You open your pantry door, and you see a tiny flutter of something zigzagging its way, fluttering through the air. It’s a moth – not the sweater-eating moth, but the pantry moth that preys on the food you keep in your kitchen. Once you’ve seen the pantry moth, or the Indian meal moth, they are almost impossible to eliminate But I did — without using one single synthetic chemical. I wiped their entire population out of existence 9 years ago, and I haven’t seen one since.
The story of how I got rid of my pantry moths was the impetus for me starting my blog. Six years later, I’m just now writing the story. Yes, I did the fruit fly story, lice and bed bugs, and now, finally about the pantry moths. Sorry about the delay… I know your moths have been more patient than you.
You too can be free of the pantry moth. First you’ll need some information. Knowledge is power — you need to understand how the life-cycle of the pantry moth works to out-smart them. I’ll explain why … just understand they are tenacious, and just when you think the moths are gone, they are just hiding from you in another life-cycle stage. As soon as the coast is clear, they’ll be back. Cleaning won’t help… they can lay their eggs in the hairline cracks between your cupboards and the wall.
The pantry moth is much smaller than the moth that eats your clothes – and you’ll always find them fluttering around the food. The moth actually lays its eggs in grains, dried fruits and pet food (sorry to break this gross news to you). Often times, the eggs are present in the grains when you bring them home from the store. The healthier the grain the better. It’s true. The moths always go after the whole grains, leaving the white flours alone. They have brown-edged wings that are light gray to yellowish color and they fly in short, zigzag patterns.
Each female moth lays from 60 to 300 eggs that hatch within a few days and spread through the food to feed for from 2 to 41 weeks. These insects are ferocious and tenacious… they are patient and can wait a very long time to lengthen out the larvae’s stage.
This is why hiring an exterminator (who could do that in their kitchen?!) will only solve your problem temporarily. While the visible moths will die, the larvae will remain unharmed, and will just wait to birth when the coast is clear. The pantry moth population can be simultaneously appearing in different stages of life – for example, there may be millions of eggs and larvae at various stages of the life cycle although no moths are present. So, even though you don’t see a moth flying around, that doesn’t mean their eggs couldn’t be there just waiting for the right moment to pop.
Once they’ve found a place, they spin their cocoon, emerge, mate, lay eggs and die. In their short lives, they’ve colonized every grain-containing foodstuff in your kitchen and you’re left either pitching everything or freezing it for two days and sifting out the “silk” trails. Pay attention to where these are… you’ll find them in the most unusual places. Corners of cupboards, under the toaster…they can even chew through plastic, and forget cardboard. You’ll need to start storing your grains in glass. I’ve found pantry moths in bags of nuts, building nests, and between the cracks of the cupboard and the walls. They are nasty!
Indian meal Moth larvae are resourceful creatures. When it comes time to pupate, or turn into moths, they find a warm place like the space between a pantry shelf and the wall or behind a refrigerator to gestate.
Here’s what you can’t do.
The Pantry Pest Trap emits a pheromone that attracts the pantry moths so they get stuck and can’t reproduce. I have grave reservations about this contraption – I actually found my moth population increasing when I purchased those things. Maybe it made the moths more fertile, or something… but they did little to stop the problem, except for making me going out to buy more. Maybe that was the point.
Here’s What You Can Do To Wipe Out a Pantry Moth Infestation
You want to kill the moths are very stage… every stage of its lifecycle, so you must wait to let the treatment work for at least a year – but this is foolproof. Your pantry moth infestation will be a pest of the past. This will take time, but it will be effortless and safe.
Pantry Moths are exactly why God invented Diatomaceous Earth, (not to be confused with the kind used in swimming pool filters). It is a mineral dust mined from quarries. It’s a naturally occurring, soft, siliceous sedimentary rock that is crumbled into a fine white to off-white powder. Its’ odorless, and poison free to humans. DE kills the insects when they come in contact with it. To insects, DE is a lethal dust with microscopic razor sharp edges. These sharp edges cut through the insect’s protective covering drying it out and killing them when they march through the powder. If they ingest DE, it will shred their insides. (I’m sorry, but that is music to my ears when I think of those gross larvae walking through my whole grains.)
So, now, you’ll have to drop aside your Martha Stewart neat inclinations, and just live with a fine dusting of DE around your pantry shelves. To really be effective, mix some DE with some cornmeal so that the insects will be sure to “check out the cornmeal and eat it.” You’ll fool them because the DE is odorless… they won’t even realize they’re eating their own poison. Be an investigator and look for little silk threads in the back of your refrigerator, around the edge of the cabinets, or under the corner of your shelves. Sprinkle the DE there, and all along the back of your cabinets. Your goal is to make your entire pantry a “bed of knives” for the larvae. They should not be able to find one place to crawl without running into the stuff.
Remember, larvae are more patient than you are. So, while you won’t need to reapply the DE, as it does not loose its effectiveness, but you’ll need to leave it in place – for a little more than a year.
A mess? Yes… but if you’ve every tried getting rid of the pantry moth, you’ll know that this mess is worth it in the long run. Because, remember, those larvae are tenacious! And, what could be messier than a bunch of moths and worm running through your foodstuffs? I’ll take a sprinkling of DE dust around my pantry any day. Wouldn’t you?
No fumes, no smell – no human poison. In fact, many farmers mix DE into animal feed to keep an infestation of taking over the barn. How safe? A study by John Ball Park of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Brookfield Zoos of Chicago Illinois; and Buffalo Zoo of Buffalo, New York s found that a mixture of feed incorporating 2% diatomaceous earth was sent to three zoos for evaluation. John Ball and Buffalo Zoos reported that their black bears on the special feed showed a better coat and clearer eyes. The primates fed at the Brookfield Zoo displayed a pronounced improvement in both appearance and behavior. Stool samples taken at all three zoos showed an absence of any internal parasites – adult or egg. Parasites in these animals were present prior to using the diatomaceous earth food mixture.
So, there you have it.
Once you’re sure, and I am VERY sure, that the larve are gone, you’re free to vaccuum up the DE around your pantry. But, keep the bottle around. The applications for DE are wonderful. They can safely wipe out an entire bed bug population. Here’s how to use DE for many common pests:
- Ants, Spiders, Carpet Beetles: Thoroughly dust along baseboards, carpet edges, under furniture, carpet, and rugs, and in closets and shelving.
- Bedbugs: Take apart bed and dust joints and channels. Dust any hollow tubing and the interior framework as well as the mattress and all cracks in the room.
- Fleas: Thoroughly dust carpets and pet’s bedding and sleeping areas, as well as cracks and baseboards. It also can be rubbed into your pet’s fur.
- Flies: Thoroughly dust areas where flies frequent (walls, straw bedding, livestock pens). It also can be applied to livestock coat as an insect repellent/contact insecticide.
- Fly Larva: Keeps fly larvae from developing in manure, which makes a significant reduction in the fly population.