A pantry moth, or Indian meal moth, is a small, tan-colored moth. Generally, people unknowingly bring them into their homes in their groceries or other products, such as birdseed or pet food. It is easy for the small eggs or caterpillars to hide in food packaging.
The Pantry Moth Lifecycle
A female pantry moth lays 60 to 300 eggs, which mature in approximately four weeks. The caterpillars dine on grain-based foods, such as flour, cereal, crackers, cookies and pastas. The caterpillars crawl into small cracks and hibernate in a silky cocoon. When they cannot escape their food source container, they will hibernate in the food.
An Age Old Problem
Most cooks believe recipes call for sifting the flour to aerate it. The practice originated when cooks needed to sift out the moth waste. Pantry moth infestations have plagued kitchens for many millennium.
The report, "Pantry and Stored Food Pests" (University of Florida), states people discard millions of dollars of food because of pest contamination. In previous times, people used the food without thought of disease or illness. Pantry moths contaminate the food with their dead moth bodies, caterpillars, webbing, cocoons and excrement.
Today, people have ways to deal with pantry moths. Exterminators have several methods of ridding a home of a pantry moth infestation. Clients should discuss issues, such as whether they have children, pets, allergies, and other lifestyle concerns, with their exterminator.
An exterminator will consider many factors, including:
- Whether it is pantry moths or another pest
- Where the moths are living
- How intensive the infestation is
- The customer's special requests
Prevention is the Key
Experts advise that it is generally easier to prevent a pantry moth infestation than to stop it. Storing grains in sealable plastic, glass or metal containers prevents any moths from invading the food. It also prevents any moths in contaminated grain from escaping.
One of the best methods of killing the moths and their caterpillars is to freeze the grain for four to seven days. Keeping the food storage areas clean is also essential. It takes very little food to sustain a caterpillar and a few crumbs can feed an infestation.
Other Sources of Infestation
Many people do not realize that other items can harbor moths and introduce them to the home. Ornamental items that have corn, wheat, or other grains often are a source of infestation. Pet food, birdseed, or other grain-based products can have moth caterpillars or eggs.
Pantry moths are not the only pantry or household pests. Check out other articles on this website for information. Generally, when people notice a pantry moth infestation, they should contact an exterminator. Many home remedies are ineffective and may be harmful.