A little extra protein? How to identify and get rid of this common pantry pest

The Indianmeal moth often gets into everything – from pet food to baking flour.

By Laura RiceDecember 1, 2022 11:30 am, , ,

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service Specialist Wizzie Brown opens up the worlds of insects – from acrobat ants to walkingsticks. Is something bugging you? Let us know and we’ll pass along your question.

Identifying an Indianmeal moth

Brown says Indianmeal moths are among the most common pantry pests.

“Most people will see the adult stages of Indianmeal moths,” Brown says. “They’re probably a quarter- to a half an inch in length — that’s when they’re in their kind of triangle shape when the wings are folded back over their body. And if you look at them, they’re kind of a tan color, and they have these coppery tips to their wings.”

While you’re likely to see the adults, they aren’t exactly the ones you need to worry about. Brown says the larvae are the damaging stage.

“Those can be anywhere from a creamy white color to a pale green to — I’ve seen even some that look pink,” Brown says.

Related: How to keep pantry pests from moving in while you’re on vacation

What they eat

Webbing from Indianmeal moths the inside of a bag of sunflower seeds.

By Mike Boone (CC BY-SA 2.5)

In the wild, they will feed on plants. In your home, they’re happy with whatever food products they can find.

“And this could be processed products or it can be whole products,” Brown says. “So anything like seeds, dried fruit, dog food is a big one.”

Brown says birdseed is also a common target but the list goes on –

“So cereal products, flour, cornmeal, they also get into spices,” Brown says. “So, you know, a lot of people think, ‘well, they’re chili peppers, they’re not going to get in those.’ Well, yeah, they will.”

Getting rid of them

Brown says getting rid of pantry moths requires going through “absolutely everything.” When you find something that’s infested, you have the choice to dispose of it or salvage it.

Brown says those options include:

Put an infested item in the freezer for 4-7 days. (Brown says she errs on the longer side, just to be careful).

Put an infested item in the oven on the lowest temperature setting and leave it in there for about 30 minutes.

In either case, she says, “you can either use the product with the insects in it — it’s just extra protein — or you could sift it out somehow if you want to do that.”

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