Indian Meal Moths
The Indian meal moth is a pest of stored food products. Many experts believe that it is the most common pest of stored food in homes and grocery stores. These moths attack a variety of products. They often infest dry pet food, flour, cereal and dried fruit. Indian meal moths have infested dried flower arrangements that contain seed-bearing flowers. They have also been found in squirrel nests and rat nests eating nuts and seeds.
Indian meal moths have a wingspan of about 16 to 20 mm. The adult moths are gray with copper-colored scales on the last two-thirds of the front wings. The bicolored copper coloring on the wings makes these moths easy to identify. The moths are attracted to light. Sometimes people mistake them for clothes moths. Indian meal moths are active in the late afternoon and evening.
The adult moths do not cause damage. The female moth lays eggs at night. She deposits the eggs on or near food. When the larvae hatch, they move into the food. Larvae can even penetrate new, unopened packages. As they eat, the larvae cover the food with silken webbing. This webbing is evidence of an infestation.
When the larvae are full grown, they crawl out of the food. They crawl around to find a comfortable place to spin their cocoon. Homeowners often find these larvae crawling on the walls. At room temperature, there can be several generations of these moths in a year.
Controlling Indian meal moths starts with a careful inspection. Empty cabinets and pantries and check every package of food and spices. Webbing on the food surface is a sign of infestation. Any food that is infested should be thrown away. Use a vacuum to clean the empty shelves. This will remove food particles and any insects that are present.
Remember that the larvae leave the food to change into adults. It is important to check the walls and ceiling in the pantry and the nearby area for crawling larvae. Cocoons can be in cracks, behind appliances and even behind picture frames on the wall.
Store new food products in sealed glass or plastic containers to prevent a reinfestation. If pet food or animal feed is stored in the garage or shed, check it too, since this often is a source. Keep these products in tightly sealed containers.
Insecticide is most effective if it is applied into the cracks and crevices where the immature insects hide. To avoid misapplication, it is preferable to call a pest control professional.