My Battle With Pantry Moths and What I Learned From It

My pantry moth infestation got out of hand before I ever even realized they were there! Here’s what I learned from my battle with these common kitchen pests, from getting rid of them to preventing a re-infestation.

The first sign of trouble

The first clue that I had an infestation came in the form of a single moth found flapping around my pantry. I thought little of it at the time and it wasn’t until a few days later that I realized just how big my pantry moth problem was.

While cooking dinner one night I reached for a bag of spice mix, pausing when I noticed something unusual inside the package. As I leaned in, I realized, with a scalp-prickle of disgust, that the strange objects I saw clinging to the edge of the package were tiny, wriggling, worm-like larvae. And that I had a full-blown infestation on my hands.

pantry moth larvae on a spice package

My problem was even bigger than I thought

As I started poking around my pantry in search of more clues, it became clear that I had been living among the moths for some time.

I discovered I had a large, breeding population of the bugs, and signs of all three life stages were everywhere. I found:

Webbing

Pantry moth larvae secrete a white, silken substance called webbing. This stuff had a hairy, slightly mildew-y look about it, and it was all over the food sources and items that had been infested.

pantry moth larvae webbing

Larvae

Pantry moth larvae look like tiny, wriggling worms. The hatch from the eggs and are pantry moth ‘babies,’ a sure sign that you have a breeding population. I found them everywhere; in my cupboards, in my spice packets, and even tucked into the edges of lidded boxes.

picture of pantry moth larvae worms

Cocoons

I found the cocoons everywhere I found larvae. Many of the cocoons were empty and hollow, as the adult insects had already emerged, but I also found several with the developing moth still inside.

picture of pantry moth cocoons on a chopsticks

Live insects

The flying, winged insect is the adult life stage of the pantry moth. As I found out, finding one of these in your kitchen or pantry is usually the first sign that you have an infestation.

They were everywhere!

Pantry moths are known to infest stored food products, and mine had gotten into everything. I found them:

  • Tucked into the edges of lidded boxes used to store flour
  • Hiding among my tea
  • Inside a box of chopsticks
  • All over my kitchen cupboards (in the corners and stuck to the walls and ceilings of the cupboards)
  • Inside spice packages (which I made the mistake of leaving open instead of storing in sealed containers)

picture of pantry moth cocoon inside lidded tea storage box

How I won my battle against the pantry moths

I had inspected my whole pantry and kitchen and established that:

  1. I was living among dozens of bugs.
  2. My infestation was concentrated around food storage areas (i.e. my kitchen shelves and cupboards).

Next, I set to work exterminating the insects and restoring my kitchen to somewhere suitable for the preparation and storage of food items. At first, I had no idea how to get rid of pantry moths but, as it turns out, it’s not too hard.

Here’s how I did it:

Step 1: Cleaning

The very first thing I did was throw out all the cocoons, larvae and infested food items. Once I’d gathered them all up, I dumped them in the outside trash in a sealed plastic bag, so they couldn’t find their way back in.

Step 2: More cleaning

Satisfied that my shelves, cabinets, and cupboards were free from pantry moth debris, I set to work disinfecting all the surfaces. I mainly did this to kill any remaining pantry moth eggs and to feel that my kitchen was ‘clean’ again, but regular cleaning is also essential for preventing future infestations.

Step 3: Killing the adult moths

I may have gotten rid of the pantry moth eggs, webbing, cocoons and larvae, but the adults were still at large in my kitchen. If I didn’t get rid of them ASAP, they’d start breeding and I’d be back to square one, so I set up traps to kill all the moths.

For this part, I used the Safer Brand Pantry Pest Trap, which uses moth pheromones and a sticky surface to attract and kill the adults.

pantry pest trap placed on top of a cupboard

These are most effective when placed on the tops of, rather than inside, cupboards. This is because the pheromones must dissipate throughout to room in order to reach and attract all the moths, and this can’t happen if the source is placed inside a closed cupboard.

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I only needed to use one and, within a week, I had gotten rid of all the moths in the kitchen.

Defending my pantry: how I’m making sure the moths don’t come back

It’s been some time since I saw the last pantry moth in my kitchen, but that doesn’t mean they can’t come back. Fortunately, my battle with the moths has taught me a few tricks.

Here’s what I’m doing to prevent another infestation:

I bought new (sealable) food storage containers

Most of the Indian meal moth larvae, cocoons and webbing I found were in the gaps and edges around the lids of containers. Though closed, these lids weren’t sealed, which is how the bugs were able to get in. Since eradicating my moth infestation, I’ve replaced all of these and I now keep my spices, flour, and tea in tightly sealed containers!

sealable spice storage containers

I’m always on alert

Now I know the first warning signs of pantry moths, I can spot an infestation quickly and stop it in its tracks before it gets out of hand. At least once a weak, I inspect my kitchen for the following signs:

  • Pantry moth webbing inside stored food items (like flour, cereal, and spices).
  • Adult moths in kitchen cabinets, cupboards or the pantry.
  • Pantry moth larvae in my pantry, cupboards or food stores.
  • Pantry moth cocoons my pantry, cupboards or food stores.

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