With moth larvae in food containers and small flying moths in your kitchen, the presence of pantry moths in our homes poses a serious risk of food contamination. This raises general concerns about kitchen hygiene.
Pantry moths are destructive pests, just like their cousins who live in closets. We understand that finding pantry moths in your home can make you feel uneasy, and we advise you to take immediate action if you spot a moth in your pantry in order to get the situation under control before they eat through the food that is kept in your cabinets or pantry and lay their eggs on it.
Signs of Pantry Moths Infestation
Simply put, pantry moths are a particular species of moth that feeds on everyday household foods like grains, beans, flour, nuts, and even pet food. They frequently fly in a zigzag pattern, are small, and are speckled with brown, tan, and/or grey-colored flecks.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, adult moths in your pantry are a sure sign of an infestation because the females can lay up to hundreds of eggs on or near your dry goods.
Since their larvae can chew through cardboard boxes and plastic bags, even unopened food packages are susceptible to infestation.
A pantry moth infestation may also be indicated by webbing around the packaging, sticky secretions that make your food clump, or strange odors in your cereal and grain products.
So, follow these instructions to get rid of pantry moths and stop them from coming back, even if it’s just a minor issue that hasn’t yet developed into a full-blown infestation.
Step 1 – Check your Pantry on a Regular Basis
We tend to store expired food in the back of crowded shelves and leave it there for extended periods. Moving pantry contents around and checking what you have will immediately ensure that you are not creating a secure, undisturbed environment for pests that leads to moths in the pantry and kitchen cupboards.
Step 2 – Empty the Pantry and Examine its Contents
Empty the affected area. Take out every can, box, bag, and bottle. Look for larval sacs (or webs of any kind) along the way. Keep an eye out for small holes in the packaging as well. Remember that you’re after the pantry moths and their larvae. Moths have been known to lay eggs under the lids of jars.
You can check each food container or bag in your pantry individually to see if it has a use-by date and if it has any unwelcome guests living there. Pay close attention to products made from grains and cereals.
Some examples are breakfast cereals, oats, flour, pasta, lentils, popcorn, rice, and nuts. Dry pet food, like biscuits, is especially vulnerable because it is frequently kept in sizable bags that are difficult to reseal and keep out moths.
Don’t forget to check the bags of seed, grain, and nuts you may have kept in your garage or garden shed if you feed the wild birds in your garden!
Pantry moth larvae are small but much easier to identify than food moth eggs; they’ll be between 14 and 12 inches long and may move around in the food.
The presence of open food containers where they can lay their eggs draws pantry moths. The flying pantry moth may go unnoticed if food isn’t frequently disturbed and moved around, which would allow for effective breeding, resulting in eggs developing into pantry moth pupa or larvae and then onto their adult flying form.
Step 3 – Remove and Dispose of All Moth-infested Foods from the Pantry
Foods past their expiration dates and/or infested should be thrown away in their original packaging. This step of the procedure involves getting rid of pantry moths. Similar foods in reusable containers should be carefully disposed of, but the container should be kept to be cleaned.
Even if you’ve kept your food in mason jars or Kilner jars, it’s still a good idea to check in case those pesky cupboard moths managed to get inside after they were put back in the pantry or cupboard with the lid partially open.
To reduce the chance of spills and future re-infestation, dispose of infested food outside the house by placing it in bags that are then tightly tied.
Step 4 – Clean Reusable Food Storage Containers
Your containers should be carefully washed by hand or in your dishwasher in a hot setting after being rinsed, disinfected, and thoroughly cleaned.
A thorough cleaning of containers with hot soapy water will remove any pests that weren’t thrown out with the infested food. This crucial step cannot be skipped in the fight against pantry moths. Do not forget that the tiny eggs of pantry moths are easy to miss with the naked eye.
Step 5 – Vacuum the Area before Cleaning it with a Vinegar-and-Water Solution
Begin by vacuuming all surfaces and paying special attention to signs of moths in cupboard corners, cracks, and crevices after all shelving has been cleared of food and containers. Please keep the undersides of shelves, baseboards, and floors in mind.
Like with food, empty your vacuum cleaner outside the house into a bag that you then seal or tie tightly. Remember that there could be tiny pantry moth eggs in the dust, as well as moth webbing, cast-off skins, and pantry moth cocoon carcasses.
Wash the affected area with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and warm water. Add peppermint oil to the mixture if you have it or can get some since pantry moths despise peppermint.
Also, if you use shelf liners, remember to deal with them. If they are paper-based, simply dispose of them, or clean them if they are plastic. It’s best to wait until your pantry moth extermination is complete before replacing your shelf liners or to avoid using them altogether.
Step 6 – Methods for Ongoing Protection
The two main types of residual pesticides are chemical and natural; for pantry moths in kitchens, only natural residual sprays should be taken into consideration.
Natural sprays for pantry moths and pantry moth larvae or maggots are effective for two weeks after application and can be considered a natural way to get rid of pantry moths while keeping your family safe from chemicals.
Make sure to cover every surface evenly, then let it air dry. Despite being safe for humans, it will dry clear and offer ongoing protection against any remaining pantry moths coming into contact with it at any stage of their life cycle.
Never put unprotected food on surfaces treated with pantry moth spray, and avoid using the spray on surfaces used for food preparation or drawers containing utensils or silverware.
Also, from now on, store your pantry staples in clean, airtight containers. All non-infested food that is still fresh should be put into airtight, sealed containers, such as glass jars, mason jars or Kilner jars, or plastic food storage containers.
There should be no more semi-closed flour bags or hastily tied pasta bags. This is an effective long-term method of preventing moths from entering food.
This is crucial for all foods that aren’t already in sealed tins or containers, but it’s especially crucial for cereals, grains, flour, dried fruits, nuts, and rice.
Lastly, it is a good idea to vacuum behind baseboards that can be removed and then apply the spray as the baseboards are put back in place. The best way to get rid of pantry moths and make sure they don’t come back is to be as thorough as possible.
Step 7 – To Protect and Monitor, Install Pantry Moth Traps
Pantry moth traps serve two purposes:
- First, they will conduct effective monitoring to determine whether pantry moths will be present in the future. Remember that they only last 8 weeks and will need to be replaced on a regular basis.
- Second, they attract male pantry moths with a female pantry moth pheromone and trap them on the glue board in the trap. When adult male moths are trapped, the degree of reproduction is reduced, and the risk of another full-blown infestation in the future is reduced.
Pantry moth pheromone traps to catch and kill pantry moths are an important part of determining how to get rid of pantry moths forever – but they may only be effective at alerting you that a moth infestation in kitchen cupboards is just getting started.
If you follow these steps, you will be able to combat a pantry moth infestation successfully. Doing this thoroughly may seem like a lot of work and expense, but it will save you money in the long run and prevent a hygiene problem from becoming out of control.
Before we conclude, here are some tips:
- Include these essential oils in your cleaning routine to get rid of pantry moths and keep them from returning: Eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, lemon oil, and clove oil.
- Put a few bay leaves in a small bowl and place it in a pantry corner; moths detest bay leaves.
- You may try placing your food in the freezer overnight to kill any moth eggs that may be present. This is an excellent rule to follow for any dry goods you bring home – a quick trip to the freezer will kill eggs on arrival.
- Use pantry moth traps and pantry moth control products, especially during the warmer months. Pantry moths pupate and become flying adults in the early spring, and females can have up to 200 eggs laid during each of their two to four breeding cycles.
- Finally, it’s important to note that pantry moths frequently accompany you home from the grocery store. Disturbing but true. Examine the packaging carefully before buying pet food, bread, cereal, or flour. If you see any suspicious packaging, leave it on the shelf!