Identifying and Preventing Pantry Moths

Moths will eat into your dry goods in your cupboard, threatening your health and sanitation. Learn how to get rid of them for good.

Posted by Sirena Rubinoff | Feb 17, 2010
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No one wants to share their living and eating space with bugs and other pests, but invitation or not, these critters have a way of making our homes into their homes. Pantry moths do this quite often, and they can pose a threat to your health if they get into your food and lay eggs -- aside from the fact that it's just not appetizing to share your kitchen with uninvited winged creatures. So, if you think you might have a moth problem in your home, we'll tell you how to identify the buggers and what to do about them.

How do pantry moths get inside a home?

Oftentimes, we are the ones who inadvertently bring moths into our homes by purchasing dry groceries that already have moths or moth larvae inside of them. This can even happen with sealed bags and boxes. Some examples of food products that have been found to contain moths include: flour, pasta, cereal, breads, beans, spices and cookies. You should be even more wary about pet food, and especially birdseed, because these products are not as highly regulated as human foods. A good rule of thumb is to store your pet foods in the garage or a storage shed that's far away from your kitchen pantry.

Identifying Pantry Moths

Moths can thrive almost anywhere inside a home, but your pantry is probably the easiest place to spot them -- or see the aftereffects of them living there. If you notice that your food containers or packaging have lots of small holes, then you probably have a pantry moth (also called Indianmeal moths) problem. You can be sure of it by smelling or touching the food inside the containers with holes. If the food smells different than usual or is sticky when it shouldn't be, there are moths lurking nearby.

At this point, you should have a good look around your pantry to see if you can find any moths. They look like brown or dull-colored butterflies. If you don't see any, they may simply be very adept at hiding; alternatively, you could have a larvae infestation. Another sure sign of a pantry moth problem is webbing in dark places.

What To Do

If you think you have a pantry moth problem, you need to do an immediate and thorough cleaning. Start by taking everything out of the infested area and trash anything suspect in an outside garbage bin. Next, you need to vacuum the whole area. Use a cordless, handheld vacuum if you have one, or use an attachment to your regular vacuum.

After that, scrub down all food storage containers, walls, shelves and other hard surfaces with a mixture of water and vinegar. Use some elbow grease when you do this, as it will help you to remove any larvae that are still attached to the surfaces. Once your pantry is clean, you can put out a commercial moth trap to catch any remaining critters.

Preventing Pantry Moths in the Future

The first step is to always maintain a clean kitchen. It's good for your health and it gives uninvited pests a lesser chance of surviving under your vigilant eyes. Second, you can kill moths and moth larvae that come into your home with your groceries by storing grain-based food items in the freezer for the first four days after purchasing them. Moths can't survive in freezing temperatures, so you'll get rid of any potential problems before they even begin. Lastly, be sure to store your grain-based items in airtight containers once you remove them from the freezer. You can also place a few bay leaves in the airtight containers with your grains to keep moths away, since they are averse to the smell of these leaves.

A final tip for keeping moths out of your kitchen is to leave a few cotton balls soaked with essential eucalyptus oil in the corners of your pantry. This, in addition to the plans outlined above, should help you maintain a clean, healthy and moth-free pantry.

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