Pantry Moths. Those flittering annoyances that greet you as you open the pantry door and swarm through your kitchen like they own the aroma-filled room. They are a disgusting, embarrassing, and unwelcome guest that you can’t kick out without direct and assertive force. Pantry moths are a plague to your kitchen that spreads at an alarming rate.
If you’ve experienced pantry moths (also known as Indian meal moths), you know that ridding your kitchen of them is an exhausting and defeating task.
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We recently battled an infestation of pantry moths in our kitchen pantry. For several weeks we saw them flying around the room and, naive to the existence or pervasiveness of pantry moths, we assumed that they flew into the room through the sliding door that joins our kitchen to the outdoor deck. We saw strange cobweb type threads in a few food items but assumed that the items had spoiled after sitting in the pantry too long. We often shop at a local grocery discount store where things are close to expiration, so it wasn’t overly alarming that some items may have spoiled quickly.
Little did we realize that the cobweb material we were finding was evidence of a much greater infestation – an infestation of pantry moths.
It took my husband opening an old container of fluffer-nutter to discover the depth of our pantry problem. While attempting to make a midnight sandwich one night, he unscrewed the lid to find several worm-like larva swimming in the fluffy pool of sugar. We immediately pitched the container. Disgusted and finally alarmed that our pantry may have a problem, we began to search through other items on the shelves for signs of similar inhabitance. (And by “we” I mean my husband since I couldn’t stomach the endeavor.) Sure enough, larva was found in several of our other grain products – including my husband’s cereal!
He was a little bit more than disgusted that he may have been eating larva along with his oat flakes and milk each morning.
We learned that pantry moths typically enter the pantry hidden inside a grain product package. Once placed on a shelf they quickly spread, laying eggs and hatching larva that become moths in other containers and boxes. We observed that they most often gravitated toward boxes of grain products but we also found traces of them in other bags, areas of the pantry, and types of food.
Utterly disgusted, we began the process of ridding our pantry of its determined and pervasive plague.
Here’s how we rid ourselves of pantry moths:
1. We threw out almost everything in the pantry.
It was costly and a bit difficult to swallow, but we trashed almost every item in the pantry. We salvaged a few items that were securely sealed and that my husband investigated for signs of eggs or larva, but only a handful of items made the cut (vinegar bottles, canned goods, etc.) The pantry moths were so out of control by the time we discovered them that the only way to be sure we were eliminating the source was to pitch any object that they may have spread to.
2. We scrubbed the pantry with vinegar.
We bought a hard-bristled scrub brush and scrubbed down the wire shelves, floor, and the door of our pantry with vinegar to kill any remaining trace of the pantry moths. We had read that eggs can be laid in even the smallest holes or crannies in the pantry, so we went over every notch on the shelves with the hard bristled brush to be sure that they were saturated and cleaned.
3. We washed every dish in the pantry.
I store many of my serving dishes, pots, and extra plates in the pantry so this was a tedious task. However, we took every single one out and washed them. I ran several dishwasher loads to make sure that every dish was thoroughly cleaned to remove any eggs that may have been laid on or between them.
4. We left the pantry empty for several weeks.
We were about to leave on vacation the week we discovered our pantry moth problem which made this a little bit easier, but we left any dishes or items from the pantry on the table in the kitchen instead of returning them to their rightful spot. We had a rule that until we went a week without seeing even one moth we would not return any items to the pantry.
5. We bought traps!
We felt confident that we had eliminated the source of the pantry moths, but for weeks we kept seeing them. Instead of gathering in the pantry we found them in other rooms all over the house as if they were frantically searching for a new nesting ground. To kill of the moths that had escaped our eradication of the source, we bought these traps on Amazon.
The traps emit an undetectable hormone scent that draws the pantry moths to them and catches them on a sticky substance inside each paper triangle. They worked wonders! Each pack comes with two traps, so we ordered two packs to have four traps and set one on each level of our house and two on the floor near the kitchen. Within days we caught a substantial number of them.
With the traps in place number of pantry moths flying around the house gradually began to diminish and within a couple of weeks we started to count several days in a row without seeing any at all!
I’m happy to report that by following the above steps, we have now gone a couple of months without any trace of pantry moths! They can be exterminated but it is a tedious and difficult battle that requires extensive cleaning and patience.
To prevent another episode of pantry moths we also take a few precautions with our groceries that we didn’t take before.
1. We watch dates much more closely.
As I mentioned, we do a lot of grocery shopping at a local discount store where items are often close to expiration or expired. Instead of excitedly throwing these bargain-priced items into our cart right away, we now stop and check the dates closely. We no longer bring home any grain products that are past or too close to expiration to help cut down the risk of re-introducing a pantry moth infestation into our home.
Note: We learned that you can bring moths home without realizing it in any grain package, even unexpired from the regular grocery store. However, we just feel a little bit safer taking this extra precaution.
2. We store grain products sealed in zip-lock bags.
This was a tip from my mom, who has also battled pantry moths (or meal moths). I now place any grain product that I am wary of (especially anything that I do bring home from the discount store) into a zip-lock bag as soon as I bring it home. If there are any pantry moths already festering in one of the packages, this contains them to that package and prevents them from spreading into the rest of the pantry. It is my hope that it would also make them very visible to me since any attempt to fly would trap them inside the clear bag. My husband and I even dumped our cereals into large zip-lock bags for awhile, but we are slowly growing less fearful and containing primarily pasta and rice/grain packages.
If you are fighting a battle against pantry moths in your home, don’t lose heart! They can be eradicated. It’s tedious and takes time, but you can and will get your kitchen back.
I’m confident that if you follow the above steps you will free your pantry from the disgusting presence of pantry moths.
I’m confident because it worked for us!