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Getting rid of Kitchen Moths

By Kim Robson

If you are unfortunate enough to have had an infestation of moths in your kitchen pantry, then you know the horror of spotting even one in your house. Those tiny little brown moths will take over your foodstuffs, ruining everything, if you don’t take immediate and aggressive action. If you see just one, be assured there are many more you can’t see.

Pantry moths usually will be either Indian Meal moths or Mediterranean Flour moths, but they can be treated the same. Their life cycle can vary between 30pantry and 300 days, depending on conditions, temperatures, and food availability. Adult moths live only one to two weeks, but their entire purpose at that point is to lay eggs by the hundreds in your pantry. The egg, larvae, and pupa stages take place directly on your food, ruining it with waste products.

I can hear you saying it now: “I keep a clean kitchen. This won’t happen to me.” But pantry moths can find the tiniest grains of food on shelves and wriggle into impossibly tight crevices. All it takes is one. Also, many infestations originate from inside the food itself. All you did was bring the box inside. Look for pantry moth webbing on the undersides of lids, and inside packages of dry goods. Have an old box of cornmeal? Some stale oatmeal? A forgotten paper bag of flour? Old foodstuffs toward the back of the pantry are most vulnerable.

The clearest sign of an infestation is seeing a moth flying around, particularly at night. At the first opportunity, you’ll need to pull everything out of your pantry and inspect each and every item. I mean EVERYTHING. I’ve seen them get under the metal lid of a glass jar of dried beans. The lid was just the slightest bit rusted, and that was enough. Be prepared to spend the entire day.

indian-meal-moth left· Inspect every box, bag, or package of food. Even if it is sealed, open it and check inside. Trash all suspect food.

· Check unlikely things like dried flowers, children’s macaroni art, pasta, pet treats, dog biscuits, corn starch, kitchen matches, etc.

· Inspect every can or jar for webbing. The lips of lids and rims of cans provide enough space for pantry moth pupa to spin a web. If you find webbing, wash it with vinegar.

· Remove and discard all shelving liners and wash down the surfaces with vinegar. Pantry moth eggs may be laid in tiny indentations or on the underside of wire shelving.

· Vacuum all edges of walls, baseboard, door trim, hardware, wire shelf hangers, and wood shelf support pin holes.

· Wash down all walls, floors and, especially, the insides of the door hinges and door jambs (both are common moth larvae locations).

Once you are certain that you have inspected and removed all sources of infestation and thoroughly cleaned everything, seal the garbage bag and place it outside, not in your garage. Also replace the vacuum cleaner bag, and rinse the garbage can with vinegar as a final measure.

Now all you have to do is take care of any stray adult moths. Kill them on sight. Then, go out and invest in an array of good quality glass canning jars with rubber seals. Decant all your new food into the jars. Don’t keep anything in your pantry in paper, plastic, or cardboard packaging. Even hard plastic storage containers are not airtight.

Since many infestations come from inside food, a good method to prevent this is to place any new foods in the freezer (if you have the room) for at least eight days to kill any larvae. After that, still decant it into a sealed container, as the freezing may only slow their life cycle and not kill them.

Also invest in a few pheromone-based pantry moth traps. They are inexpensive and effective, and work by luring moths with an irresistible scent. They are also safe and nontoxic. It goes without saying that chemical pesticides should be avoided around food storage areas. However, there are natural methods which may have varying effectiveness, such as bay leaves, boric acid, or spearmint.

A pantry moth infestation is no laughing matter. Take it seriously: be aggressive with treatment and proactive with prevention, and you can beat this problem.

About Kim Robson

Kim Robson lives and works with her husband in the Cuyamaca Mountains an hour east of San Diego. She enjoys reading, writing, hiking, cooking, and animals. She has written a blog since 2006 at kimkiminy.wordpress.com. Her interests include the environment, dark skies, astronomy and physics, geology and rock collecting, living simply and cleanly, wilderness and wildlife conservation, and eating locally.

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  1. I’ve had battled kitchen moths so this was very helpful information.

  2. We just started seeing these moths in our house. I thought they were harmless, so I’ve been catching them & releasing them outside. We never had them before, but there were so many I decided to look them up. I’m glad I did. Tomorrow they get vacuumed!

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