Author Options:

How do I get rid of those moth like bugs in my pantry? Answered

I've removed all open boxes of cereal, have frozen all flour, all other goods that aren't canned are in sealed containers.



Best Answer 5 years ago

The moths are usually Indian meal moths, also known as pantry moths. Some products that you bring into your house from the store may be contaminated with their eggs. They can also fly in from the outside. They're capable of chewing through plastic bags, paper envelopes and cellophane envelopes, whereby they gain access to other foods and lay eggs, spreading throughout the kitchen.

First thing to do is go to the store and buy a few pheromone pantry moth traps. They have an attractant and a sticky pad. Moths fly into the trap, stick to the pad, and when the pad is loaded up with moth carcasses, you simply throw it out. Use only one trap at a time: More than one trap confuses the moths and they're less likely to find ANY trap. The traps don't involve use of poisons, so they're perfectly safe to use around children and pets. The traps are relatively expensive, so as soon as you set up a trap, go to the next step — removal of food sources.

You'll need to open and examine every paper, cardboard and plastic film food container in your kitchen and larder that contains whole grains (wheat, rye, rice, barley, lentils, etc.), nuts in or out of the shell, gelatine (Jell-O) and items made of grains, including crackers, noodles, bread, cold breakfast cereals, raw flour, etc. If you find moths, larvae or moth silk, put the item in a plastic trash bag, tie it shut and take it outside to throw it away. Do NOT put it into your kitchen trash receptacle. Often the only clue you'll have is one or more tiny perforations in an envelope or plastic bag, indicating the moths have penetrated and laid eggs inside. Yes, they'll even chew through paper/foil laminate envelopes used for foodstuffs such as drinks and lemonades.

Finally, to prevent re-infestation, consider freezing suspect foods. This can be done with new items that you've just brought in from the supermarket. Put them into the freezer for 4-7 days, unopened, in their original packaging, then transfer the food into a heavy-walled plastic food storage container with a tight-fitting snap-top or screw-top lid. Metal could work, too, but most food tins have sloppy tolerances on their lids, allowing moths to make their way inside. If you find foods that have been infested with meal moths, but can't afford to throw them out, they can still be consumed without ill effect. Remove obvious evidence of silk strands. If it is a meal or flour, sift it to remove adult moths and larvae. Freeze it to kill anything that may be left alive, including eggs and live larvae. Use the material for cooking or baking.

An additional step for storing foods long-term in sealed containers is to flood them with an inert gas before sealing. A chunk of dry ice sublimates into carbon dioxide gas, suffocating all moths and larvae. Throw a piece of dry ice into the food container, affix the lid loosely so that excess gas can vent, then seal it 12-24 hours later. Carbon dioxide is a bit heavier than air, so it will displace oxygen in a jar or bucket of foodstuffs from the bottom up and the excess will spill or vent from the top. More sophisticated, but more expensive in terms of equipment, is to flood food containers with carbon dioxide or nitrogen gas. You'll need a gas regulator, gas hoses, and a steel cylinder filled with nitrogen or carbon dioxide gas from your local welding gas supplier. Unless you're preserving or rescuing large amounts of food regularly, it may not be worth the expense of either dry ice or or gas equipment.  However, using carbon dioxide or nitrogen to displace oxygen has the added benefit of retarding spoilage due to oxidation, so that may be a consideration if you're storing emergency food supplies for use years later; it's hard to put a price on having survival food on hand after a disaster when you can't get any from stores.

Panrty Moth.jpg

I appreciate the info.. and I will keep this material on my computer for future use

Thank you for the excellent discussion of pantry moths, how they get into food, and how to deal with them. A moth opus!


8 years ago

These are the moths from the flour weevil. Apparently all flour has these thing in;-in embryo. Warm conditions set the cycle off.

I would never store any flour outside of a fridge unless I lived in Iceland!

You infestation came from the flour I would guess,-it can then move to other grains and cereals. I think that freezing the flour will kill the embryo, but personally I would throw the flour out and start again.

When you buy grain/oats/muesli in plastic packets, turn the packet upside down, and check if there are any fine webbing type of fibres at the bottom;-that is a sure sign that the product has company!!

I can't better the advice you've been given on cleaning. But my advice would be to store flour in your fridge.

I remember when this happened to me-the infestation was bad, and really upsetting.

Good luck!

"Moths" and "weevils" are entirely different insects. They don't cross-breed.

Yes thank-you. I already knew that.

 With me the the moths come and go. It is amazing where they can live, like in jars of herbs.  I even found some in unopened cereal.  As others have said, get rid of contaminated food and clean the area.   As for other suggestions, I'm not sure I like putting mothballs in food areas, but cedar is nice.

 I store all open flour, crackers, cereal, etc. in plastic bags.  This works pretty well.

One shouldn't use mothballs in occupied areas. It has been shown that napthalene and para-dichlorobenze (1,4-Dichlorobenze), the active ingredients in mothballs, are carcinogenic and can harm the heart, liver and other organs. Cedar oil is OK, but it's just a repellent, not an insecticide.


8 years ago

I was told years ago that paper bags and cardboard boxes may have the eggs even before the food is put in. 

You can minimize that source of bugs by immediately transferring newly bought food  to air tight  glass or metal containers.  This can also contain any new infestations coming into your house,  so they don't spread to everything else.

Plastic bags (even new unopened) do NOT stop the bugs. I have seen them put holes in foil packets of Swiss Miss.  (Now I keep those packets in glass jars.) Think airtight and mouse proof to get the right weight if you're going to use plastic containers.  

They're Indian Meal Moths:

You can buy pheromone strips at a supermarket, but you also need to put everything in containers and set up a pantry cleaning schedule until you are absolutely certain that you took care of the problem (eggs and all).  Also check around elsewhere in the house because they can migrate.

I just finished dealing with those buggers.  It's a real pain.

Good luck!


8 years ago

kill them

empty the cabinet completly, and wash it very thoroughly.  Let the cabinet sit empty for a few days with some mothballs.

Get some cedar of the kind that they make cedar chests out of.  It won't take but maybe a sq. ft. and put that in the pantry.  It will drive them out of the pantry.  You will still have the moths but they won't be in the pantry.

Yep, they're annoying, aren't they.  We had them a couple of years ago in a couple of cupboards and they still seemed to survive although we sealed all the loose food away.
In the end we took the food out and gave the cupboards a very short dose of bug-killer spray and closed the door for an hour, then gave the cupboard a thorough cleaning with a clean water sprayer and sponges.  That did the trick.

The good news is that you've made a great start and are on the right track.

The bad news is that the next step is to clean the pantry itself, in order to get rid of any moths or eggs that are on the tops, bottoms or sides of the shelves, and the walls, ceiling or floor of the pantry. Any ordinary household cleaner will do (soap is bad for mothlings), but it is a crapload of work.

Any old shelf paper, and just about anything else removable, needs to go. New Contact-paper-type shelf paper may help seal in any mothlings you miss, especially if shelves are some semi-porous material like well-aged particle board.

That's what I did for my mom's pantry-cum-moth-hatchery 15 years ago, and - because she has also been vigilant about freezing and sealed-containerizing - she hasn't had a problem since.