Moth Invasion
March 3, 2004 12:03 AM   Subscribe

Moth invasion. They came in with a bag of dog biscuits in September, and they're still here. [innumerably more, inside]

They are small and brown, and they prefer rice, oatmeal, and pasta to sweaters. I swatted hundreds in one evening after their first breeding cycle, but still find (and kill) three or four a day. How do I get rid of them permanently without making the humans, cat, and dogs who live here miserable?
posted by Alylex to Pets & Animals (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: UGH. Awful. Moving to a new house. That is the only cure.

You think I'm joking. *sigh*

If that's too extreme, you have to go on a search and destroy mission. Go through your cupboards. Everywhere. Throw out anything that shows any sign whatsoever of moth visitation. When in doubt, throw it out. They can get into closed packages. Open everything and check. If the items are safe, put them in Tupperware or glass if at all possible. Sealed plastic bags will help a bit, but they are not sure protection. Bay leaves supposedly keep them away. I don't know if it works or not. We haven't really had an infestation in the new house but we put out bay leaves immediately when we moved in.

The moths will be hiding in corners and things where you don't always look (like high cupboards with forgotten food packages). So be ruthless and go through everything.

When buying new stuff that could be infested, freeze it for a couple of days. Or just store it in the freezer if you have room. (This works well for things like flour.) Moths can't deal with freezing.

I feel sorry for you. When we lived in our last place, we had tons of them that we just couldn't get rid of. I had a traumatic experience one day when trying to rinse rice... I set it in the sink with water running in the rice bowl, then noticed an unusual amount of floating rice... looked closer and the rice had black ends... looked closer and they were WIGGLING! They were moth larva! Ugh. I have nightmares about this.

We bought a house shortly after and threw out almost all foodstuffs from the old place, just to make sure it wouldn't happen again.
posted by litlnemo at 1:39 AM on March 3, 2004

Best answer: oh man. we had these, and we didn't really get rid of them until after a big house renovation project, and actually -- just now, I see one flying around our kitchen.

They are REALLY tough to get rid of. You can buy "Pantry Moth Traps" which are basically triangular tubes of cardboard that have sticky goo on the inside -- this works pretty well at killing them, and you probably want to place them on top of the fridge, in the cabinets, etc.

basically, what litlnemo said: make sure all your food is locked up tight. Everything should be immediately put in tupperware with a sealed lid -- including stuff that already seems mildly hermetic, like cereal (throw the box out and put the bag into a tupperware container).

Good luck.
posted by fishfucker at 2:01 AM on March 3, 2004

Response by poster: Yup, nemo, it was finding them in the very expensive Minnesota organic wild rice which totally grossed me out, too. I then inspected everything in the cabinet and ended up pitching about $100 worth of food into the garbage. Insidious, revolting things. They eat right through plastic bags, cardboard boxes, and even thin plastic jars.

For several months, I've been putting all the dog and cat food into the freezer for at least a week when I first bring it home. I'm going to have to buy a bigger freezer if that is going to become permanent storage rather than just a way of making sure there are no new moths coming in.

MeFi insider trading tip: buy RubberMaid stock, my friends, because I'm going to be doing good things for their profit margin in the next few days. Bay leaf growers will see a surge in sales as well.

Sad thing is, my animals eat only super-premium food. Horrifying to think I'm buying "the best" for them, but what they might be getting is moth eggs and larva.

On preview: thanks, fish. I'll look for Pantry Moth Traps tomorrow, too.
posted by Alylex at 2:28 AM on March 3, 2004

Best answer: Once you've cleaned out your cabinets, you should probably sponge them down with a mixture of bleach and water, just to be on the safe side. It's a sad and expensive process, throwing everything away, but there's nothing else for it, unfortunately.
posted by crunchland at 3:57 AM on March 3, 2004

Cheap, extremely effective way to kill fruit flies, gnats, and moths in your house - fill some narrow necked bottles halfway up with apple cider vinegar. Get some sheets of paper and roll into funnel shapes. Insert narrow end of funnel into bottle neck and down into bottle, but not touching the vinegar. Place around your kitchen. Moths and flies are attracted to the scent, which they percieve to be rotting fruit. They fly in but can't figure out how to escape, and eventually drown.

If you take note of what it is that the moths seem especially attracted to - corn meal, honey, etc... you can make a water-based concoction with that food in it instead of the vinegar - works just as well.
posted by iconomy at 4:46 AM on March 3, 2004

My condolences, Alylex. The only suggestion I have is somewhat tangential: where possible, use glass Mason jars to store relatively small amounts of food. They're a whole lot cheaper than Rubbermaid. Good luck.
posted by stonerose at 7:06 AM on March 3, 2004

These are the pits.
(Another) vote for throwing out anything infested (we also had problems with paper, both books and reams) and a subsequent bleach and water scrub.

iconomy's bottle trick above is very effective - haven't done it with vinegar, but with old banana peel in a 2L bottle.
posted by whatzit at 7:10 AM on March 3, 2004

Oh, I forgot about paper. Even though they aren't exactly bookworms they do go after paper eventually. So there was some reading material that was pretty messed up. Ugh, those little webs all over everything, and the larva husks... *shudder*

Those Pantry Moth Traps caught tons of moths but made no appreciable difference in the infestation. I worried, too, because these traps supposedly have moth pheromones, so I wondered if I was just attracting them even more to the places I put the traps... near all the food, as directed.

The bottle trick didn't do it for the moths enough either, though it got some. (And it's great for getting rid of fruit flies!) Though I think part of the problem was just that we had an extreme infestation in a shared rental house, and so maybe the folks upstairs from us had them too. We just couldn't get rid of them while we lived there. (Place had rats, too. Big ones. Big fearless ones. And we weren't supposed to have a cat. When we tried rat poison in desperation, the damned rats died behind the stove. It was a house of horrors, I tell you.)
posted by litlnemo at 7:28 AM on March 3, 2004

Ugh - my parents have gone through this TWICE. I helped with one of the mass clean outs and it was absolutely horrifying. Unfortunately, even with the clean outs, the traps, the bleach rub downs, and the tupperware, they DO come back. They're like a mob of tiny winged Terminators.

So incredibly awful. I wish you much luck...
posted by MsVader at 7:52 AM on March 3, 2004

Best answer: Organic grains are full of pests. When I buy organic brown rice, I keep it in the freezer. I've stopped buying any other organic grains -- especially flour -- because, as a rule, organic grain manufacturers have failed to avail themselves of the various technologies of the 20th and 21st century that remove or destroy insect eggs.
posted by waldo at 8:53 AM on March 3, 2004

anybody have advice on wool-eating moths? i've had everything drycleaned that could possibly harbor the bastards, moved several states away from the original site of infection . . . and i still find holes in my sweaters. and yes, i already went through the whole seal-them-in-a-tub-with-cakes-of-moth-killing-chemicals thing. months later, i find holes. oh, those damned holes!
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 10:02 AM on March 3, 2004

Best answer: I'll just echo everybody else's pantry moth advice. We had a horrible infestation at my last house that we battled for months. Eventually in desperation we pretty much threw out everything in the pantry. They were in stuff that we didn't even think they ate: chocolate, artificial sweetener, Jello, everything. We tossed it all and wiped everything down with bleach. We also started keeping flour and pasta in the fridge and putting as much stuff in jars and plastic as we could. We won that particular battle but I have a feeling the war was not over. We solved the problem by moving house. Drastic but effective.
posted by web-goddess at 2:47 PM on March 3, 2004

Best answer: I've looked around a bit for things that haven't been mentioned here, and one person said that putting cotton balls with lavender oil in her kitchen cupboards and shelves worked for her. Another person recommended steam cleaning cabinets, counters, etc.

It does sound as though it can be terribly difficult to get rid of them, though - in one case a victim finally found them breeding behind the wooden kitchen cabinets after he removed them.

Bird seed, hard shell nuts, children's "macaroni artwork", potpourri, dried flowers, tobacco, stored paper bags, rat bait, anywhere on the premises (including garage, attic, etc.) can all be sources of continued infestation, as well as cracks between stove, counter and wall where food might have fallen. And of course if you are vacuuming, don't forget the vacuum bag - seal it up and throw it out right away.

Good luck!
posted by taz at 3:21 PM on March 3, 2004

Sirmissalot - clothes moths (wool eating) can be difficult to be rid of, but you can kill the larvae and eggs in your clothing by - you guessed it - freezing them. At least 7 days. Pair that with adequate clothes moth traps and you should see major abatement at the least.
posted by vers at 4:26 PM on March 3, 2004

I once lived in a house where a housemate stored a big bag of bird seed in her closet. The infestation got so bad that the moths (or their larvae) were living behind the wallpaper (wallpaper paste is essentially just wheat starch - a.k.a moth food). I ended up having to strip several rooms of wallpaper.
posted by TimeFactor at 4:48 PM on March 3, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers!

I did another search and destroy in the 2 cabinets where food is stored. No signs of life, but I threw away everything that fell into the "might be moth-food, haven't used it for a year, will probably never miss it" category, including boxes of Jello and packets of artificial sweetener. Tried to vacuum out the corners, nooks, crannies, and crevices with a ShopVac, but don't think it was very effective. Then wiped them down with a mild bleach and very hot water solution. Fashioned two of the jar traps with cider vinegar and paper funnels, strategically placed. All the starchy foods are either in Tupperware or in the freezer. Threw away all the paper grocery bags. This weekend I'll empty all the cabinets, including the ones with just pots and pans, and spray pyrethrins in the gaps.

And then... I saw one fluttering about the houseplants on the window sill. Upon closer inspection - egad! Let's just say all the plants are gone. If they get into my books, I will cry.

Taz, you're amazing. Special thanks.
posted by Alylex at 12:22 PM on March 4, 2004

« Older How do you tell when a new species has evolved?   |   Reputable online payments suggestions? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.