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There exists many moth species that are common pests of indoor food sources, including raisin moths, almond moths, brown house moths, and Mediterranean flour moths. These insect pests are often referred to as “pantry pests” due to their habit of infesting pantries where moth larvae (caterpillars) consume, contaminate and develop within packaged food items. The most widespread and frequently encountered pantry pest in the US is commonly known as the Indian meal moth.

Like most pantry moths, the airborne adults of the Indian meal moth species do not infest food items; instead, they live for a short time in order to reproduce and lay eggs near stored food products, but a nuisance indoor presence of adult moths often indicates that an infestation has been established within a home. The presence of both moths and larvae of this species may persist in a home even after pantries have been thoroughly sanitized and all contaminated food items have been thrown out.

The ¾ inch wingspan of Adult Indian meal moths are pale-grey with reddish-brown edges, and they are often mistaken for clothes moths, but unlike Indian meal moths, clothes moths are attracted to light and possess wings that are uniformly grey in color. The larvae are dirty white to pinkish in color and they infest a number of indoor food items, including grain products, dried fruits, seeds, crackers, biscuits, nuts, powdered milk, chocolate, candy, red peppers, and dog food.

Indian meal moth infestations can last for several weeks after all contaminated foods are discarded, as larvae travel surprisingly long distances up walls and into ceiling corners, cracks, crevices and within and behind cupboards where they spin a cocoon in order to pupate into adults. These areas should be thoroughly vacuumed several times and visually inspected with a bright flashlight. All items should be cleared from pantries, cupboards and other food storage areas while keeping an eye out for webbing. It is also necessary to move heavy appliances in order to clear food and sanitize the floor beneath. Bird and pet food should also be inspected and stored in containers with tight-fitting lids. If pantry moth issues persist after these measures are taken, then contacting a pest control professional is necessary.

Have you ever struggled to eliminate a pantry moth infestation?