DIY pantry moth control tips for getting rid of them and keeping them away
May 2021 ACES pest control
Beside yourself trying to figure out how to get rid of pantry moths?
Also known as the Indian meal moth, flour moth or grain moth, pantry moths are common in NZ and are mostly found in pantries and cupboards, and their food of choice is flour and grain products.
Pantry moths lay tiny gray-white eggs in flour, cereal, pet food, and other dry produce. When the eggs hatch, larvae feed on your cerals or whatever you have on offer. The maggots then leave the food source and travel away to form cocoons. Mostly people see this, an impressive army of maggots on their ceiling. The maggots are creamy colour ( not snow white) and smaller than fly maggots. The often head along the upper skirtings to around the kitchen and into the next room, commonly the dinning room or lounge. Eventually they hatch into adult moths, starting the whole cycle over again.
They usually hitch a ride on loose produce in your grocery bags and have probably come from from infested grain stores and warehouses. The adults are quite easy to distinguish; a body measuring about half-an-inch long with gray and reddish brown wings. You’ll probably find these first, followed by the larvae’s silk webs in your food containers.
If you’re not seeing this type of activity, check our how to identify bugs guide to find the critter in question.
ACES pest control explains more, ‘Mostly people say they see small grey coloured moths flying around at night time. Or they see lots small maggots in the kitchen ceiling. Also finding webbing or a large number of maggots crawling about in cereal is often an indication of an infestation. You should inspect grain products, cereals, spices, dry pet food, anything GRAIN based”
Doesn’t sound good, does it?
Before they eat you out of house and home, we’ve run through the best ways to rid yourself of these destructive pests and make sure they never come back.
Are you seeing moths near your clothes as opposed to your kitchen? Clothes moths are larger than pantry moths and you wont see the maggots on the kitchen ceiling or the webbs in your stored food. You might want to consult our How to get rid of moths and how to identify them guide.
How to get rid of pantry moths couldn’t be much more effective than with a pheromone trap.
With special pheromone attractant mixed in with a glue board, males are attracted by the scent and trapped, which prevents them from reaching the female and breeding, breaking the pantry moth group life cycle.
Place the trap in areas where dry foods are stored, like kitchens, cupboards, basements and garages, ensuring there is ample air circulation in an undisturbed location away from your family and pets’ footfall.
Give it a couple of weeks to work its magic as it takes this length of time the disrupt the breeding cycle
CLEAR OUT YOUR PANTRY
It’s a no-brainer, really, but having a thorough clear out of your pantry is the first real step in defeating the mighty pantry moth.
Here’s a short checklist to run through while you’re cleaning.
Firstly, look for larvae in and on food packaging, including but not limited to grain-based products like flour, cereal, pasta, and baking mixes along with nuts and sweets. INSPECT EVERYTHING in the pantry, including the folds of packaging. Also any holes used for shelving in the walls. The moths love to cocoon in these. Pay particular attention to what looks like spider webs inside containers of grain based food. Remarkably these have been spun by a moth!
If you find any infested food, THROW IT OUT immediately and wipe down the containers with undiluted vinegar. Using vinegar is extremely effective as while the vinegar cleans, it changes the pH of anything on the surface and kills any moth eggs and larvae.
Vacuum your shelves, walls, baseboards, floor and ceiling, paying attention to any corners, undersides and brackets. Then, with equal parts hot water, soap and vinegar, get to scrubbing and mop the floor.
Straight after you vacuum, make sure you remove the vacuum bag, and throw it out in the outside trash can as you do not want to reintroduce any larvae after all that effort do you? If you have a bagless vacuum, give the dust compartment a good washing out.
WILL THEY COME BACK?
Like pretty much all insect infestations, prevention is the best control for these pantry pests.
Once you’ve taken one of the above eradication tactics, it’s time to take heed of these tips to keep pantry moths away once and for all.
INVEST IN BETTER CONTAINERS
When you’ve cleaned out your pantry and you’re about to restock, consider the advice from experts at ACES pest control
‘put all grain based food in air tight containers. Ensure that the container lid has a continuous seal and the mechanism for securing the lid is outside the container. Moths can gain entry via an internal locking mechanism such as ” click clack“.’
Vice-versa if you inadvertently bring home food containing eggs, the newly hatched moths won’t be able to get out and so will only infest the one container.
Plastic bags and cardboard boxes just won’t cut it as the intrepid moths will likely chew through them to get to the good stuff.
Store your flour, grains or preserves in these glass mason jars with tightly sealed lids to keep pantry moths from spoiling your food.
Most pantry moth problems start with a infected food from the grocery store so taking extra care when you’re there will help prevent the infestation headache.
When you’re buying bulk grains, flour, dried fruit or even coffee, inspect the produce carefully when scooping into bags for weighing. Same goes for cans and packages; rinse them before putting them away to kill off any larvae.
Storing your foods in a cool dry place, or better yet the freezer will prevent infestation as most pantry pests multiply faster in humid conditions.
Surprisingly, many products can be stored in the freezer, including nuts, flours and dried fruit and herbs. And if you’re particularly concerned about anything you’ve bought at the grocery store, you can place the bags in the freezer for a week to kill off any potential eggs.
Making a natural repellent is a simple way to deter the moths from re-entering your store cupboards. Moths in general hate any sort of strong smell – it’s a good thing we love the smell of essential oils and herbs?
Create a mix of essential oils like cedar (they particularly hate this), lavender and mint and mix with equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. Et voila, spritz away in corners, on tins and jars… you name it, spritz it.
You can also fill sachets with a mix of strong-scented herbs like bay leaves, lavender, rosemary, and thyme and tuck them in your pantry, replacing them overtime to keep them effective.