Monday, June 15, 2009

Indian Meal Moths...

You flip on the switch to the pantry...and a few tiny light brown moths take to flight. When they land...your little pantry friend probably looks just like the photo to the right. The fact that you see this moth flying around means that with almost 100% certainty...that you have an infestation of Indian Meal Moths in some of your food.

As a youth...I loved club crackers. My mother was kind enough to feed my habit and so I would sit down and plow through a whole package in one sitting. One day as I sat back engrossed in an episode of Star Trek...I munched my way through a sleeve of club crackers. I went to lift one of the final crackers to my mouth...and caught a glimpse of something moving across the cracker. It was an Indian Meal Moth caterpillar!! I looked in the empty cracker bag and found that the caterpillar had lots of friends! Who knows how many I had eaten! It took a long time until I would even consider eating a club cracker again...and to this day club crackers kind of gross me out.

Other signs that you may have an infestation...other than them flying around...or having them on a cracker...are tiny holes in your packaging to your food products...tiny dust-like particles of food from their chowing down...and a web material that they spin.

You can expect to find them in most any kind of food...because they really eat most anything. food...herbs...etc...etc...they will eat it.

There are lots of people handing out advice on how to get rid of these "pantry moths" on Internet. Some are trying to sell their sticky lures or other spraying gadgets. Others are giving out good sound advice.

Here is mine...born out of experience. Think of these things like having a lice breakout. No halfhearted effort will suffice. Otherwise they will spring right back. They lay 400 or so eggs over a two or three week period. They can easily have six generations in a year!! That is a lot of offspring. These eggs can be laid in all kinds of cracks and crevices...unseen to the naked eye. They should not be expected to disappear without taking drastic measures.

Here are the steps that I would take and recommend...

1. Good news! It's spring cleaning time! Take EVERYTHING out of the pantry. Seriously...everything...cans included. If you feel tempted to leave something in...just remember that they may have laid their eggs on the things you want to leave in...and you may have to do the whole process over again!

2. Donate or freeze what you take out. Donate questionable items or items you don't mind tossing to someone who has chickens! What you want to keep...put in the freezer for a day or so to kill any potential eggs on or in the product.

3. Use a vacuum and thoroughly suck up every crack and crevice...starting at the top and working down.

4. Thoroughly wash the pantry shelves down with soap and water. Some even go a step beyond this and spray some sort of a pesticide out too...just to make sure.

5. Make sure everything is dry...and then stock your shelves again.

As far as avoiding them in the future...

1. Put your open boxes into sealable mason jars.

2. Rotate your food storage.

3. Some would say to avoid bulk food bins that they say can be carriers of the eggs.

4. Refrigerate or freeze items that are susceptible to infestation.

5. Keep the pantry clean.

6. If you see a moth again...quickly try to find the culprit product and get rid of it quickly and hope you don't have to repeat this whole process again!!

The other option of course is just to eat them! While I am not planning on doing this anytime soon...consuming the moths at any stage is harmless...and more than likely a good source of protein! That is...if you can turn off that part of your brain that says how gross it is to eat bugs!


  1. We had an infestation of these once before knowing what they were. What a mess! They were in our dried fruits stored above our closet, so they had made nests in our clothes as well as the food stores. Took a long time to get rid of them. We are crazy vigilant about spotting them now. Horrible little buggers! :)

  2. Is there any way to clean the grain once it has been infested? We have 500 lbs of wheat.....

  3. Hmmm.... I haven't ever heard of anyone trying...not to say that it can't be done. I poked around a bit and couldn't find any info on how to do it. I think that most people cut their losses and feed it to animals...or a less desirable action would be to toss it out.

    Right now wheat at the cannery is basically 6 bucks for a 25 pound bag. Your talking about exerting what more than likely would be a bunch of try to save buggy wheat...when for $120ish you could just replace it all!

    I'd be happy to feed it to my chickens if you don't have any! could just eat it before it get's worse...if you can stomach it!

    Check out this article...