Kill the f@cking moths
September 17, 2007 9:11 PM   Subscribe

Please, please help me with this moth infestation.

I'm suffering the worst grain moth infestation EVAR. It started in the garage; apparently they came home in a bag of chicken feed. I didn't realize they were there until they'd already colonized the garage (the condition of which would probably get me locked up by the Health Department -- which is hopefully beside the point). Anyway, by then they'd moved into the pantry.

I tried pheromone traps. They work at the trapping, but I think they also send the moths into sexual overdrive. I think it basically made them spawn.

Late last week I threw away everything in the pantry that wasn't in a sealed jar or can. (Threw away about 100 lbs of food, in fact.) Wiped the shelves down with orange-based cleaner. The pantry is still empty. I check it every day, and I still find and kill a 8-12 moths daily. I also find a handful flying about the rest of that part of the house. They have no longer have a food source there, but they keep showing up. (I cleaned all of the chicken feed and bird food out of the garage too, by the way.)

Part II: I couldn't figure out why I kept seeing them in the bedroom and office, so far away from the kitchen. I figured they were just traveling. But today, in cleaning out the closet, I found an old backpack that contained a bag of almonds and a granola bar -- both with well established larvae colonies. I've been swatting moths in the office and the closet ever since. Got rid of the offending foodstuffs.

Here's the bigger problem: I'm about to leave for two weeks or more. I think I've cleared out all of their possible food sources, but I'm afraid that they'll re-establish while I'm gone.

If there's nothing for them to eat, will they die, or will successive generations still find some way to hold on?

I've got two cats running around, so setting off a bug bomb isn't an option. Swearing profusely at them also doesn't work.

Any advice for things I can do to make sure they haven't taken over the place when I come home in a couple weeks?

(For the record, I've read this thread and I think I've pretty much done everything suggested there. My main concern is about the two weeks I'm not going to be here. No one will be here to swat them, and I'd like to know whether there are any preventative measures I can take. I will also accept reassurance that it's not going to be a problem, that they're going to starve to death. Or, if you know of other things that might feed them and that I should purge, please advise.)

[Anecdotal aside: Live moths seem to show up in the places where I've swatted other (now-dead) moths. Am I just making more and more pheromone stations for them by swatting them where I find them?]
posted by mudpuppie to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Geez. We just went through the same thing before leaving on a two week honeymoon. We had a friend check on our house daily to kill any stragglers. He did find and toss a forgotten box of granola and we have seen no moths since. If you can find someone, even if you have to pay a neighboring teenager, it will be a big relief.

Also, if you have modular cabinetry from Ikea you should look into the little shelf holes. Larvae like to hide there to pupate. Just give any you find a good spray of bleach.

They can infest books and magazines as well, so toss any paper recycling or paper bags and check your books and papers. Put anything you really like in a ziploc bag.

Have you considered boarding the cats? That would give you an option to set off the bug bomb. Besides, dry cat food is another place for those little bastards to breed.
posted by Alison at 9:34 PM on September 17, 2007

Best answer: Also, give the pheremone traps time to work. They basically take a couple of life cycles. They trap the moths who are actively looking to mate, thereby preventing them from mating. It might take a week or two to get all of them. I had the same problem a month or so ago, and eventually, the pheremone traps will do the trick.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:37 PM on September 17, 2007

We've been dealing with a low-level grain moth problem for years. The electric bug racket is a family sport, now. (The opposing-grids style sucks, you want the interleaved single wires style.)

Pheromone traps catch a few, but the adhesive pad loads up quickly and becomes ineffective. I haven't experienced the moth-orgy effect you describe, though.

I think you could do well with a funnel trap. Grain moths seem to fly more randomly than other insects, and might find their way out by chance, so perhaps a fan (like a 120mm PC case fan?) could help. Or try putting some soapy water in the bottom of the trap. They have no trouble with regular water, but the surfactants in the soap will break their surface tension so they drown.

Also, try moving everything suspect into ziplock bags. The moths seem to be able to wriggle through incredibly tiny gaps, but here's the trick: Get some "canned-air" dust blaster, and flow some of the non-breathable gas through each bag before sealing it. If any moths do get in, they'll asphyxiate before they can do anything. I'm not sure how you'd go about assessing the oxygen level in the bags, but a brute force approach would probably work well here.

Good luck!
posted by Myself at 9:46 PM on September 17, 2007

Best answer: I've always been able to eliminate them by eliminating all their food sources (sometimes this is difficult, if there's a bag of cake mix hidden away somewhere, or a jar that isn't as well-sealed as I thought it was, or whatever). You'll be finding empty cocoons under things and behind books for a while, but the moths will be gone. At least that's been my experience.
posted by hattifattener at 9:49 PM on September 17, 2007

Best answer: I'd clean everything in the house with a nuclear powered iron fist. Edge vac all of the corners and crevices, then be sure to change the vacuum bag and throw it out. Have your carpets cleaned. Wash or dry clean all your clothes, blankets and textiles to kill any hiding critters. Air movement and low humidity levels are helpful in creating a less than hospital environment for moths.

I still keep a lot of food products (like flour and some grains) in my freezer because of past bug problem. I also move a lot of my grain type products into glass containers when I get home from the store. I keep pet food in a big sealed plastic container.
posted by pluckysparrow at 9:57 PM on September 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

I live in a pretty old apartment and was just nailed by this problem. I noticed they were going in the little spaces between the cabinet and the wall, if it was my house I'd try and pull the thing down, but for now I simply come home every day and spray a bleach solution in there. Maybe check if there's anything you can take off the wall or pull apart that they may be using as hiding places. I second boarding the cats and setting off a bomb while you're gone, plus put everything you normally keep in the pantry in the fridge or freezer for those two weeks, really starve them.
posted by missmle at 10:14 PM on September 17, 2007

I've got two cats running around, so setting off a bug bomb isn't an option.

You can't keep the cats out of the garage for a day? Seriously, bug bombs and/or spray are what you need here. Bug spray the pantry immediately, then close the door so the cats don't get in. Then do the same for the other areas, one location per day if the cats can't be kept out of all of them at once. A can of heavy-duty bugkiller worked fine for us last year; for all their spawning the moths seemed to be very fragile, died quickly and didn't come back.
posted by mediareport at 10:36 PM on September 17, 2007

Double-check the oatmeal, if you've got a can of that. I thought it'd be safe because it's such a thick material, but it turned out to have the last holdouts of my infestation.
posted by xo at 11:34 PM on September 17, 2007

Best answer: I cleaned an infestation out of my ex-girlfriend's trailer while she was away on a trip overseas. Basically, I walked in the door to stay at her place to take care of her dogs for a week because her roommate was gone the last week she was away, and was met with a *cloud* of moths to the face. I got pissed and stared cleaning.

Basically, I threw everything out that wasn't canned. Even the oatmeal, even the pasta (which they'd colonized), the bird food (mostly eaten), and every little forgotten package of snack stuff hidden in the back of the pantry and everywhere else.

They were gone inside of a week... but it's important that you remove ALL their food sources. Check every nook and cranny in your house.
posted by SpecialK at 5:43 AM on September 18, 2007

If you are going to be away for several weeks, perhaps this is the time to have the house bombed?
posted by caddis at 7:26 AM on September 18, 2007

Don't forget herbs and tea leaves! They eat those, too.
posted by Addlepated at 10:25 AM on September 18, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all. To reiterate, the pantry is *empty* save for canned goods. I've vacuumed all the crumbs and such.

I can't bomb the house -- cats. And no, I can't board the cats, because they're evil and I'm poor.

I'm going to provide the cat feeder with a fly swatter, ask her to make daily rounds, and hope that takes care of it.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:18 AM on September 18, 2007

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