Overcoming a pantry moth plague

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know we dealt with these evil, stupid pantry moths for a while. Even once you nip them in the bud, you still continue to look over your shoulder for their fluttering wings.

I’ve been quite surprised and almost alarmed that this has become one of the most popular posts on NOH. I don’t know if that’s because these moths are becoming more prevalent (I can’t remember ever having them or hearing about them growing up) or if I’m just more aware of them now. But to put it in the words of the Waterboy’s mama, “These bugs are the Devil!”

I decided to put together a free comprehensive guide for those who are battling pantry moths but getting nowhere. I know it can be frustrating and feel like you’re not progress, but you’re not alone. Find out what you need to know about the life cycle of these little buggers, how to sweep your home of all traces of them (plus what you’re looking for exactly when you search for them) and how to keep them from coming back! Just enter your best email address below, confirm your address in the email you get immediately after and start reading. You’ll also start receiving the NOH News weekly newsletter with recaps of what has been happening on No Ordinary Homestead, tips, contests, blog highlights, personal insights from me that you won’t find elsewhere and more!

If you’ve had pantry moths in your home, what did you do to get rid of them? Or are you still battling them months/years later??

I’ve been putting off writing this post…because to be honest I’m totally repulsed by these things.  In fact I am utterly disgusted by what I’m about to share with you. But they are an incredibly common problem in the kitchens and pantries of the world. And since we almost all buy staple products that have been sitting on a warehouse shelf for at least some stage in their lives, we’re all at risk.

Let me forewarn you the following pictures are icky, gross and not appetizing in the least. They may even cause you to get the creepie crawlies or the heebie jeebies. I apologize in advance.

A few months ago, I noticed a fine, silky webbing in what I thought was an airtight container of oats. Then I saw it in some cereal, a container or rice and so on.

“What the heck is that??” I thought. And then I pulled out a package a wheat germ, ready to bake some muffins and found this guy on the bottom of the package:

pantry moths

GROSS! These little larvae actually make me want to hurl. But at the same time they also make me really mad that they think they can invade my pantry and eat our food. I mean seriously.

Meet the pantry moth, properly know as the Indian Meal moth (Plodia interpunctella). They are usually most active in summer months, and that’s when they got really bad for us…but they will hang with you for a long while and having you praying every day that you don’t see any more traces of them. And they will hunt down those little kernels of wheat germ that drop to the bottom of the box or spilled flour on a shelf and begin a thriving colony in your home.

pantry moths

I now have a vendetta against these creatures in all stages of life. You may first notice the little brownish moths that flit around your kitchen. They will lay somewhere between 60 and 300 eggs which will hatch 2-14 days later. The mommy moth, wanting to take good care of her kids, will usually lay these close to a food source. Then, once they hatch, they don’t have very far to travel before they start to feast. The larvae/worms look a bit like small caterpillars are a whitish-yellowish color with little black heads and about 2/3-inch (1 cm) long. They will burrow into anything and everything they can find, continuing to eat for 2 – 41 weeks, depending on the temperatures. They take longer to complete their life cycle in cooler weather. And once they are finally full and have left behind their tell-tale webs, they will find crawl off somewhere looking for a cozy place to nest and spin a cocoon. This will often be crevices in your kitchen you don’t normally see or maybe even where the ceiling meets the wall. They seemed to find that a particularly nice nesting place in our house.

So not only will you find these delightful creatures in your pantry, but sometimes you will actually be lucky enough to see them crawling across your ceiling. We went into the kitchen one morning and I swear there were no less than 5 of these things crawling around up there. We promptly killed them and hoped not to find anymore. But there were more…there always are.

pantry moths

I seem to find moths in cycles, after a couple of them seemed to have hatched at once. They’re very easy to catch in your hand and then I just smoosh them in a paper towel or on my dirty work jeans. And I have to say I’m really not a fan of bugs, but somehow killing those moths is a pleasure.

The only really good way to get rid of these evil creatures is to go on a massive cleaning mission. You need to take everything out of your pantry, cabinets, etc and wipe it down. Make there there are absolutely no food crumbs anywhere. They don’t need much to feed and they will find even the smallest collection of crumbs to live off of until you still some flour or a bag of rice and forget to clean it up. If you have your cabinets lined with paper, remove it and put down new stuff. I’m pretty sure these moths would LOVE to nest under the paper.

Indian meal moths will eat a lot of things, from dried fruit to nuts, grains, rice, cereal, OATS, powdered milk, chocolate, candy, seeds, pet food, crackers, pasta…they will seriously devour just about any sort of staple in your pantry, leaving silky webs in everything. You can sift out the webbing but in the case of nuts, they will probably eat a hole through every nut in the bag which really tends to make them a lot less appetizing.

And apparently, they love to nest under things you don’t use very often…

I have a collection of baskets on top of our very high kitchen cabinets that I don’t too regularly. The took a liking to one basket in particular which had some sort of fruit in it at one point (it’s been a few years so I can’t remember anymore). So I was moving some of the baskets around, searching for something, I go to lift this one down and notice that there is a pantry moth jamboree taking place.

pantry moth

Disgusting! So this basket promptly went into the trash and I did as good a job dusting up on top of there as I could. I didn’t find any more of the bugs on the other baskets but I can assure you I inspect each one of them closely now before I use them.

pantry moth

Apparently these things tends to overwinter and we might get a rash of pantry moths hatching in April. I just can’t wait. Until then, I have quarantined all packages of oats and wheat germ to the freezer (they seem to be especially tasty and I have to wonder if I brought them in with the oat packaging from Lidl). I also keep a very close watch on all of my “airtight” containers that don’t really seem to be as airtight as originally thought.

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths

  • To prevent pantry moth problems, carefully inspect every package you buy for signs of tiny little holes. I honestly never saw anything when I bought the foods and if you’re looking at something that has flaps or is a bag inside a box (like cereal), you likely won’t see any evidence of them until you get the box home.
  • For foods that you rarely use but are especially susceptible to pantry moths (like seeds or spices), try to buy smaller quantities that you can use up quickly. I know it’s not always economical but it can save you a lot of headaches. Or make sure that the items are stored in the fridge or freezer, airtight containers to prevent infestation.
  • If you think something could be infected or see evidence of infection, do one of the following:
    • place it in your freezer 0°F for four to seven days
    • microwave it for five minutes
    • bake it in a shallow pan or tray in the oven at 140°F for one hour or 120°F for two hours. Stir food periodically to prevent possible scorching.
    • Dried fruits can be placed in cheese cloth bags and dipped into boiling water for six to ten seconds to kill external pests.
    • Sift the food to remove insect silks and any larvae that may be pigging out at the buffet. Silks and bugs will not harm you if eaten, just make you gag if you realize you’ve eaten one.
    • If you are certain insects have been killed, contaminated food like seeds or nuts can be used outdoors during winter months for bird feed.
  • If you’ve had an infestation, the only sure way to prevent them from continuing to grow is to start cleaning like mad. Take everything out of your cabinets and vacuum up every trace of food, no matter how small. Pull out appliances from your wall and clean behind and under them with soap and water.
  • Immediately destroy or bag any cocoons or worms you might find and heavily infested bags of food. Get them as far from your house as quickly as you can. Don’t just leave them sitting in your garbage can in the kitchen for a week or two. Bury them, squish them, drown them, take them out to the curb…just get these pests away from your home and their food sources.
  • Be vigilant and constantly on the lookout for them. As I mentioned, we have been dealing with pantry moths (well more than larvae than the moths) for several months now and I have really had enough. The numbers are certainly fewer now but I have not torn apart my kitchen yet to clean up anything and everything I can find, but I do think I have eliminated all of the major problem areas. So we’ll see what happens!
  • Be especially careful wen purchasing grains, flour, seeds, pasta, spices and dry pet food. They seem to find birdseed especially tempting.
  • If you continue to find moths, you need to make a another pass through your food stores and clean everything again. There are likely some holed up in a collection of plastic bags or in a box of brownie mix or an airtight container you think they’d never get into (or escape) — but they do!

Have you ever had pantry moths in your home? I have to say this is the first time I’ve ever experienced something like this and I was pretty surprised. I’m not a neat freak but I always clean up spills and keep my flour and things like that in snap-top containers. But apparently I either wasn’t closing them well or they’re just not truly airtight because I found a lot of webbing inside those things.

Update August 22, 2011

I purchased pheromone traps a few moths ago and these have made a huge impact on catching moths — but it still doesn’t catch them all. I have bought many different kinds of traps at this stage because you need to change them every 6 months (they get full and the stickiness/scent decreases) but I find the ones that are open paper traps work far better than the little houses.

One of our big problem areas has been my spice cabinet so I finally had had enough last week and I tore the whole thing what I found was really gross.

I have a tendency to buy sesame seeds for one recipe and then swear to myself that if I buy the bigger, cheaper bag, I will find a great recipe to use the rest of them in. Or sprinkle them in my salad. But then I never figure out what to do with the rest of them. Now I know that I can just leave them out for pantry moths and turn it almost into a science experiment for Mackenzie. I was pretty amazed at the way these things just tunneled around in the jar, eating their way through the seeds.

It was really an entire pantry moth ecosystem inside this jar, from worms to moths to eggs galore. Oh joy.

indian meal moths

So I hope and pray that this was what was causing my spice cabinet (which I have to admit is a regular-sized cabinet so kinda large) to be infested. I have caught and killed quite a few more moths since then. And found another package of spices that had a hole in it which they infiltrated. It went immediately into the trash.

I also discovered them inside a box of brownie mix that I was finally going to make, just to have it out of my kitchen. I tend to stay away from mixes and like to make my own, but we had a box that was sent in a care package from the US, so I though Mack would enjoy them. I did find it a bit strange that there was some chocolate powder on the top of the box, but didn’t give it too much thought — then opened the lid and saw all the webbing inside and the moths. Into the trash it went (outside, not inside!)

I’ve also still been finding and killing a bunch of worms on the ceiling and walls in the kitchen lately, but not too many moths. My fear at the moment is that they have built a nest behind my kitchen cabinets — and if that is the case, I’m just going to have to wait them out. I hope that now that I’m seeing mostly worms, I will be able to kill them all and stop the cycle.

My pantry (which is a closed off room separate from my kitchen), also experienced an infestation over the last couple of months. I was killing moths like crazy in there whenever I walked in. The pheromone traps caught tons of them, and a lot I squished by hand. I have not yet found any major areas of infestation (aside from all the nuts I threw away at Christmas) so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for worms and what not. I just hope and pray things are under control in that room now.

Are they everywhere?

On a side note, we recently had a friend here who used to work for a major national drug store chain in the US. I asked her if they had ever had any run-ins with pantry moths (she immediately called them by their proper name of Indian meal moths) but said that there had been occasions when large amounts of food had been tossed out because moths had been found. They are actually required to throw out the food which is infested — but I have to wonder how many chains just fail to notice that they are infested, how many things get shipped out in winter months when the bugs are mostly dormant and as Chris comments below, how many non-food products are infested with these things as well. They will definitely build nests in small cracks and crevices, and I’ve heard that they love stuff like bunched up bags as well. So just because it’s not food doesn’t mean there are no moths in it.

Updated July 26, 2012

A little over a week ago we moved from the farm to an apartment in Berlin. I have been looking around for these crazy bugs with every thing I packed, and with everything I unpack. I managed to find a few dead ones in several places that had nothing to do with food at all (like between two flaps of cardboard in some boxed up espresso cups I rarely use) and trashed a few things that looked questionable before we even left.

I am hoping and praying that the moths and their larvae stayed behind at the farm and will be eradicated as the house sits empty. All of the shelves have been thoroughly scrubbed down there  as well. So far I haven’t seen any in the new place (knock on wood) so I will remain vigilant and pray that they don’t resurface in something new we bring home.

I hope that if you are on a quest to destroy these pests, that your journey is swift and successful. There is a ton of good advice within the comments, so be sure to read them all!


  1. Patty says

    I noticed a deranged moth in my kitchen four or five days ago. Then I discovered what I thought were maggots. Upon further investigation, I found the source to be a bag of dry cat food. I called the company and they knew right away what we were dealing with. They basically told me to throw everything out. Six bags of food (I had just started to stockpile for winter)in addition, I threw out my toaster and hot air popcorn maker that were on the counter above ground zero. I couldn’t bear to think what was in them after the “march of a million maggots” that I was witnessing. My scrubbing began and I am now on the hunt. I know that there are more behind the wall that I can’t get at. It is my intention to buy containers before I attempt to bring food back into the house. I did find a two more live moths and a couple of dead ones. My question is…if I can manage to kill the rat bastards before they become flyers, will that hasten the demise of the colony? I have been reading everything I can find, but not finding a real solution to banishing them FOREVER as this is just not acceptable. I ordered some spray, but I am somewhat skeptical. Please help!

    • says

      Hi Patty!

      First off, let me say that it is not impossible but they can be real pains in the butt! If you manage to kill the larvae you WILL stop the life cycle. The moths are what actually lay the new eggs. So if the larvae have no access to food and are not able to develop into moths, there will be nothing left to keep the cycle going.

      It is likely that you will have a few stragglers. We have been larvae free for over a year now — but somehow I still will find a moth from time to time. Most of them now have been really small and underdeveloped, though.

      You just need to be vigilant and definitely put anything they enjoy eating in an airtight container or the freezer. This is not only to keep them from getting into a new food source, but if they have already infested the food, they will also not be able to escape and you can throw the whole micro-colony away. (I’ve done this with sesame seeds – ick!)

      If you find many of them in one particular area of your kitchen, pantry or home, look for a noticeable food source. Usually when I’m finding lots of them at once, it’s because they have at least one big colony going that I’ve overlooked.

      A friend recently recommended using a piece of paper covered with Ben Gay. The moths don’t like eucalyptus and she only had that at home, so figured she would try it out in case the moths don’t like camphor either. They actually began to drop dead within a few minutes of sealing them into the cabinet with the cream and many ended up stuck to it. So if you have an old package of it around, it’s worth a try!

      I hope and pray that you are rid of these pests soon – and that you’ll let us know how things go and what works best for you!

    • says

      OK- I have become somewhat of a pantry moth expert when my own home became infested with these buggers awhile back. The more I searched online, the more it seemed that you could never get rid of these pests! So I have researched and learned more than I ever wanted to know about them, but I have come up with a system that works, and keeps them from re-infesting. You can do it with my all-natural pantry moth spray (which is safe to use around food, ,most pets, and children) or you can do it yourself with some make-at-home tips. The key to getting rid of these moths is to get rid of the source, kill as many eggs/ larvae/ adults as you can, and then keep the remaining moths from a) getting back into the food source, and b). mating. You need to get everything out of the pantry- and then spray with my natural pantry moth spray- or if you want to do on your own- mix up some stinky water and heavy essential oils mixed. This will not work as well as the spray- but it will help deter the moths from coming back. Put any food you want to keep in the freezer- or sprinkle about 1 Tb. of diatomaceous Earth into things that are suitable- like your flours and dried grains. It won’t hurt you buy will keep out the moths! Next- get a pantry oth trap. This will keep the moths from breeding as quickly- while you wait for them to die off- you don’t want them starting the whole miserable process over again. There is another method that I am just researching now- involving predator wasps… but this might be a bit drastic for most people and I do NOT yet have any personal experience with them.

  2. reneemclary says

    I wrote 5 months ago and I AM STILL DEALING WITH THIS!!!!

    Aunt Normas spray has helped but now we are getting multiple moths 5-6 per day from around our armoire in the living room! Not near the kitchen. Do yall know of any any any other places they would be feasting?
    My dogs eat in the same room as the armoire but I pick up there bowls and food after about an hour and seal the food in an air tight container.

    I am stumped! My pantry has been demolished and we are in the process of rebuilding it now and what do you know. two moths in there yesterday. WHAT IS GOING ON??

    Anyone have any advice for us?

  3. Logan1 says

    This battle with these demons started with rabbit food. I put one old rabbit cage in the attic and now a have a big problem in the attic…there’s no food up there. Do they eat insulation?

    • says

      It would depend on the type of insulation being used. If it’s something organic or newspaper, then I’ve read that it could be a food source. Also if there is mouse poison, books (they will nest in the binding) or anything like decorative dried wheat (or even straw in the rabbit cage), they could live off that.

      Are you seeing more moths or larvae? Anything with webbing that might indicate a nest?

  4. Suzy says

    I’ve battled these things off and on for YEARS!! In my last apartment we called in an exterminator who specialized in meal moths and he searched high and low for the “nest” and said he couldn’t find it. I said maybe there wasn’t a nest and he replied, “There’s ALWAYS a nest.”

    A year later I found a little used suitcase that I stored under my bed. I kept a pair of wool pants in it with some other things. I opened it and THAT WAS THE NEST!! Meal moths eat wool. And not all kinds of wool, just to complicate life. So make sure all your woolens are in moth balls. They dropped off significantly after I tossed the nest.

    I’m in a new place now and little by little they’ve come back. I’m starting to look for a nest. I also use the traps.

  5. lala22 says

    I always refer people to Aunt Norma’s Pantry moth spray this stuff works and is all-natural. I even used it with food in my pantry and the moths didn’t come back! I love that it’s non-toxic who wants to spray chemicals in the kitchen??!!

  6. Mtomsey77 says

    I’m so glad I found your blog, and great post on pantry moths.
    I started to have this problem 12 months ago and had no idea what they were.  I ended up googling to find it is a common problem, but never spoke to anyone about it as I was embarassed.  I freeze all my flours and nuts once I buy them as I read they are imported into the stores alot of the time in eggs.  I also had to do a thorough clean out of my pantry (mainly the baking shelf), and have since started putting anything bought in packets into air tight containers – having said that I have noticed they can still get into containers.  I did get onto Pantry Moth Traps which are sold in supermarkets in the pest control section.  And I absolutely swear by these little traps.  They come in a pack of 2, and I put one in the baking shelf, and the other in our cereal shelf.  They last about 3 months.  I also read that putting a bayleaf on each shelf is meant to work too, I don”t know how effective that is, but I do it anyway.
    I think you are totally right about them appearing more in the warmer weather.  As I had quite a problem when I first got onto these traps, and they have a sticky coating which the moths fly onto and are basically trapped onto – so you can see how many moths have flown into your pantry basically.  at first there were alot, the next trap I set up there were hardly any so I assumed the problem was gone.  I’ve noticed in the past month or two, THEY ARE BACK!!!  I have just bought some new traps and have already noticed a difference.
    I would be interested in hearing Darrel’s conclusion.  Did the bomb’s solve the problem?  I know you are not meant to bomb where food is stored, but if it is effective long term I would definitely be interested in clearing the pantry and storing food elsewhere to eliminate these pests. 
    Looking forward to hearing other people’s strategies

    • says

      Thanks so much for your comment and I’m glad you found out you are not alone! I also found the traps to be extremely effective and have to admit that I do find a scraggly looking one from time to time still.

      About 5 months after we moved to Berlin, I even discovered that some food flakes for our dog (that we should have fed her long ago) was totally infested. So I froze it first for 24hours and made sure they were all dead, then tossed it out. Thankfully we seem to have gotten to them before any real trouble was caused.

      For us it was really just a matter of staying vigilant, and if we noticed a lot of them around, especially larvae, I would look for a big nest somewhere (like a jar of sesame seeds lol).

      Best of luck and let us know how it goes! 😉

      • pcl says

        Another place in which they love to hide is any unused vacuum cleaner. We had an upright, which we used all the time and an old Hoover canister, which was used rarely, in my parent’s house. One day I want to put a new bag in the canister and found a ton of them.

    • says

      I tried bombing my whole apartment with the raid bomb that said they would kill moths but it mentioned nothing about the larvae. It also claimed to work against moths but it didn’t say what kind I assumed it was used broad sense. I was willing to to try anything thinking about doing it again in my room because this seems to be where they maybe started. I have yet to figure out where they actually originated I’m so groced out it has just made my insomnia more intense especially since their in my room. I was starting to come to terms with it and starting to sleep when I seen one on the ceiling that decided to drop down so now I’m even more groced out. I would like more remedies to kill the larvae just seing more larvae than moths! You said white vinegar and I think u said pepperment oil repels them. Is there anything that I can spray that continues to kill the larvae in the same manner that bug spray continues to work.

  7. mezzy72 says

    i have them just in my bedroom theres no food at all in there i even got a guy in to clean my carpets i just now went to go to bed and  counted 50 on the ceiling not including all the ones flying around, i just cant get rs of them, going to get a bomb tomorrow to put in there but  just emptied a whole can of spray that says they kill them so fingers crossed i can get them under control.

    • says

      Can you tell me the name of the spray you decided to use? I am thinking of using the auntnormas spray! I bombed and it slowed them down but it didn’t stop them? I’m not seing any big moths only the little ones. Thinking of bombing again in my room but it’s hard because I have a pet and she’s always putting and searching for things to put in her mouth. I would like a more natural way to kill them long term.

  8. Drisana says

    My husband and I just moved into a duplex about a month ago and I immediately began noticing moths around the house. I’ve seen them mostly in the basement and living room  Every once in a while I will see one in our bedroom. I haven’t noticed any flying around the kitchen oddly enough yet. I did a quick search of my pantry area and found two dead ones but nothing alive. I plan on doing a more thorough search of all food items when its not 3 in the morning. Does anyone know where they might be coming from since they don’t seem to be in my kitchen or where my dog food it kept in my second bedroom? Could my neighbor be the infected one and they are finding their way over to my side? I kill about 5-8 moths a day usually as I said in the basement or living room. Where should I start looking? The house was built in the 50’s so there is TONS of nooks and crannys. The basement is partially finished (although they seem to be mostly on the unfinished side. Could the previous resident had them and taken most of the larvae/ eggs with her when she moved out just leaving some stragglers???


    • says

      Are you certain they are pantry moths and not another type? Pantry moths have a rather distinctive coloring, but they also need a food source. Wiki has some decent pictures: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indianmeal_Moth

      Any kind of grains, nuts or dried fruit is a likely first place to look. Flours can also be at risk. I have heard of them living off wallpaper paste, but honestly I think that’s rather unusual.

      Hope you’re able to get them under control!

    • Marlene McNamee says

      Helen…have you had any success in finding the moths? Your problem sounds just like mine. This is the 3rd summer that we have gotten moths. They are found in the basement and top floor (bedrooms), nothing on the first floor which has my kitchen and living room. We can catch 5-8 overnight! I thought they were at my neighbors (connected home) since he has a cat, isn’t home much and frankly i’m not sure cleans his home. He placed 2 traps in his house…nothing! i don’t know what to do. I would love to know if you got to a solution on your problem.
      Thank you!

      • Marlene McNamee says

        Sorry….Drisani! Apologies! And yes, they are definitely pantry moths…we had probably 5 different pest technicians in our house who cannot determine where these moths are coming from! But they all determine that they are yes, in fact, pantry moths!
        Any suggestions would be helpful!

  9. says

    I’ve been battling these things for over a year. I thought I had it solved, and a couple months ago I began seeing them again… grrr! I had thrown EVERYTHING away, they had made their way into lots of unopened packages, I started over using nothing but mason jars to store things, kept open pasta in the fridge, I was so careful and still, they were back. I knew it was only a matter of time until it would become clear where they were now eating. Well, today I discovered that the reason they’re still here is because they can get into mason jars!! Pulled out a jar of oatmeal to make cookies… and voila! webs! So, to anyone who is waging this battle, don’t trust mason jars. Looks like I’ll be throwing everything away… again. :(

    • says

      Helen, do you think that maybe you had eggs in whatever you put in the Mason jars before you closed them up? I have little doubt that these moths are the devil; but if you tighten down the lids well, I would think they’d have trouble getting in there if the seals are new. I have found moths inside my plastic airtight containers that I know have tight seals. But I’m fairly sure the eggs must have been in there and I never knew.

      You don’t have to throw out everything, BTW. If you suspect there may be something in there, you can freezer it for 24-48 hours. it will kill anything alive. Eggs can take a bit longer and need a deep freeze. That is unless you are grossed out at the thought of possibly eating the eggs. ;-/ I use just sift the flours and the webbing sticks together so you can remove it fairly easily.

    • pcl says

      I believe some mason jars have a little button in the lid that pops up if the vacuum has been broken. Could one heat the jar in the microwave, fill it, then close the lid with the button down, so that if the button stays down, one can be sure the seal was not broken? I would think so, but I’ve never tried it. Our house had these things when I was a kid, but they never got past things like flour cans and zip-lock bags (as far as I know). Our cabinets had little rabbit-groves in the back (these must have been so the cabinet-maker could insert a back if need-be; ours were build up against plaster walls, so they were unused); they tended to collect dust from the food stored in them and caulking them while painting the insides of the cabinets helped a lot. I’ve seen some cabinets here in the USA that were actually installed against stud walls before the plaster was put up around them; they must have been a nightmare for all kinds of bugs. I’d try throwing finely ground salt into any crevices that can’t be completely sealed; it’s one of the only things that kill just about any bug or worm that crosses its path while still being safe around food.

  10. Pamela O'Brien Coad says

    We had a pantry moth infestation.our landlord had our house sprayed. I am still finding maggots that I assume are the larvae often on my couches! Could they be breeding inside my furniture?

  11. Dee says

    WOW, just went through this whole ordeal. We didn’t know what they were and lost valuable extermination time in the process. This is what led to the success:
    – purchased the pantry moth traps at HomeDepot
    – removed all food from the cabinets – any food not infested was sealed in a freezer bag and placed in the freezer while treating the kitchen.
    – there is the initial “nursery”, this is where you will see the first moths and they will seem to keep appearing there. In our case, organic seeds were sealed and on top of the refrigerator. They laid eggs in a glass bowl next to the bag, in a cabinet above the refrigerator (no food items were stored in this cabinet which was a surprise) and behind the refrigerator on clean wax paper that had slipped behind.
    – begin in the area of concentration and from top to bottom, remove every item and clean. I used a strong concentration of vinegar and water for the shelves and cabinets. All removable items were washed with dish soap (even the artificial plants on the top shelf – EVERYTHING). Work your way until you have completed the kitchen. Hopefully, you only store food in the kitchen. This took me a few days.
    – During the cleaning days, kill every moth you see. Don’t wait for the traps – they will get the ones you don’t. The trick is to kill them before they lay eggs.
    – Watch out for where you toss infested items – be sure to clean the garbage can after trash pick up. We had some get out of the trash bin, into bird feed in our garage.
    – We did not remove the items from the freezer until certain they were gone. Most of the items were unopened spices with a double seal. Pretty much everything else was tossed.
    – As a precaution, all opened food items stored in the cabinets are placed in sealed quart or gallon bags. I don’t know how long I will continue to do this but I feel much safer and it is a small inconvenience considering what I went through to get rid of them.
    Good luck! There is light at the end of the tunnel :)

  12. Dee says

    Oh yes, one more thing. I used an old toothbrush to clean the cabinets (vinegar/water). This is important because of the crevices between the seams. Be sure to get the hidden spaces not used for storage due to inaccessibility.

  13. Heidi says

    We just had an infestation and are still trying to get rid off these bugs. I used two pantry moth catches from Home Depot and they seemed to do the trick but did not get rid of them completely. I also did a thorough cleaning of my pantry and threw out the two cereals that were contaminated. I however did not think of cleaning the top of my cabinets where I had seen some. I bet that’s where they layed their eggs those little buggers. So tomorrow I will be super cleaning every inch of my kitchen. I just love summer vacation.

  14. Moths not in the pantry says

    I hate them too!!! Mine arrived in a box of those lovely chocolates from Germany, that people seem to think are better than American chocolates! Maybe if you get them in Germany, yourself! If they arrive via a second hand discount place, like Aldi’s beware! I’m not sure where mine came from, but they were bought by a good well intended friend. Since I prefer my U.S.A,. candy I did’nt open them, for ….half a year….actually I did’nt unseal them until the moths arrived at our house. One, two flying around our family room every night! I had no idea what they were! Finally because of the area I picked up the candy box, opened it!!!! Yuckkkkk! They had been truffles!!! now little piles of web,crumbs,worms!
    Well it’s been about 5 years now and just like everybody else, I think they are finally gone and they return. The thing that gets me is I found very few infestations in our kitchen. Now years later they appear to reside in our fireplace and the upstairs bathroom. A few months ago I sealed up the fireplace and bug bombed it, that seemed to get rid of them a year ago? And I took appart the fan light fixture and cleaned it out and sprayed ample bug killer in it! but I just got home from being gone a few days and the hormone traps in those areas are once again filled with moths!!!!!!!
    I’m wondering, can they come in from outside if I’m leaving hormone traps in those rooms, with outdoor exposer? Is there a way to fumigate and kill the eggs/larve/worms??? I don’t really understand what they are eating, since I find none in the kitchen and we no longer let chocolate sit in the open!!!!! Help!!

  15. Marian says

    These horrid beasts have invaded my birds’ room. I’ve been battling them for months. They don’t harm the birds, but I can’t stand them. This morning I dispatched at least 6 larvae I found crawling up the wall. I can’t use harsh chemicals to clean, as that will hurt my birds . Vinegar and baking soda does a good job cleaning, and won’t poison the birds.

  16. Alacrity Fitzhugh says

    I have some insight.They can get through light plastic and thin cardboard (surprise). And if you have seen a flying full sized moth, you have probably eaten a caterpillar sized one (looks just like a maggot).
    To combat:
    Throw out all contaminated foodstuff.
    Use a vinegar and water solution to clean shelves, the vinegar kills the larvae and eggs, or a bleach solution which does the same with chemicals, then rinse well with water. Use the solution liberally to get into cracks and crevices.
    Use simple cheap flypaper or fly traps sprinkled with any grain based product to get the adults.
    Freeze all suspect foodstuff you buy and bring into the house for 4 days, this does work 90% of the time to kill the larvae and eggs. The rumor that it doesn’t work was started by a kid in germany who uses moth larvae to feed his pet tarantulas, so he doesn’t want anything to kill them. The food you buy does have moth larvae in it, manufactures are allowed to sell it, they have a limit on how much it can be infested, not whether it is infested.
    Store all foods in airtight containers and glass is the best.
    Use a small battery operated bug zapper, it looks like a small tennis racket and zaps the little buggers. You use it as you would a flyswatter but you don’t have to hit them hard, it zaps them.
    Repeat each time you see a full sized moth flying around.

    • says

      Thanks for your great comment. Never thought about the electric flyswatters — good tip!

      I have also since frozen many things with these bugs in them and always had them die. Usually before I throw anything in the trash, I freeze it for a day to four just to keep them from spreading further.

  17. Lyn says

    I think I have these living behind our soon to be demolished kitchen cupboards. They are driving me insane. I’ve just had a brainstorm and used packing tape to seal up the gap. If this doesn’t work and I see more lavae crawling up the wall I will probably scream the house down

  18. Nina says

    Oh my god, gross but so helpful, my sesame seeds had clumps and had no idea what they were, I have a weird problem in my kitchen with bugs that sit and die in dark places, sometimes no where near food.

  19. carrie says

    I have pantry moths in the rafters of my bathroom. They are coming out of the exhaust fan. I have had this problem for about 6 months now. I have had the exterminator come out several times. I cannot stand the smell anymore. I will not have him spray again if I can help it. I think they are living in and eating the fiberglass insulation. Is that possible?

  20. mealcreature says

    I got rid of them. I put all of my food in the fridge or freezer and kept it there. They can eat through plastic to the pest of my knowledge. I obsessively cleaned every little crumb for weeks until I stopped seeing them. I used soap and added tea tree oil, bleach, etc. The only thing that worked was making sure not a crumb remained for the moths to feed on and swatting all of them as they appeared. I also stopped shopping at every store I had ever seen one in and prayed like crazy. God gave me wonderful ideas and he and I killed every single little Indian meal creature he made– together.

  21. TM says

    I have been dealing with these moths for most of the summer. I had no idea where they were coming from. The majority of the moths I would find in my bedroom. I did a through clean of my closet shelves (vacuum, vinegar scrub), washed all of the clothes in my drawers, took all woolen and silk to the dry cleaners…. and I still had moths. A friend mentioned to put all dried goods in mason jars which I did. Just yesterday I noticed 5 larvae crawling on my walls and ceilings in the bedroom– completely disgusted. I would kill one and find another. I cleared everything on top of my dresser and noticed a bowl with a broken beaded necklace made of tree/nut seeds I bought in Cuba. Inside the bowl were creepy crawly worms— dozens, just short of saying hundreds and a nest of webbing. To the right of the bowl was a necklace stand with a dozen necklaces hanging, two of which were the same beaded nut seeds from Cuba. Each of the seeds have what appears to be clusters of off white pellets. I initially thought these pellets were the inside of the nuts being pushed out by the larvae, which I assumed buried itself inside the nut, but after further investigation and research, I’m beginning to think these pellets are eggs….clusters of eggs….. hundreds of them. I’m so disgusted: 1) I love these pieces of jewelry and will now throw them away and 2) I was living in this… in my bedroom.

    I put the necklaces into mason jars out of my own curiosity to see if these white pellets are indeed eggs. A moth found a really good food source, one that I never ever in a million years would have thought of!

  22. Plug says

    I found these horrible critters 3 weeks ago. I put everything I could in the refridgerator and freezer. I bought the moth traps, caught quite a few. I squished so many worms and now I see them everywhere. Not literally. But a thin speck on the floor finds me grabbing a paper towel and getting rid of whatever it was. I kept find moths. This morning I took all the zip locks, trash bags etc, opened each box and found too many larvae. At first I was going to save some of these items. I got so sick of them I tossed it all. I should have done that in the beginning. I sprayed Black Flag in each larger bag of trash, put them in the garage, and then sprayed the outside of those bags and the surrounding area. While I have hunted these creatures down I caulked evey crack and cre is in the pantry. I am now in the process of painting this small room. I found one moth in there when there was no food and the cracks were sealed.
    When you begin tossing everything, do not think of the wasted money. Just accept it get rid of them.
    I must add that it is very satisfying each time I feel that little worm “Pop” inside the paper towel.
    I originally bought 18 traps. Iam purchasing more. I do not want to EVER do this again.

  23. Sunshine says

    I’ve had these little blighters for 5 years plus now. I’ve not been able to find pheremone traps that have caught more than one moth. I’ve also tried normal fly strips (which catch a few but are not particularly effective and a UV lantern that I leave on in my kitchen overnight (again it hasnt been particularly effective).

    I did notice that a load of moths came out of hiding when I was stewing some rhubarb one day. I basically had it boiling in a saucepan chopped into pieces with a few tablespoons of water. Normally, I might see one or 2 in an evening, but 8 came out to play in the 20 mins or so that I was stewing – one even flew straight into the pan and had to be fished out. I was making rhubarb cordial, not rhubarb and moth coridal. I’d be really interested to know if this works for anyone else. I’ve found them really easy to kill once I can spot them as they dont seem to have the reflex action to fly away.

  24. Gabbie says

    Glad to find this site and info after a pest control friend told me the little wormies were maggots. I couldn’t accept that at all. I’ve had birds for decades and this is the first time I have ever had these moths. Started this past summer. I would notice the little wormy stage around the kitchen trash, backdoor and now along door trim. Have them in the ceilings like you mention there where it meets the wall. Never thought about it being a nest or web. I have cathedral ceilings and wonder if I can just use a broom on them? Will be hard to physically get to. The moths are easy to kill in your fingers or smack on the wall. They pretty much stay in the living room and kitchen but I think the bird’s seed may be how they got here. I don’t really know. After reading all these posts I really do need to do a super clean and then start watching for signs.

  25. says

    I have been battling the meal moths for a little over a year. It all started with a bag of bird food. Within 2 weeks I had a cloud of them in the pantry. I threw everything away almost and cleaned with soap and water. I also used the traps. I had them controlled with an ocassional moth popping up and a few in the traps. Fast forward a year…my husband purchased a new bag of dog food and suddenly the pantry was full of worms and small moths! Ugh! So yet again, I threw away almost all the food in my pantry. Cleaned with fantastic and installed some traps. Its been a couple weeks and they are almost gone but I hate that it’s a daily vigil and war. It feels like once they came in I am constantly having little outbreaks….

  26. joy says

    We have been dealing with these horrid creatures since about June. They are in our master bathroom behind our shower wall. I had no idea what I was up against until reading this today. Now I’m scared they aren’t really gone and will be back next year. I’m not sure why they are in the bathroom. There’s no food in there. We have our entire bathroom tore up still but Have not seen a moth for about a month.

  27. Amber says

    Ugh I’ve been trying to get rid of these moths for a few years now. It started with a big box of bird seed we bought to feed the birds in the winter. We forgot about the box because it was in our hallway in a closet we hardly ever use, until one day we found at least 100 of those worms on the walls and ceiling. I thought I had a nightmare or was playing in a horror movie for a second, so gross. We then opened the closet and saw that there were even more inside, it was so gross. We got rid of the seeds, cleaned everything and ofcourse we thought we got rid of them. We didn’t.
    I had no idea what they were at that point, and because I didn’t know I didn’t think it would happen again.

    Over the past few years there were many occasions where I had to throw out at least 80% of my food. Bought all different kinds of containers, I spent a lot of money on them, trying to get the best ones, let’s not even mention all the food I had to throw out and buy again. At this point they just make me so angry, stupid bugs!
    At first they were just in the guinea pig food, but we got rid of that problem. Now they take over my tea collection and my rice and today, after a few months without any moths, I found them in my sesame seeds, a LOT of them. Ofcourse I put everything in containers but they still manage to get in somehow. I even bought weck jars butthey don’t help either.
    Sometimes I feel nothing helps. I bought rice with nuts a few months back, the moment I got home I put the box with the closed plastic bag in an airtight container and a couple of months later… full of larvae. HOW do they even get in?! I haven’t even opened it yet! Now I just buy something, eat it as soon as possible, then buy something else, but I hate that I have to do this and I hate how much money they cost me already. I think I never hated any bug more than I hate these moths.
    I haven’t found any traps yet, so can’t use them. :( I tried some homemade things but nothing works. I think the only option now is moving and leaving everything behind, lol.

  28. Katy says

    Shoot! Two years ago I began my fight. I haven’t seen a moth in at least two months and felt I finally won the battle. Just last night one flew out of the basement to my family room while the basement door was open. Shoot! I’m just throwing DE all over the place and hopefully that will work. I had some in my old house and was able to eradicate the problem quickly and easily. Not the case this time.

  29. Debbie says

    Boy these posts really help. I have been working on getting rid of these guys for a couple weeks now . I think we are making progress. I stored my cook books in my pantry, those little devils were in them . I had a few books with paper jackets and I threw those jackets away but didn’t think about looking inside the books. Well I found those little buggers inside the front cover page way back at the crease by the book binding. That’s a win for the home team!! Hopefully as long and I keep killing them and cleaning up everything , I will win.

  30. Lynne says

    I first had meal moths in my kitchen. I thought I had gotten rid of them. Then I moved. I didn’t move anything that was food or could be eaten. The moths appeared again in my new place – just a few last summer. Thought I killed them off because I didn’t see them all winter. They showed up in a closed clothes closet. The door is always closed. However, they have migrated out and I now have an infestation. So what this says to me is that they can eat and breed without grains and that they can sustain themselves and remain dormant over the winter. I to wondered if they could get in from outside. Let’s face it if they are this prevalent people will be disposing of contaminated foods and property. The moths will continue to search for a new home.

    • says

      I fear you’re right, Lynne – they may very well be traveling around with so many traces of these moths being around the world.
      Although we have seen very few of these moths since leaving Berlin nearly 2 years ago, I do see some from time to time in our bathroom. They look like the same sort of moths but not a clue where they would be coming from.

  31. Joanne says

    I found them last year in two different cereal boxes. We threw both boxes out and thought that we were done, but had no idea what we were up against. Like everyone else, we had never heard of them before and researched. We took every measure to eradicate them – vacuuming, washing everything down, tossing everything out, putting up traps, natural sprays, oils and lastly putting all food items into nice, tight containers or the freezer. Also, we cannot forget our cat, Johnny, who was in Stealth Mode every single night. We thought that we had conquered them, not realizing that they pretty much go into hibernation throughout the winter months. Lo and behold, in March, there they were again. REPEAT ABOVE! We believe that our biggest problem is that our walls and ceilings are tongue and groove. If they squeeze in there, you cannot find them. We began taking walls and cabinets down, but still couldn’t find them or get rid of them. Finally, we purchased Trichogramma Wasps. Since we first released them, the number of moths has lessened. We order a batch of 15,000 wasps every other week ($12.50). Don’t fret, you will never know that they are living with you, but you will notice fewer moths. Give them a shot and let me know what you think. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  32. Sam says

    I am exhausted! My husband kept bird food in our kitchen for years. Recently we got married and I noticed moths flying around the house. Normally when I’d catch moths/spiders, I’d put them outside without killing them. Not anymore. Two months ago I found a larvae on my laptop and I just freaked out! I turned the whole house upside down. Washed everything I could, vacuumed, sprayed, call carpet cleaners, and used the floor steamer. After 2 days of scrubbing, spraying, and cleaning, I sat down to have a cup of tea and THERE! Almost half a dozen of them were crawling on my kitchen ceiling! I researched and found out they are the product of those pantry moths I was reluctant to kill. Well, I have a huge pantry, I took out everything, washed and sprayed. Air dried it for a day, and put new food back in airtight containers. I have thrown out boxes and boxes of food. Washed, sprayed and clean every corner of the house including furniture, walls, doors, and pretty much everything between. Kill every moth I find. And they are still there! Occasionally I will see a moth or two every other day, I kill it on sight. But the Larvae is a whole different issue. I kill at least 2 dozens of them every single day, mostly crawling on the ceiling of our kitchen. Thank god I have not found them in any other room yet…But, I am almost ready to laydown and die. I cannot get rid of them no matter what I do. I live in IA, and It’s hot and humid. I spent most of my time looking up scanning the ceiling (even at night with a flashlight!). My neck hurts and I am so grossed out, I can’t eat anything.

  33. Barb says

    I am on my 5th year of them.
    They leave around October and return in July. Each year they come back a little lighter than the previous year but still come back! I have kept the traps out all year but only get new ones starting in July. They started with bad birdseed but I had no clue until I went to buy a new bag and saw them flying around in the store. Couldn’t figure out why I had little moths in my house.
    The strange thing is, each year they start in my living room. It takes a few weeks before they reach the kitchen/pantry area. The bird is next to the kitchen and the living room is about 50 ft away.
    I really don’t know how much longer I can take it.
    I have cleaned and thrown so much food away but they always come back.

  34. Sue says

    Thanks for the book. I’m finding it very helpful. I’m a Florida native and have never had to deal with the moths before this year. Lucky I guess, but I have been buying more bulk grains, nuts, and seeds, which stay around longer than processed food packages.

    When I declared war on my cupboards yesterday, I found larva in oats, sesame seeds and walnuts. Actually, the walnuts had adults and larva ready to hatch. So, all my nuts and seeds are in the freezer and the bulk grains are in mason jars. I plan to inspect the jars for webbing periodically, especially before I open a jar so nothing new can escape.

    I also created 2 bait traps of my own with bits of food (oats, sesame seeds, walnuts, and brazil nuts) in diatomaceous earth. Last night I put them on either side of a plate of water, directly under a bright light. This morning, I had one moth in the water. My ceiling tile seams run away from the kitchen into the den. I found pupae in the seams and 2 way off the to right where 2 walls meet, and also where the wall meets the ceitiling. Nice, safe, cozy spots.

    I sprinkled diatomaceous earth on every pantry and cupboard shelf, but I don’t like having the powder get all over me when I take something out, so I hope I don’t have to fight them for years like some of your other readers.

    So my question: I know food grade diatomaceous earth is added to flour and meal to keep down the meal bug populations. So what if we add it to our food that is constantly attacked: sesame seeds, walnuts, oats, and Brazil nuts? At least the ones that are destined to be used in future recipes where the diatomaceous earth would be mixed with a liquid. The nuts could be rinsed off first.

    I wonder if the diatomaceous earth is harmful to birds? I think adding it to bird seed would be very beneficial. Might even help to keep down bird mites.

  35. says

    As long as it’s food grade, you should be able to add it to those things and eat it yourself or allow animals to eat it. Not something most of us want to eat a lot of, but at the same time, better than throwing everything away with larvae or eating them.

    Cracks in the walls and ceilings have always been an issue. But hopefully with lots of sealed containers and new tricks you’ll have a handle on them soon!

  36. Tara says

    I’m about to clean out my pantry completely for the second time, what a chore. One place where I found many larvae was in the holes where the adjustable shelf supports go. Some of my cupboards have two columns of these holes so in the 3-shelf cupboard there are 20-30 of these drilled holes to allow for several shelf positions. Larvae fit perfectly into these holes. My mother had the brilliant idea to cover the holes with clear packing tape. Worked like a charm, I’m pretty sure none got out through the packing tape. I also found them in screw holes and other crevices of numerous small appliances, and yep they seem to like cardboard alot, I often find them attached to the flaps of cardboard boxes. I used airtght containers for a short while but these had too many small crevices were the larvae were happy. Thorough cleaning (and much tossing) plus traps plus fly paper got rid of them last time but now they are back (but only in the one pantry cupboard that is the hardest to seal up hidden crevices) so this time after cleaning it out I’m trying Aunt Norma’s spray plus BenGay (good tip!) plus freezer. I think for this recent bout they arrived in a box of freezer paper or wax paper or tin foil – some natural brand we recently bought. At least that is where I found a big hoard of them.


  1. […] now that I know what it is– an Indian Meal Moth larva, I feel better. Wait! NOTSOMUCH Seriously? I do NOT have time to deal with my pantry being invaded! Have I not met the lifetime […]

  2. […] untreated it can become worse. Oh my gosh!!! I think that is what they are! I just read this article and the pictures of the worms and cocoons are what I was seeing! The moth carcass was actually a […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *