What is an Indian meal moth? They are small in size reaching about 3/8 inches long and with their wingspan 5/8 inches. They are grayish brown and are commonly found in the state of Colorado and Pennsylvania, but they can be found all across the United States. They are most often found in pantries where there is old dried food including grains and cereal that have been sitting in the cabinet for a long length of time. They are among one of the most common reported pests within stored grain throughout the country.
Other types of foods that the moths will feed on are nuts, herbs, dried fruits and dried flower seeds. You may also find them in dry dog food and bird seed if it has been sitting for several months. The female will lay from 100 to 300 eggs within their short adult life on or around the food so that once the egg is hatched the larvae will not have to travel far or at all in order to eat and grow.
The Indian meal moth does best in warm temperatures but doesn’t survive with extreme heat or cold. As the moths become adults within a month’s time they can grow and develop rather quickly and soon you will have an infestation. They cocoon in cracks and crevices where they will not be disturbed and once they become a full adult they will live for one or two more weeks. They complete their life cycle from 25 to 135 days. Eggs will hatch anywhere from 2 to 18 days, depending on the living conditions and if they are within its most optimal temperatures at 70 degrees.
These moths can be avoided by using insect resistant containers and storing dried food in them. You can also keep things in the refrigerator that normally you would leave in the cabinet. If you have an infestation developing you must first find the source of the problem. Once you determine where the moths are coming from then discard the food. If you prefer to make sure that they are all dead from the cabinet and the rest of your home then place the source of the problem in the freezer for at least a week to get rid of all of the eggs, pupae and adults. This will ensure that none of the moths survived for a new infestation.
If you are not sure where the Indian meal moths are located then search for some webbing within the various types of food that they prefer. If you have old spices that are not being used or haven’t been used in several months then look inside for some webbing materials. Search through cereal boxes and other types of grains. If the food is not sealed or wrapped tightly then chances are there are moths growing inside or other types of insects. Anything you have in your cabinetry or pantry you should consider keeping sealed from anything growing or developing inside the food. Avoid any type of temporary solution to a continuous problem if you happen to not eat the food quickly or within a short period of time.
After finding the source of the problem, take everything out of your pantry and look through it. Don’t take any chances and start getting rid of products that are not sealed shut and not closed tightly. Vacuum inside the pantry and include all of its cracks and crevices where there could be others waiting to hatch or waiting to become adults. Larvae will appear about 1/2 inches long and is a dirty white color. The larvae will crawl away from the infested area to cocoon in an undisturbed area. If you happen to have a very large infestation then you will may find cocoons a very far distance from the food source because there is no quiet dark areas left for the cocoon to develop.
Another way to determine you have an Indian meal moth infestation is when you see moths that are flying around in a zig zag pattern. They often are not very good flyers and will fly close to the ground or around the food source. Other sites to look for is clumping food that isn’t usually clumpy. If you have a particular cereal that has separate pieces and suddenly they are attached together then look a little closer for some webbing material. You may notice some pale colored larvae.
Indian meal moths are rather harmless and will not be difficult to manage as long as you take the steps to prevent them in the first place. Upon noticing a problem then consider changing the way you keep your grains and cereals especially when you don’t eat them too quickly. By following the steps in maintaining fresh and healthy food then you will not have a problem with moths in your pantry.