Friday, June 4, 2010

Aarrgghhhhh! Hallelujah!


For the last several months I've been fighting a battle in my house (kitchen and living room areas) with the little bugger on the left: the Indianmeal Moth, also known as the Pantry Moth or "Flour Moth" (they are about 1/4" long). Anyone who keeps grains (especially flours), nuts, or seeds in their kitchen in non-airtight containers has seen this tiny moth. They are attracted to those products as a food source. I've seen them off an on over the years—but they are slow flyers and can usually be dispatched on sight.

What I didn't know until recently is that these moths can chew through plastic storage bags (ZipLock, etc.) to get to a food source. I have a lot of dry bulk goods stored in glass containers with screw-on lids, and those have been safe. But stuff I move through quickly usually stays in plastic bags, even the thin bags in which bulk foods are purchased at the store, like this:


Bad move.

For the last several months I've seen an inordinate number of these moths flying around but could not find the source or reason. And they were reproducing! I would find the tiny caterpillar/larvae inching up the wall to the juncture of the wall and ceiling where they create cocoons in the ceiling-wall right angle. I have killed scores of the flying moths and have had the vacuum cleaner sitting out for the last week in order to use the hose extension to grab moths, larvae, or cocoons off the ceiling or wall.


But this morning I found the source: a plastic, unsealed tub containing a dozen or so bags of sprouting seeds. The bags had holes chewed in them, the seeds were "a mess," there were moths and larvae and cocoon remnants—an entomological crime scene. So all that got thrown away, the sprouting containers thoroughly washed, and hope restored. There are no doubt a few moths remaining in hiding, but hopefully I've broken the cycle having destroyed their breeding ground.

On a hunch that the plastic bags might have been part of the problem, earlier this week I went to Ikea and bought a bunch of quart-size GLASS food storage containers. They don't have screw on lids, which I wanted, but the lids seem pretty tight. So I proceed with a new rule: no dry bulk items get stored in anything edible or permeable by Pantry Moths. If you see any of these little moths around, make sure all your dry, bulk foods are stored in tight containers. (I occasionally see these moths in the bulk section at Earthfare. I wouldn't be surprised if I'd brought some home with me. I'm sure they can get into the bulk containers at the store.)

Never a dull moment.


  1. I have the same problem. I cannot keep crackers. They love them. If I put crackers in the fridge they go soft. I bought a tight container and somehow they still got in. Now, we just eat the crackers quickly so they don't sit. Good post. Right now I'm doing an experiment to catch fruit flies. Hopefully one of them works.

  2. Thanks for the input, Lisa. My battle rages on. I thought I had broken through, but I still vacuum up/kill 20 or so in a 24-hour day. I've set out pheromone traps which have helped some, but every night new ones appear on the ceilings and walls. Very frustrating. I hope I can wear them out by eliminating every single one I find and stop the reproduction. I've learned a lot and will post a follow-up once I solve this problem.