Preventing Pantry Moths

No one wants to share their living and eating space with bugs and other pests, but invitation or not, these critters have a way of making our homes into their homes. Pantry moths do this quite often, and they can pose a threat to your health if they get into your food and lay eggs — aside from the fact that it’s just not appetizing to share your kitchen with uninvited winged creatures. So, if you think you might have a moth problem in your home, we’ll tell you how to identify the buggers and what to do about them.

How do pantry moths get inside a home?

Oftentimes, we are the ones who inadvertently bring moths into our homes by purchasing dry groceries that already have moths or moth larvae inside of them. This can even happen with sealed bags and boxes. Some examples of food products that have been found to contain moths include: flour, pasta, cereal, breads, beans, spices and cookies. You should be even more wary about pet food, and especially birdseed, because these products are not as highly regulated as human foods. A good rule of thumb is to store your pet foods in the garage or a storage shed that’s far away from your kitchen pantry.

Identifying Pantry Moths

Moths can thrive almost anywhere inside a home, but your pantry is probably the easiest place to spot them — or see the aftereffects of them living there. If you notice that your food containers or packaging have lots of small holes, then you probably have a pantry moth (also called Indianmeal moths) problem. You can be sure of it by smelling or touching the food inside the containers with holes. If the food smells different than usual or is sticky when it shouldn’t be, there are moths lurking nearby.

At this point, you should have a good look around your pantry to see if you can find any moths. They look like brown or dull-colored butterflies. If you don’t see any, they may simply be very adept at hiding; alternatively, you could have a larvae infestation. Another sure sign of a pantry moth problem is webbing in dark places.

What To Do

If you think you have a pantry moth problem, you need to do an immediate and thorough cleaning. Start by taking everything out of the infested area and trash anything suspect in an outside garbage bin. Next, you need to vacuum the whole area. Use a cordless, handheld vacuum if you have one, or use an attachment to your regular vacuum.

After that, scrub down all food storage containers, walls, shelves and other hard surfaces with a mixture of water and vinegar. Use some elbow grease when you do this, as it will help you to remove any larvae that are still attached to the surfaces. Once your pantry is clean, you can put out a commercial moth trap to catch any remaining critters.

Preventing Pantry Moths in the Future

The first step is to always maintain a clean kitchen. It’s good for your health and it gives uninvited pests a lesser chance of surviving under your vigilant eyes. Second, you can kill moths and moth larvae that come into your home with your groceries by storing grain-based food items in the freezer for the first four days after purchasing them. Moths can’t survive in freezing temperatures, so you’ll get rid of any potential problems before they even begin. Lastly, be sure to store your grain-based items in airtight containers once you remove them from the freezer. You can also place a few bay leaves in the airtight containers with your grains to keep moths away, since they are averse to the smell of these leaves.

A final tip for keeping moths out of your kitchen is to leave a few cotton balls soaked with essential eucalyptus oil in the corners of your pantry. This, in addition to the plans outlined above, should help you maintain a clean, healthy and moth-free pantry.

Related:
6 Kitchen Myths that Could Make You Sick
Could Your Kitchen Pass a Public Health Inspection?
Image: Southern Foodways Alliance/Flickr

97 comments

Tanya W.
Tanya W.3 years ago

Thanks. I store my flour in the freezer to kill any larvae. You can then transfer it to the pantry or leave it in the freezer or fridge.

Melinda K.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thanks, bay leaves in flour can help prevent weevils.

KS Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Linda D.
Linda D.4 years ago

I like a practical article like this and learned a few things. I did not know the freezer was the place to put grain products and flour for a few days to kill any possible moths or their eggs. And who would have thought they did not like bay leaves or eucalyptus oil?

Highlight: Preventing Pantry Moths in the Future

"The first step is to always maintain a clean kitchen. It’s good for your health and it gives uninvited pests a lesser chance of surviving under your vigilant eyes. Second, you can kill moths and moth larvae that come into your home with your groceries by storing grain-based food items in the freezer for the first four days after purchasing them. Moths can’t survive in freezing temperatures, so you’ll get rid of any potential problems before they even begin. Lastly, be sure to store your grain-based items in airtight containers once you remove them from the freezer. You can also place a few bay leaves in the airtight containers with your grains to keep moths away, since they are averse to the smell of these leaves.

A final tip for keeping moths out of your kitchen is to leave a few cotton balls soaked with essential eucalyptus oil in the corners of your pantry. This, in addition to the plans outlined above, should help you maintain a clean, healthy and moth-free pantry."

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/identifying-and-preventing-pantry-moths.html#ixzz1l98yl3sT

Ellie Damann
.4 years ago

what are pantry moths?

Sherri Mowbray
Sherri M.4 years ago

Thanks for the article and information on how to rid of them if one has them.

Sandy V.
Sandy v.4 years ago

I got them in bird seed. Now store it in a garbage can outside but still am fighting a battle for the past 10 years. I regularly go through my food and cupboards and at the very site of one, it gets scrubbed and everything tossed. I have found if I keep a stick of spearmint gun on each shelf, I don't get them. I try and change them every month and if I forget, the little boogers come back. Never had it in animal food, mostly pastas. Yes, have a ton of stuff in glasswear and tupperwear. Trouble is if the tupperwear isn't closed tight, they will get in.

jane richmond
jane richmond4 years ago

helpful

Cyndee Carroll
Cyndee Carroll4 years ago

A couple of friends and I wound up at the hospital with Gastroenteritis(SP)after eating Chex cereal that had bugs in them.We did'nt notice nor see them in our milk.I now sift,
just about everything!I love how the family says"bring it to mom,let her look,taste,etc..before they eat or make kool-aid.NEVER AGAIN!

Emily Smith
Emily Smith4 years ago

Never heard about the freezer or the cotton ball trick. Thanks for sharing! :)