Get Rid of Indianmeal Moths (and Weevils and Beetles)

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 any of the moths, beetles, or weevils that infest food.

To effectively control a stored product pest / pantry pest, it is important that you first properly identify it. Having identified the pest as an Indianmeal moth, here are 7 steps to rid your pantry of it and its cohabitants:

Indianmeal Moth Control

  1. Inspect foods for evidence of Indianmeal moth presence. Signs include
    1. The presence of tiny white worms with black heads.
    2. Sticky webbing over food or packaging.
    3. Cast skins and frass (fecal droppings) in and around food.
  2. 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. (See #1.)
  3. Check every food package for worms, webbing, and other signs. Pay particular attention to
    1. Foods that have sat on shelves for any length of time.
    2. Foods that are in thin or loosely sealed packaging.
    3. Packages with holes, tears or other damage.
    4. Bagged or boxed dog and cat foods.
  4. Any foods that have any evidence of the pest must be discarded outside the home or treated.
  5. Treat foods with any signs or evidence of infestation using cold or heat to kill any eggs or larvae that may be present. Lay food out in a thin layer then:
    1. Freeze. Put items into your freezer for a minimum of three days. Alternate cold and warm temperatures: put the food 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.
    2. Heat. Put food into the oven at 140°F for one hour or 120°F for two hours, stirring food periodically to ensure heat penetrates all food and does not burn surfaces OR microwave for five minutes. To kill pests on the outside of foods such as dried fruits, put them into a cheesecloth bag and put into boiling water for 10 seconds.
    3. After treating, insect fragments can be sifted from the food and it can be eaten or used to feed birds. However, it may be just as easy to discard the food if it is a small amount.
  6. Once all foods are removed from pantry and cabinets, it is important to clean thoroughly to remove all food sources for any hidden or surviving pests. Vacuum or sweep all crumbs, wipe down all shelves, corners, and floors. Be sure to get into corners and cracks. Do the same with all areas around the infested area, e.g., sweep and clean kitchen floors; remove items from countertops and clean thoroughly; pull out the stove, refrigerator, and other appliances to sweep and clean beneath.
  7. For at least the next month, be sure that all foods are in tightly sealed containers or stored in refrigerator or freezer to ensure that the infestation is completely eliminated.
    1. Store foods in insect-resistant containers, such as thick plastic or metal containers with tightly fitted lids. Or keep in the refrigerator or other cold storage.
    2. Store pet foods, bird seed, etc., in buildings away from the house or basement areas well away from other foods.
    3. Do not purchase bagged or boxed foods with torn or damaged packaging.
    4. Do not buy such foods that are past their expiration dates.
    5. Buy foods in packaging of a size that you would expect to use quickly. Or store excess in refrigerator or freezer.
    6. Keep pantry and other food areas clean and free of crumbs and loose foods. Clean spills immediately.

Professional Treatment

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 those that are labeled for crack and crevice treatment in food areas, and use only in those cracks and crevices. Insecticides can never be applied to foods or surfaces, utensils, or other items that can or will contact foods. Carefully read and follow all label directions.

There are traps that are marketed for Indianmeal moths. While these can help you identify areas of infestation, they will not control or eliminate the moths. This is because, according to Colorado State University Extension Service, the traps only capture males, and usually only a fraction of these. Because mated females are not captured, they will continue to reinfest foods. This is why it is so important to perform an inspection and clean as detailed in the 7 steps above.