How To Handle An Invasion Of Indian Meal Moths

Posted on: 9 March 2016

If you leave certain foods untouched in your pantry, you open yourself to an invasion of pale gray insects called Indian meal moths. They feed on dried fruit, nuts, pet food, rice, flour, and dried milk, and they damage food items by spinning webs, which trap food particles. Luckily, you don't need to use chemicals to get rid of them. Here are some tips to get rid of Indian meal moths.

Gather Supplies and Inspect Pantry

For this project, you need:

  • garbage bags
  • bucket
  • dish soap
  • molasses
  • vinegar
  • bleach (optional)
  • essential oils such as lavender or eucalyptus (optional)
  • cotton balls (optional)
  • plastic containers
  • glass jars
  • dish towel or sponge
  • vacuum with hose and angled nozzle

Look along the corners and inside edges of the pantry for webbing and larvae (commonly cream with a black tip), then inspect every canned good and jar with a lip big enough for the moths to leave a web. Check all bags and boxes, regardless of if they have been opened or not.

An infestation in food will be obvious. If you aren't sure whether or not the food has been infested, freeze it about four days to kill any larvae and then throw it away outside.

Clean the Pantry

Vacuum the pantry walls, baseboards, floors, and shelving, lifting up shelf liners to vacuum below them, then toss the bag in an outside bin. Remove damaged shelf paper. Scrub the pantry with dish soap and a rag or paper towel before using bleach to increase the effectiveness of the soap.

Clean the room with hot water, a sponge or dish rag, and dish soap to kill any remaining larvae. Be certain to clean door hinges and door jambs, since they are common hiding spots for Indian meal moths. If you prefer, use vinegar instead of soap. Take food out of plastic containers and clean them, even if they have no signs of infestation.

Control the Infestation

  • Make a moth trap out of a plastic container to catch any remaining Indian meal moths. Paint the container yellow to attract moths, and mix two parts part vinegar to one part molasses. Check the container occasionally.
  • Add several drops of an essential oil such as eucalyptus oil or lavender oil to cotton balls, and set them in the corners. Lavender oil and eucalyptus oil are natural moth repellents.
  • Bay leaves are another natural moth repellent. Spread bay leaves on the pantry shelves, and place one leaf in each container or jar under the lid.
  • When you purchase whole wheat or grain products, store them in the freezer for seven days. As mentioned earlier, larvae can't tolerate cold, which helps you avoid a future infestation.

Keep a watch in your pantry for infestations. You may want to store new food items in another area until you are no infestation remains. If the moths keep returning, hire a pest control service like Pestco Inc.