, pantry moths reproduce quickly. Most of our homes are warm, dry and full of food; these are the perfect conditions for pantry moths to reproduce and move through their 30 day life cycle. All it takes is one moth entering your home to cause an infestation. They’ll lay eggs, hatch into larva, pupate, then emerge to start the cycle all over again.
- Eggs are laid. The eggs are typically too small to see so you won’t notice them in your food stuffs. A single female moth can lay up to 400 eggs into a food source. In about seven days, the eggs will hatch and the larva will begin feeding.
- Larva stage. The larva are about ½ inch long and are mostly brown or off white. Within one to two weeks they’ll be finished eating (your food!) before they’ll begin to pupate. If you find the caterpillars in boxes of food, discard the food immediately. Remember, as they eat, they poop! Consider any infested food as inedible.
- Pupa stage. Once in their pupa stage, they can then crawl to other areas of your pantry. A ¼ to ½ inch long cocoon develops and you’ll often find them in the crevices of your pantry or in seams of doorways. Often, they may spin their webs and pupate right in the food they infested as larva. In about two weeks the adult moth emerges.
- Adult phase. There is only one goal of the adult pantry moth -- to eat and create more moths! Now they’ll spend their time laying eggs in your food.
The absolute best way to avoid pantry moths is to keep your cupboards and pantry clean and foods tightly sealed. Keep all carbohydrates, such as flour, cereals, rice and grains tightly contained in sealed bags within the cardboard boxes. Better yet, put them into new, tightly sealed containers or zip locked bags. Pantry moths can even find their way into bags that have been secured with twist ties. Pay special attention to food at the back of shelves. It’s best to remove any old or stale crackers, cereals or cookies that you don’t plan to eat, as they’ll often just become food for this pesky pest.
Once you have an infestation of pantry moths they can be difficult to control. Because the pupa will move to other areas of your home, you may have adult moths emerging in places far away from your kitchen. An experienced pest control specialist will best know where to look for the source of the problem and help you put a plan together to eradicate these food destroyers.
If you do have an uncontrollable infestation, give us a call. Prior to treatment, however, we suggest cleaning out all infested food in your pantry and scrubbing all shelves.