If you’re not familiar with the Indian meal moth, you’re in for a shock. We’re going to share some information with you today that may cause you to never look at your dry goods pantry foods the same way again. Dry goods are the sugar, four, coffee, grain, nuts, cereals and other dry products you have in your pantry. These are food for pantry pests. Here’s what you need to know.
Fact One: Diet
Would it surprise you if we told you that Indian meal moths don’t eat anything at all? It is true. The adults, which are the moth stage of these pests, don’t eat anything. They only live for a short time. In that time, they mate and lay eggs.
Okay. Why do they get into pantry foods if they don’t eat? Adult meal moths lay their eggs in drygoods so their babies have a food source. It is baby meal moths that eat your food, and they aren’t moths at all. They’re caterpillars that look like shiny maggots with legs.
Fact Two: Color
When meal moth larvae infest a product, they take the color of the product. If they are in white rice, they’re white. If they are in brown rice, they’re brown. It can be very difficult to detect them as larvae.
Fact Three: Webs
You may see webbing before you see caterpillars. As the larvae develop inside a food package, they create cocoons so that they can go from larvae to pupa, and eventually to adult. We probably don’t have to tell you that it is best to throw food out that has “webbing” in it.
Fact Four: Holes
The larvae of meal moths are able to chew through thin plastic, cardboard, and paper. For this reason, they can get into pantry foods and leave no obvious entry points. When you’re purchasing food from the grocery store, look closely at food packages to detect entry points. And keep in mind that larvae will crawl from one package to another when they are in your pantry. For this reason, it is a good idea to store dry goods in sealed glass or plastic containers.
Fact Five: Moths
When you see moths, it is important to understand what you’re looking at. It is rare for an Indian meal moth to come in from the outside of your home. Most of the time, these pests come to your home from the grocery store as eggs. Doesn’t that sound tasty? When they hatch, they feed, cocoon themselves, and emerge as a moth. So, if you see an Indian meal moth in your pantry, it is not likely a warning sign of an impending infestation. That moth is letting you know that your food is already contaminated. Sorry.
Fact Six: Prevention
There is a ton of advice on the internet, but a lot of it is misleading and some of it is outright wrong when it comes to Indian meal moth prevention. Here are some tips that will actually help:
- Check your pantry food packages closely before you buy. While those tiny holes can be hard to see, sometimes you can detect them.
- Refrain from buying pantry foods that have obvious rips or tears in the packaging.
- When you bring pantry foods home, put them into airtight containers before storing them on your shelves.
- When you take pantry foods out of their airtight containers, consider putting the left over product in a sealed plastic baggy or in the refrigerator. In your fridge, eggs won’t hatch and, inside a plastic baggy, you’re going to have a better chance of seeing caterpillars, webbing or, God forbid, one of these tiny brown and tan moths crawling around inside.
Fact Seven: Treatment
What do you do if you see a moth crawling on your shelves or inside a container? Your first reaction might be to throw all your pantry foods out. We wouldn’t recommend this because you can actually save those products. Meal moths are icky, but they can be removed. It is also possible to isolate them and only throw out the products that have been exposed. Along with this, you should wipe down all of your shelves and cabinet walls.
If you’re dealing with Indian meal moths and you are in our Greenville or Carolina service area, remember that the pest professionals here at Spencer Pest Services are standing by to assist you with your pest control needs. Give us a jingle. We’re here to help.