How To Prevent Moths In A Pantry?


Having a moth infestation in your kitchen can be very frustrating. I was concerned with how best I could stop a moth infestation in my pantry using only natural and non-toxic methods. I did some research and I found several methods of getting rid of moths in your pantry that I would recommend.     

How to prevent moths in a pantry? If you suspect that you have a moth infestation in your pantry, the first thing you should do is inspect every item in your pantry. You should look not only for adult moths but also for their larvae and eggs. These look like clumps of grains or webbings. You should then get rid of any foodstuffs that are infested by discarding them far from your home. 

Pantry moths are common house pests that infest homes worldwide. Luckily, it is possible to get rid of a pantry moth infestation without the use of pesticides. It is also possible to get rid of them without having to kill them. Below are some of the ways of preventing a moth infestation in your pantry.  

How to prevent a Pantry Moth Infestation

Pantry moths, also known as Indian Meal Moths tend to inhabit dry food stuffs such as flour, dried herbs, grains, cereal, powdered milk, pasta, nuts, and dried fruits. The name ‘Indian Meal Moth’ might be misleading, making you think that the moth occurs natively in India. The name, however, is as a result of the insect’s preference of Indian-meal or cornmeal.

There are many pathways used by pantry moths to invade your house. They mainly use openings such as windows, doors, vents, and openings for utility lines that pass through your house. They can also make their way into your kitchen through grocery.

Pantry Moths prefer dry products such as flour, and they often contaminate these products while they are being transported to supermarkets and while they are on the shelves. These dry products such as breadcrumbs and flour are only used occasionally in the household. This means that most of the time, they are left untouched in the pantry, providing ample time and a conducive environment for the moth larvae to hatch. 

This makes it difficult to notice a pantry moth invasion until it is too late. You might only notice that there is an invasion when you see adult moths flying around and the presence of small cocoons in hidden parts of your pantry. And at this point, most of the damage has already been done.

Signs of Infestation

When looking for pantry moths in your kitchen, you should focus mainly on your food. Some of the tell-tale signs include:

  • Their tendency to form clumps in packages of dry foodstuffs such as flour, starches, cereal and grains. 
  • Their tendency to chew through food packaging and weave webs inside food packages
  • An unpleasant odor that is sometimes left by their eggs and secretions they emit in the foods they have infested
  • Plenty of adult moths flying around your house 

Getting rid of pantry moths is an arduous task that will require you to do it fast. These methods include:

How to prevent/get rid of moths from the pantry?

1. Getting rid of the source of infestation

The first step of getting rid of a pantry moth infestation is to find the source of the infestation. This is done by:

  • emptying your pantry and inspecting everything in there. Throw out any food package or container that is contaminated.
  • Removing the shelves and cleaning out the crevices
  • Remove the shelf liners and clean up the gaps between the shelves and the liners
  • Vacuum every surface of the pantry including the doors and the walls and the underside of the pantry
  • Wash all the surfaces of the pantry with hot soapy water
  • Wipe down the surfaces with homemade remedies such as a solution of white vinegar and warm water to get rid of the remaining eggs
  • Clean all the gaps and crevices in the pantry using a toothbrush or cotton swab to get rid of cocoons hidden within these places
  • Empty your vacuum of its contents and get rid of any eggs and larva that you managed to vacuum

2. Cleaning the kitchen

You need to perform deep cleaning for the whole of your kitchen. This includes all drawers and cupboards where you have food stored.  Wash all the storage containers, jars and shelves with a mixture of warm water and vinegar. This will kill any unhatched eggs and repel the adult moths.

3. Freezing unopened dry foodstuffs

Pantry moths together with their eggs and larvae are killed by low temperatures. You can therefore kill pantry moths on dry foodstuffs that are yet to be opened by storing the food in a freezer for a few days. When taking the food out of the freezer, inspect for any dead pantry moths.

4. Get rid of opened food

Freezing opened dry food may kill the pantry moth eggs and larvae but they will remain in the food. This makes the entire process useless as the food will still be contaminated. The best solution for this is getting rid of the food altogether.

5. Inspect packages before purchase

When shopping, be sure to inspect the packaging of what you are about to purchase before adding it to the cart. Check to see whether the package has nibbled areas or not and for the presence of tiny webs around these areas. Clear packages are easier to inspect. Just shake the bag a bit to see if there are any larvae moving about.

6. Use natural repellents

You can resort to using natural repellents such as bay leaves to get rid of pantry moths. The leaves have a pungent smell that deters pantry moths. You can do this by distributing the leaves in strategic positions that are prone to infestation. You can also hang the leaves in the pantry to spread the scent. 

7. Seal gaps and other potential hiding places

If you have a severe infestation of pantry moths that doesn’t seem to go away, find any other gaps and openings that may be potential hiding places for the moths. Vacuum the crevices and then seal the gaps with caulk. Some of these potential hiding places include:

  • Behind built-in ovens, microwaves and refrigerators
  • The space between the wall and the cupboard
  • Behind the covers of electrical outlets

8. Empty the trash

Once you have gotten rid of the infested food and cleaned out the vacuum, seal the garbage bag tightly and put it in another garbage bag. Seal the second bag tightly and take the garbage out of the house. Wash the trash can afterwards to get rid of any pantry moth eggs or larvae that might have been left behind. 

9. Inspect other rooms for infestation

If you have had a pantry moth infestation for a while, chances are that the moths have spread to nearby rooms. You should inspect the other rooms, especially where the walls and the ceilings meet at the corner of the house and around window and door frames. Use a vacuum to clean these areas and use the vinegar and warm water solution to wipe down surfaces. This will minimize any risk of your pantry being re-infested. 

Life Cycle of a Pantry Moth

  • Egg – A female pantry moth can lay 300-400 eggs at once. The eggs are laid directly on the moth’s source of food. The eggs are whitish in color and tend to go undetected as they are very small in size. The eggs take roughly seven days to hatch.    
  • Larva – After hatching, the pantry moth then enters the larval stage. This is the longest stage of the cycle, lasting 2-3 months. It is at this stage that they are most destructive. After hatching, they leave the food contaminated by the egg remains. They also feed ravenously, feeding on the food around them, chewing through the packaging, and finding shelter on several sheltered areas in the pantry. The larvae vary in color mainly depending on their main source of food.   
  • Pupa – Once the larvae have gathered enough energy and found conducive crevices in the pantry to shelter, the pupal stage begins. The larva cocoons itself in a hidden spot and will stay in the pupa stage for about 15-20 days. The pupa will then hatch as an adult, ready for mating and finding the best spot to lay its eggs. 
  • Adult – Adult pantry moths are reddish-brown in color and are attracted to light sources in search of mates. They do not eat and their only purpose is to mate and lay eggs. 

Final Thoughts

Pantry moths are generally harmless to human beings. There are no identified pathogens that are transmitted by pantry moths. However, a pantry moth infestation can be a real problem as they can destroy all the foodstuffs in your cupboard within a couple of days and the food that is left is rendered unsuitable for consumption.  Finally, the life cycle of pantry moths varies depending on the environment that they are in. Generally, the life cycle of a pantry moth is completed in 27 to 300 days. The speed at which they develop depends on their environment. Development is fastest where the environment is most conducive. Pantry moth larvae develop best in dark and humid conditions.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author. She enjoys traveling, reading and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC. Connect with her at [email protected]

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