We have a bunch of yellow larvae on our ceiling
September 19, 2012 10:10 AM   Subscribe

We have a whole bunch of larvae on our ceiling only. What are they? Where do they come from? What do we do?

Here is a picture.
We live in Brooklyn, NY. Last week we noticed that there were like 10 of these on our ceiling...and ceiling only.

We occasionally have tiny light brown moths, but it doesn't seem like the numbers equal out. Also we've seem the moths for a couple months and never notice these larvae before.

They don't seem to be attracted to food. Maybe attracted to light. We have a ceiling vent but can't easily remove the cover to look.

I have a ton of speculative info, but I really want to know: what are they, where could they be coming from (directionally) and what should we do?
posted by Brainy to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
That's a larval pantry moth. I hate those things!

Throw out all your dry goods (no really, throw them all away at the same time and remove the trash bag from your house/apartment immediately) and scrub your cabinets with bleach. Pull your appliances away from the wall and get any food or crumbs that are stuck in crevices.

Invest in plastic or glass sealed containers for your rice, cereals, flour, pet food, etc and use them from now on.
posted by erst at 10:16 AM on September 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yep, looks like pantry moths. I get them sometimes from birdseed. They suck. Parrot people have discussed their removal quite a bit, so Google will be your friend. Here's a lengthy treatise on them.
posted by dammitjim at 10:19 AM on September 19, 2012

We have a perpetual pantry moth problem (small light brown moths, males are sort of banded but females are more solid tan), and the larvae occasionally do just migrate out onto the ceiling (previously). If you haven't found the source of the infestation in your usual pantry staples, it's also possible that they're breeding in a food source that's hidden from view, like bread crumbs, bird seed, or a handful walnuts that are sitting at the back of of a cabinet.
posted by drlith at 10:20 AM on September 19, 2012

I agree with the others who have suggested they're pantry moths. I've had them before, too, and they look just like that (despite the misleading picture on the wikipedia page that seems to suggest that they're more greenish).
posted by smoq at 10:24 AM on September 19, 2012

There are pheromone based traps for these that work pretty well. The problem is that you'll pretty much never every one of them plus all the eggs through just cleaning, but if you can get the vast majority of them, and then pick off the adults one by one as the emerge from their pupa, you can get a handle on the little monsters.

Oh, and if you have dry goods that don't seem to be effected, put them in the freezer for a couple days if you have the room. That will kill the eggs, the larva and the adults. The thing is, you pretty much have to leave it all there until you've taken care of the problem.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:28 AM on September 19, 2012

Pantry moths are the clear winner. It's actually incredibly helpful to know that parrot people have issues with them because they seemed to come in with our chinchilla. I didn't mention him originally because it seemed too speculative.

Also we've had the moths for a while but only noticed the larvae AFTER the lovely mrs. Brainy cleaned out the cabinets of all those things mentioned as a food source...so we probably disturbed the main food source and now they have to scout.

Long battle ahead, but now we know our enemy!
posted by Brainy at 10:29 AM on September 19, 2012

UGH - we got those all the time when we had a parrot. They love to stick to the crevice between the ceiling and the wall or along crown molding...Man I hate them. We used these traps for the live ones to good effect: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=10500 kept the numbers manageable. Changing the lining of the cage more regularly (we were doing every other day) and keeping the food in an airtight container also helped.

Sadly the only thing that actually cured it 100% for us was the death of our parrot.
posted by dadici at 10:36 AM on September 19, 2012

Agree with the others on the pantry moth ID. Mine came in the bag of wild bird food. Have heard to store it outside in future, as the moths will commonly come along.

Notes on cleaning out the dry goods: the caterpillars make little cobwebby nests. If you look in a bag of (nuts, flour, lentils, rice, etc.) and see bits of web along the edges, it has been or is currently infested, even if you don't see a worm. Also, they can chew through thinner plastic bags, and somehow get past even the tightest clip closing an open bag. When I cleaned out the kitchen shelves they'd infested here, I threw out anything that was opened, and any unopened bag made of the (common) thin plastic.

Also, open any heavier container and check inside the lid. The worms were nested in the grooves of my sugar jar (glass bottle with metal lid) and under the edges of the thick plastic snap-on lid of my flour container.

When the moths and worms were at their worst, I had pheromone traps up and also vacuumed any loose bugs every night or two. After getting the pantry shelves properly cleaned out and keeping up with vacuuming moths as I saw them, things are getting better. Still the occasional moth, but few enough for the cats to hunt and eat. :)
posted by dorey_oh at 11:20 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yup. Pantry moths.
Time to clean-out every damned cupboard thoroughly, and put everything not in a can into airtight containers. And, when I say clean-out-thoroughly, I mean vaccuuming and scrubbing every tiny corner. You're going to be shocked the places you are going to find moths and larvae. You're going to throw-away a lot of dry goods.

If you have pets, check the bags of food, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:37 AM on September 19, 2012

I also got them from birdseed, they ruined hundreds of dollars of food in the end. Let me tell you, opening a bagel and having squirming worms sticking out of it is something I never want to repeat! As others have said, the pheremone traps combined with putting everything in your pantry in airtight containers (ziplock bags work fine) were what finally knocked the infestation out.
posted by TungstenChef at 11:46 AM on September 19, 2012

Oh, and when you're cleaning, make sure to check the underside of cabinets and shelves as well. Those things nest everywhere and anywhere.
posted by erst at 11:51 AM on September 19, 2012

Oh, and those larvae? You didn't see them do it, but they very likely got up on your ceiling by crawling up the wall. I know...ew.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:53 PM on September 19, 2012

We had pantry moths too, they came in with some bird food. It was a two-year battle! Also my worst nightmare, bugs in the kitchen.

If you can, invest in some really good quality food storage, I found Lock & Lock the very best. I knew when I put something into it, it was going to stay uninfested and that really helped my anxiety.

And that really is the key, getting rid of anything that possibly could be infested, and storing everything else into perfectly air-tight containers. This is more important than cleaning (which is critical, but the moth cycle won't stop until they can't find any food source).

I put a lot of food into the fridge, when I ran out of containers. The traps were helpful, though, again, not the key. No food source = no moths.

Yikes. I came down one late night to a kitchen filled with fluttering gray clouds, they even infested the knife block, it was so horrifying. I so sympathize.
posted by nanook at 12:56 PM on September 19, 2012

Oh, and you need to check all your spices. They infested some crushed chili flakes, got into the bottles.
posted by nanook at 1:46 PM on September 19, 2012

Oh yeah, they love them some chili - my wife had a dried pepper (in a plastic bag) that was one part pepper to like ten parts larva when we did our clean out. Ew!
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:44 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I went away for a summer and my house-sitter left a huge bag of birdseed open in the breezeway. When I got back, it was to discover a full-fledged infestation of pantry moths. I threw away most dry goods (except those that were in airtight containers) and then, for the next 3 months, did a morning visual inspection of the pantry, the kitchen ceiling, and the adjacent breezeway ceiling. If there were adult moths, I vacuumed them up. If there were larvae moving around, I crushed them or vacuumed them up. If I saw pupae on the ceiling, I used a stylus to destroy the cocoon, then I vacuumed them up. The vacuum cleaner was a constant companion.

After a few months, I relaxed my vigilance, and did inspections only a couple times a week. Within 6 months I had gotten rid of them all, and I haven't had a recurrence. As others have said, you need to get rid of anything they might eat, or keep it in airtight containers.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:20 PM on September 19, 2012

Female pantry moths exude the mellifluously-named (Z,E)-9,12-tetradecadienyl acetate. It's a pheromone. Males will chase this stuff across light-years and centuries.

You can get sticky traps that release it.

When I opened the first of the lures during our infestation I was engulfed in a cloud of moths. It was like being in a cartoon.

The number of moths dropped gradually over a few weeks. I suspect we could have cleared it completely without actually moving house (which we did for mostly unrelated reasons.)

The pheromone itself is entirely non-toxic to humans. Using sticky traps against insects may seem unethical, but damn. Insects. In my food. Breeding there. Nope.
posted by Combat Wombat at 5:04 AM on September 20, 2012

« Older Frenchbook Textbook Doesn'tSuckbook   |   great gift for 1 year old? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.