Pantry moths?
December 10, 2015 12:52 AM   Subscribe

Our kitchen has an insect infestation. Here are some adults caught with a pantry moth pheremone glue trap: one, two, three Can anyone identify the species? Or recommend means of eradication?

Also — are these structures in the edges of the corridor related? one, two, three
posted by sindark to Science & Nature (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help you with the species but I can tell you that those things in the second set of photos are the remnants of hatched eggs. Somewhere in your dry goods there is likely to be many of these nasty boogers hanging out. I've seen them mostly in open packages of dried nuts or pastas.

We had them a few weeks ago. Saw a couple flying around (just a couple!) and discovered a whole freaking colony/nest of them in our pantry. We ended up having to throw out just about everything and wash out all the shelves. I then wound up killing each and every rogue moth I could find for the next two or three days. Luckily they are slow movers.
posted by teamnap at 1:45 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You will have to declare 'total war' and be prepared to kill every winged moth you see (the traps are worth keeping permanently) and also destroy every larvae and pupae you can find. Like teamnap says, you will have to dispose of every packet of dry goods - spices, pasta, rice, legumes, cereal, flour, sugar, tea, coffee, nuts, candy, noodles, nori sheets, everything. Whether opened or not- because they could have tiny impossible-to-see tears and be infested.

Canned goods, unopened jars and bottles you should place in the fridge for a few days as the cold will kill any critters hanging out in nooks and crannies. I have found moth eggs laid under the lip of the lids of unopened jars of vegemite and pickles.

After you have eradicated all the known living insects and removed all food sources (don't forget your pet's food likely stored elsewhere) you will have to make the pantry toxic to insects for at least a few days. When I did this I prepared to eat take-away for 4-5 days and avoid food prep in the kitchen entirely. Remove all the shelving from the pantry and wash down with hot soapy water. Inspect the little holes for adjusting the height of the shelving - moths love these little holes for laying eggs. Cover the holes with sticky tape. Spray insecticide in the pantry once all the food is disposed of or in the fridge.

After a few days wash down the insides of the pantry to remove the insecticide residue. Replace shelves. Replace all your dry-goods with fresh stock from a store with a reasonably high turnover and invest in tupperware-like sealable containers to store all your food from now on and never leave packets of food of any kind or description open or unsealed. Total war, man.
posted by esto-again at 2:02 AM on December 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

Just to back up what esto-again said about unopened goods - in a former flat we got an infestation from an unopened bag of porridge oats. Whether they were in the pack in the store or had got in them in our kitchen, I'm not sure, but once I found out about it (opened the packet, tipped them into a bowl, saw it moving, decided I really didn't want breakfast anymore) we found larvae and moths until we went nuclear and threw out much of the pantry.
posted by mippy at 2:10 AM on December 10, 2015

I was recently mortified as a host to proffer a guest a toothpick jar and a desiccated moth larvae was sticking to the wooden toothpick. They will eat anything.
posted by esto-again at 2:13 AM on December 10, 2015

this may be a no brainer, but they like breeding where they're undisturbed. Containers you only ever open once a year/month. The spaces behind the fridge/bread box/microwave where crumbs collect. Etc.


You don't have to spray everything with poison and other extreme measures - I didn't. But it did take me half a year to get rid of them because I kept discovering new mounds of wriggling white larvae. If you want a fast solution, go nuclear.

The pheromone traps are useful to gauge how well you're doing. Keep buying them till you catch no more moths with them.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:22 AM on December 10, 2015

I'm no entomologist, but it looks like like the Indian mealmoths we're currently fighting, mostly the same way as esto-again. The pantry is mostly empty now -- the larvae get into everything, including a sealed bag of salt and under the lid of a jar of coconut oil. And we found them between the pages of a bunch of manuals stored on top of the pantry.

We're still finding the occasional adult flying around, and our plans for the weekend includes a thorough cleaning of the back of the fridge. Sigh. A friend got rid of them without any pesticides, but it took months.
posted by hannala at 2:38 AM on December 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ugh, this happened to us too. Everybody above is right. Also, I read that bay leaves keep moths away. After our infestation, I've always kept bay leaves strewn around the pantry. So far, no re-infestation.
posted by chickenmagazine at 3:47 AM on December 10, 2015

If you have the freezer space, just stick everything that's not obviously infested in there for a week instead of throwing it all out.
posted by geegollygosh at 4:43 AM on December 10, 2015

This happened to me. It was super annoying. A tip -these guys hate bay leaves. We made a homemade bay leaf spray and sprayed it everywhere, and slowly but surely they stopped hatching. It works!
posted by bookgirl18 at 5:17 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You are going to have to clean every nook and cranny of your kitchen. And I mean *EVERY* nook and cranny. For instance, we have a pie safe in the kitchen and, inside the safe, there are small insets in the framing where screws were drilled. There were egg nests in those. ew.

Take everything out and clean cupboards and drawers and everything else. Just to be safe, you probably should just toss any dry goods (flour, rice, corn meal, pasta, crackers, cookies, pet kibble, etc. etc.) If you don't have them already, you need to get airtight containers for all your dry goods.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:22 AM on December 10, 2015

This also happened to us. They are Indian mealmoths aka grain moths, and (surprise!) they love to eat your grains. It's probably good practice to keep everything grain-y in the refrigerator from now on. Our infestation was in 2004 and I still do this out of habit/fear.

And you really do have to kill every moth you see. We had a broom in the kitchen and used the handle to bop moths resting on the ceiling. At the end of the week, or whenever it reached critical mass, one of us would stand up on the counter and scrub the ceiling of dead moth bodies. Make it a game! This is one of those laugh-or-you'll-cry situations, so try to have fun with it. Their population will dwindle and you'll have a super-clean kitchen. It'll be cool.
posted by witchen at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2015

Mocks are a pain, and they nest everywhere. Those modular IKEA shelves with the peg holes for setting shelf heights? Larvae in every freaking hole. Two hours with a q-tip and mineral oil.

Oatmeal is their super favourite, btw.
posted by scruss at 8:24 AM on December 10, 2015

I got infested from a bag of raw sunflower seeds. They (the larvae, I presume) ate through the plastic bag to escape. After tossing the things that were obviously infested, I sealed everything in airtight containers or put in the refrigerator. It took months but eventually they disappeared. I recommend patience. They will go away if you don't feed them.
posted by H21 at 8:54 AM on December 10, 2015

Spray insecticide in the pantry once all the food is disposed of or in the fridge

Toxicologist chiming in to say please do not do this. This is not good advice. Insecticide won't accomplish anything that can't be done with a washcloth and bucket of hot, soapy water.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:04 AM on December 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

Lock and Lock containers are good for dry goods - since our infestation I've kept most of ours in them. The branded ones can be expensive, but your supermarket might do their own version which will be less painful to buy in bulk.
posted by mippy at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I battled a moth infestation for several months this year until I finally figured out that it was a neglected bag of birdseed that I had completely forgotten about and wasn't even really kept near the pantry that was the origin.

Make sure you check your cookbooks if you keep them near your pantry as well as any coffee filters. They were spawning in my paper items. Also the metal rims of any cans or tins. They like to get in there. I still keep the glue traps up just in case but it was identifying the source that really wiped them out.
posted by rdnnyc at 10:48 AM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

They will eat paper, cardboard, glue, particleboard, and anything else even vaguely edible. They can chew through cardboard boxes and plastic bags, even heavy-duty plastic bags like freezer Ziplocks.

Compost or throw out anything that has any kind of sign of moths, including slight clumping in flour and any signs of webbing.

Your food is only safe in glass containers or rigid plastic (airtight like Lock & Lock or Glassware), or in the fridge or freezer.

You will need to go through every square inch of your kitchen and pantry and anywhere else in your house you keep those things with hot soapy water. Really don't use insecticide, you just need hot soapy water. But scrub every inch!

Then be very clean and tidy forever after. This is the most important step. They live in undisturbed dark places. Keep your food in constant rotation, open cupboards and clean them out regularly, and keep everything organized in airtight containers. Forever.
posted by epanalepsis at 11:05 AM on December 10, 2015

The only thing moths like better than oatmeal is quinoa, btw. We had two infestations about 6 months apart a few years back, and a package of quinoa was ground zero in both of those.
posted by thecaddy at 12:31 PM on December 10, 2015

As for getting rid of them, we went nuclear and threw out most of our grains and then washed each shelf of the pantry. Which reminds me that I probably need to do that again over Christmas break.
posted by thecaddy at 12:32 PM on December 10, 2015

nthing what others have said above.

Toss any dry goods (eg pasta, oats) that are not already in a hard sealed container, including unopened paper bags of flour and cardboard boxes of pasta. All new stuff shall go in hard, sealed containers with snugly fitting lids. Ziplock bags aren't good enough because edible dust can collect on the zipped before closing, and these bastards can survive off of that. Clean all your cupboards thoroughly to remove food and eggs (empty everything from the cupboard and sponge the surfaces, corners and crevices). Replace the traps as needed. Expect to go through three weeks of this before all the generations of eggs have hatched into trappable moths.

When the traps come up empty for a week or two, you've eliminated the current infestation. To prevent future ones, continue to use sealed containers only.
posted by zippy at 3:02 PM on December 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also recommending Bay Leaves. My Mother put them in every container of dry ingredients. Me, once upon a time, being a silly newlywed, thought that Bay Leaves were just a quirk of my Mother's. Nope, all kinds of bug types in my corn meal, flour, etc. Now I'm all about some Bay Leaves. Just one or two in the container and they leave no smell or taste in the food.
posted by PJMoore at 8:17 PM on December 10, 2015

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