How to Deal With the Dreaded Pantry Moth

Pantry moths must be loving 2020, especially the early days of the pandemic, when panicked hoards (ourselves included) ran to Costco to stockpile toilet paper, flour and Tostitos.

While I’ve probably blogged about pantry moths more times than just about anything else, we just had another outbreak and I thought I’d use this post writing exercise as an excuse to re-read UC Davis’ Integrated Pest Management pantry moths fact sheet.

According to geniuses at UC Davis, management is simple and pesticide-free. All your food needs to go into jars with tight fitting lids. No shoving rubber-banded packages of couscous in the back of the shelf. If you have space in your freezer you can put dry goods in there and kill any larvae. Avoid adding new food to old food, if possible.

If you’ve got an outbreak UC Davis suggests pulling everything out and inspecting what you’ve got for the telltale signs of infestation: larvae or webbing. Get our you vacuum and suck out the larvae that hide in cracks in your cabinets. These bugs can survive for months without food. Wash cabinets with soap and water. Freeze stuff you’re in doubt about. To repeat, put everything, including pet food, in jars with tight fitting lids.

Pheromone traps can help spot an infestation as well as reduce the population, but they are not a substitute for cleaning and putting things in jars.

Incidentally, what we call “pantry moths” encompass a variety of different insects with colorful names such as the Drugstore Beetle, and the Confused Flour Beetle. All these bug-a-boos just love post-agricultural human habits of storin’ up food. Like cats, roaches and mice they’re with us until we devolve away from our agricultural ways, “By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground.” I’ll add, of course, that even if we find a way to keep eating and stop sweating I’d like to keep the cats around.

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  1. I had an outbreak of pantry moths. I did put everything into canning cars with canning lids. One day, I took off the ring to a jar. Several moths had crawled into the grooves of the jar where the ring in twisted onto it. The moth had left behind its birthplace…lol. This shows how they will go anywhere.

    One day, I was in Walmart and passed by birdseed. There were half a dozen moths flying about. At home, I threw away the birdseed. I never fed birds again. I saw the same thing in cat and dog food section. So, the moths come in with everything. They can eat through thin plastic, too. All little packages went into canning jars and into the freezer for three days.

    It was like a nightmare.

  2. I haven’t had an outbreak of moths in years. But then I’m the diligent sort too. All dry stores go into the freezer for a week at a minimum. Then it goes into air tight containers (some are even vacuum sealed or heat canned…yes, even paper goods. I will see a miller moth occasionally, but that is attracted to the light when I open the door. The cats will play with until it dies, and then they’ll eat them. I wonder what’s lacking in their diet?

  3. We once left our house for 6 months. When we came back it was Pantry Moth Central. It took us almost as long to search them all out and eliminate them.

    Besides actual grain products they love to lay eggs in folded brown paper bags.

    Since that time I use my vacuum sealer to reseal any bag/inner bag I open. Things that don’t have resealable bags, noting that all kinds of paper, plastic and wax-coated materials are resealable, go in containers with tight silicone gasketed lids.

    Any container that hatches any moths goes directly into the trash but they simply don’t have an opportunity to invade other containers.

  4. Everything that you recommended–plus I put boric acid powder or diatomaceous earth into all cracks in drawers and cupboards.

    • If your pantry/cabinet has peg holes for adjusting shelf height, you should also tape over the empty peg holes. Also cedar blocks are good for repelling moths, and replace any natural fiber rugs near food storage with synthetic materials.

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