Our 4-Step Guide for Getting Rid of Pantry Moths in Your Kitchen

published Oct 8, 2018
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(Image credit: Kath Nash)

Pantry moths are the things nightmares are made of. I would gladly take spider mites in every single one of my houseplants, or a basement crawling with earwigs, over pantry moths any day. Here’s why: Pantry moths lay tiny grayish-white eggs in flour, cereal, pet food, and other dry goods. When the eggs hatch, a wriggling mass of larvae feed on your stone-ground whole wheat flour or whatever, form cocoons, and eventually hatch into adults, who will soon lay more eggs. (Adult females can lay 400 eggs after mating!) Severe infestations can take up to six months to get rid of.

What Are Pantry Moths?

Pantry moths (also called Indianmeal moths, flour moths, and grain moths) are common household pests that lay eggs in dry food products. They generally hitch a ride into your home on food products from infested warehouses or grain storage facilities. They’re found all over the United States, though they’re most common in Florida.

Adults are about a half-inch long with wings that are one third gray and two thirds reddish brown wings. Spotting them flying about is often the first sign of an infestation.

Pantry moth larvae are off-white and about a half-inch long. They spin silk webs inside food containers. Mature larvae have legs, which they use to move into elsewhere in your pantry, like the cracks between selves, before going through metamorphosis.

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths

Step 1: Trash All Your Dry Goods

This might sound extreme, but if you’ve found pantry moth larvae in one bag of flour, it’s practically guaranteed that they’ve also been visiting your cereal, oatmeal, rice, pet food, bird seed, and other dry goods stored in the same cabinet or closet. Bag everything up and put it straight in the dumpster or out on the curb. Don’t store the trash in the garage or anywhere else indoors until garbage pick-up day or you’ll risk spreading the infestation elsewhere in your house.

Keep in mind that the larvae can chew through paper and plastic, so a pouch of nuts, say, might not be safe. Check all packages carefully for holes. Packages that appear intact but still leave you with a lingering sense of dread can be put in the freezer for four days to kill off any eggs you might have missed. But if the thought of unknowingly eating insect eggs skeeves you out too much, we don’t blame you, so just toss it.

Step 2: Do a Deep Clean

Don’t gloss over this step. Pantry moths lurk in the tiniest of cracks, including the crevices of canned goods and other containers (as pictured in this article). Wipe down all jars and cans with soap and water. Vacuum the pantry or cabinet carefully, paying special attention to corners and cracks. You may even need to use a toothpick to make sure there aren’t any eggs or larvae lodged inside. When you’re finished, change the vacuum bag or empty the canister outdoors. If you have shelf paper, now would be a good time to pull it up and put down new stuff. Wipe shelves with a bleach solution followed by soap and water.

Step 3: Put Out a Pantry Moth Trap

Pesticides don’t work very well on pantry moths, and they’re not safe to use where you store food anyway, but you can buy sticky traps like these on Amazon or at a hardware store. The traps use pheromones to attract male moths. Once inside they’ll get stuck to the glue and die. This disrupts the pantry moths’ mating process so that you won’t have new eggs to deal with as you’re battling the infestation. Using the traps alone won’t solve the problem for you, but they can help you win the war. And if there are fewer moths in the trap each day as time goes on you’ll know for certain that your cleaning efforts are working.

Step 4: Prevention

Because pantry moth infestations typically start with a trip to the grocery store, be vigilant about inspecting cans and packages before putting them in your cart, and rinse cans and jars before putting them away at home. Store all dry goods in airtight glass or hard plastic containers like these. If you want to be extra cautious, you can pop bags of flour and the like into the freezer for a week to kill off potential eggs.

(Image credit: Kath Nash)

This story originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths in Your Kitchen