So… You opened the cupboard and a little moth flew out. Nothing to worry about. It’s “just a moth”. Over the next few days you see a few more but after a while you see them daily and they seem to be getting into more rooms.
Maybe you tried spraying for them with something you picked up at the store but for some reason they keep coming back.
The next time you see one of these moths take a closer look. If it’s sporting a gray and copper, two-tone paint job you likely have an Indian meal moth infestation.
This moth is frequently a pest of stored food and can cost you a small fortune in dry goods if you don’t act quickly to find the source of the infestation.
The adult moth ranges in length from between 1/4 and 3/8 inch and is easily identified by its distinctive markings on its wings (shown above).
Damage to food is caused by the caterpillars of this moth. They prefer to feed on coarse grains and meal (corn meal, grits) but have been found in dried fruit, nuts, bird seed, dry pet food, cereal, chocolate and red peppers.
Caterpillars damage food by consuming it, adulterating it with their droppings and most notably by contaminating it with the silk webbing they use to create a protective mat. This silk is often the first noticeable sign of infestation.
In advanced stages of infestation these small, cream colored caterpillars will be seen crawling away from infested foods to weave their cocoons. They tend to crawl up and away from where they grew up and the silken cocoons can usually be found in the cracks and corners of shelving immediately above the infestation.
This insect does not transmit any known disease but the damaged food becomes highly unpalatable.
This pest is usually destroyed during food processing where fumigation, milling and cooking processes are used.
Many products are brought into our homes that escape this kind of processing or get re-exposed to them during storage and transport. Bird food and pet food are two of the more common sources of infestation.
It is impossible to remove 100% of the insects eggs during processing so often they are in products when we buy them. Most infestations are encountered in products that have been improperly stored or kept beyond their usable shelf life. This allows the eggs to hatch.
Once you discover Indian meal moth in your home it is necessary to inspect a
All of your stored food (unless refrigerated) for evidence of caterpillars, webbing and cocoons. This includes pet food, dog bones, bird seen and especially any bulk grains.
Canned goods, fresh fruit and vegetables are immune to infestation. As are sealed plastic packages, “zip loc” bags, Mason jars, and Tupperware unless the moths originated there. Inspect the lids for cocoons before returning them to the cupboard. Boxed goods and twist-tie bags are especially vulnerable.
Infested food must be disposed of outside of your home. Any food which is kept must be stored in air-tight containers to prevent re-infestation and isolate any infested food which isn’t discovered.
Storage shelves should be washed thoroughly and a residual pesticide applied to cracks and crevices around shelves and cupboards.
The general rule for preventing most food pests is; any dry goods which will be stored for 30 days or more must be stored in air-tight containers or refrigerated. This includes pet food and bird seed.
If products are to be stored longer than 3 months they should be frozen.