Stupid caterpillars. Indoor edition.
September 5, 2009 7:17 AM   Subscribe

What is this caterpillar and why is it in my house?

In recent days, there have been two caterpillars climbing up the walls inside my house. They are slightly over an inch long, whitish-tan in color (ecru? off-white? eggshell? bisque?) and very skinny. They have a tiny bit of brown on the head area.

More important than "what the heck are these things?" is "why the heck are they inside the house?" When the boyf and I saw the first one, we figured it had just come in on us after some work outside. But then we saw the second one a couple of days later and are starting to wonder if we're going to have some kind of Terrifying Moth Infestation.

Any ideas, in as un-terrifying language as possible?

(Oh, we live in Western Massachusetts.)
posted by dayintoday to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
Sounds like maybe a cloth moth larva? Do they look like the creeper in Figure 5 here?
posted by miratime at 7:22 AM on September 5, 2009

Just read that those larva are maybe smaller than yours... without a picture to look at, maybe you could use this for some help?
posted by miratime at 7:25 AM on September 5, 2009

Flour moth? Sometimes you can get them from bulk food purchases. You need to find out what they're eating and get rid of it.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:28 AM on September 5, 2009

Same goes for Indianmeal moth.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:30 AM on September 5, 2009

Thanks for the help and links so far! I'll have the boyf check out the links b/c I'm too squeamish. I'm sure this will point us in the right direction.
posted by dayintoday at 8:18 AM on September 5, 2009

The boyf says it indeed looks like the figure 5 clothes moth. Gross! Well, we needed to clean out our closets anyway...
posted by dayintoday at 9:06 AM on September 5, 2009

If they are clothing moths, be brutal. And check all fabric items. I ended up with a massive infestation from a wool rug.
posted by kimdog at 10:03 AM on September 5, 2009

I also live in western Massachusetts and had an Indian meal moth infestation one summer when housesitters left a big bag of birdseed open. I had to toss a lot of things in the pantry and keep a sharp eye out for new larvae (worms) and pupae.

Check out your ceilings, especially the corners where the wall meets the ceiling. If they're Indian meal moths, you'll probably find cocoons of fine white webbing that house the pupating moths. Use a pointy chopstick or similar tool to separate them from the ceiling and then vacuum them up. That will help reduce the number of adult moths that develop and thus limit population growth.

Another characteristic of Indian meal moths is that the larvae leave sticky threads as they crawl through the dried food they eat. If you look in a box of cereal and find such threads, then you've got them.

Good luck!
posted by brianogilvie at 10:44 AM on September 5, 2009

Turns out they were the indianmeal type after all! Found that they came in on a brick of squirrel food that we hadn't put outside yet. Hopefully not too many escapees from the brick made it throughout the house.

brianogilvie, thanks for the tips! Time to get cleaning...
posted by dayintoday at 11:38 AM on September 5, 2009

Indian meal moths? Ouch, they can be a real pain, especially for the squeamish among us (I can't say I've had nightmares about them, but they definitely made me feel very, very uncomfortable in my own home). First, do read every thing under "Pest control" in the Wikipedia entry about them, it has some good information.
If you find any in the house (which you did), do check every single food item in your cupboards / pantry / wherever else you keep edible stuff. During an infestation that we had, I found that they can get into pretty much any box, container or bag that was ever open (and, in case of cardboard boxes: they don't even need you to open that box for them). kuujjuarapik suggested to figure out what they're eating - but really, they're up to anything. Some other tips:
- Check for the larvae, but also the sticky threads that brianogilvie mentioned (don't forget to check all spice boxes for those!), they'll be harder to spot but if left unattended, you'll have another infestation on your hands in no time.
- Don't just throw away the (infested) food stuff that you find, also make sure to clean the shelves, walls, etc. real well!
- If you vacuum the pupae as brianogilvie suggested, do make sure to get rid of the vacuum bag.
Good luck!
posted by Ms. Next at 2:57 PM on September 5, 2009

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