Get Rid of Indianmeal Moths and Larvae

Moth Larva
Indianmeal Moth Larva.

 

Photo courtesy of USDA/ARS-Scott Bauer

Indianmeal moths are one of the most common pantry pests found in homes. They can infest foods very quickly, but you can get rid of Indianmeal moths without hiring a professional. In fact, you can do a better job than a pest control professional because it is your DIY efforts, not insecticides, that will get rid of the moths for good.

To effectively control Indianmeal moths, it is important that you first properly identify them. Once you've confirmed it is moths or their larvae (and not other pantry pests like weevils), follow a simple six-step process to rid your home of these hungry critters.

1. Inspect the Food for Moths

Inspect all pantry foods for evidence of Indianmeal moth presence. Signs include

    • Tiny white worms with black heads
    • Sticky webbing over food or packaging
    • Cast skins and frass (fecal droppings) in and around food

2. Clear Out the Pantry

Remove all foods from the pantry, kitchen cupboards, and anywhere else food is stored, then check on shelving, in corners, in cracks, and around the floor for signs of pest presence.

3. Inspect Each Food Item

Check every food package for worms, webbing, and other signs. Pay particular attention to:

    • Foods that have sat on shelves for any length of time
    • Foods that are in thin or loosely sealed packaging
    • Packages with holes, tears, or other damage
    • Bagged or boxed dog and cat foods

Any foods that have evidence of the pest must be discarded outside the home or treated.

4. Treat or Discard Infested Foods

Treat foods with evidence of infestation using cold or heat to kill all eggs or larvae that may be present. First spread out the food in a thin layer. To treat it by freezing, put the items into your freezer for a minimum of three days. Alternate cold and warm temperatures: Put the item in the freezer for two days, take out and leave at room temperature for two days, then put back in the freezer for two additional days.

To treat using heat, put the food into the oven at 140 degrees F for one hour or at 120 degrees F for two hours. Stir the food periodically to ensure the heat penetrates it fully and to prevent burning. Alternatively, you can microwave the food for five minutes. 

To kill pests on the outside of foods such as dried fruits, put them into a cheesecloth bag and submerge the bag in boiling water for 10 seconds.

Treated food can be eaten (after all insect fragments are removed) or it can be used to feed birds. However, it may be just as easy to discard the food if it is a small amount.

5. Clean the Pantry

Thoroughly vacuum all surfaces of your pantry, including the shelves and floor. Be sure to get into corners and cracks. Do the same with all food storage and cooking areas near the pantry and in the kitchen, such as the kitchen floors, countertops, and cabinets, as well as behind and under the stove, refrigerator, and other appliances.

6. Keep Foods Sealed

For at least the next month, keep all stored food in tightly sealed containers, or store it in the refrigerator or freezer, to ensure that the infestation is completely eliminated. Be sure the containers are insect-resistant, such as thick plastic or metal containers with tightly fitted lids. When practical, buy foods in quantities that you will use up quickly, or store excess in the refrigerator or freezer.

Prevent future infestations by keeping the pantry and other food areas clean and free of crumbs and loose foods. Clean up all spills immediately. Also, store pet foods, bird seed, and similar items in buildings separate from the house or in basement areas well away from other foods.

Professional Treatment for Indianmeal Moths

Professional treatment is not needed or recommended for Indianmeal moth control. This is because insecticides should not be used in or around foods, and spraying of even emptied areas will do little if they are not cleaned out.

If you do choose to use an insecticide, use only a product that is labeled for crack and crevice treatment in food areas, and use it only as directed. Insecticides can never be applied to foods or surfaces, utensils, or other items that may contact food. Carefully read and follow all label directions.

There are traps for Indianmeal moths that can help you identify areas of infestation but will not control or eliminate the moths. This is because, according to Colorado State University Extension Service, the traps capture only males, and usually only a fraction of them. Because mated females are not captured, they will continue to infest foods. This is why it is so important to perform an inspection and clean affected areas thoroughly.