Indian Meal Moths

Facts, Identification, & Control

Scientific Name

Plodia interpunctella


What Do They Look Like?

  • Size: The adult is a small moth, about 3/8 inches long with a wingspan of about 5/8 inches.
  • Larvae Color: The larval stage is usually cream colored, sometimes with yellowish-green or pinkish shades, and has a dark brown head.
  • Wings: The wing color is generally gray but the rear half of the wing is rusty brown or nearly bronze. This wing pattern allows Indian Meal moths to be easily distinguished from other household moths.

How Did I Get Indian Meal Moths?

Indian Meal moth infestations begin with stored foods that contain the pest's eggs. When they hatch, larvae feed on materials like flour, cereals, and nuts. The pests may infest pantry goods during production, in the store, or at home. Humid conditions help Indian Meal moths multiply quickly.

How Serious Are Indian Meal Moths?

While these moths do not carry diseases or parasites, they encourage the growth of mold, leave behind webbing and feces in pantry goods, and change the flavor of foods they infest. Those who encounter problems with Indian Meal moths must throw away infested items, which may result in large amounts of waste. Infestations can last a long time without proper control and prevention.

Signs of Infestation

Seeing Indian Meal moth adults and larvae are common signs of an infestation.

When flying, adults often appear to move in a zigzag motion instead of maintaining a direct flight line. Adults may fly to distant rooms in the house away from the infestation; therefore, they are commonly mistaken for clothing pests. Adults do not feed, and normally rest during the day in dimly lit areas of the home.

The larvae are surface feeders and cover their food source with silken webbing. Most of the damage to stored products occurs when the larvae spin massive amounts of silk that accumulate fecal pellets and cast skins in food products. The damage to stored products due to this contamination exceeds the amount of food eaten by the insects. Larvae may be seen as they wander in search of a place to pupate, or pass through the pupal stage. Often, the larval and pupal stages are seen on walls and where the wall and ceiling meet.

How Do I Get Rid of Indian Meal Moths?

What You Can Do
Controlling Indian Meal moths starts with a careful inspection to identify all the infestation’s food sources. Pay particular attention to items that have remained in the cupboard for long periods or foods that are loosely sealed or are in thin wrapping. Some additional ways of handling these pests include:

  • Inspection: Empty cabinets and pantries and check inside every food package. Get rid of any food that is infested. When looking for Indian Meal moths, do not forget to look in dried plant and dried flower wreath arrangements.
  • Thorough Cleanup: Use a vacuum to remove spilled food and insects from the empty shelves while paying close attention to the cracks and gaps between shelves and cabinet walls. Cleaning with soap and water is also needed.
  • Seal Holes: Any holes should be sealed. 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. Larvae and pupae can be in cracks, behind appliances and even behind picture frames on the wall.
  • Proper Storage: Store food products in sealed glass or plastic containers to prevent a re-infestation.  If pet food or animal feed is stored in the garage or shed, check it too, since this often is a source of the infestation. Keep these products in tightly sealed containers. Also, food may be stored in the refrigerator.

What Orkin Does
Your local Orkin technician is trained to help manage Indian Meal moths and similar pests. Since every building or home is different, your Orkin technician will design a unique program for your situation.

Orkin can provide the right solution to keep Indian Meal moths in their place…out of your home, or business.

Behavior, Diet, & Habits

What Do They Eat?
Indian Meal moth larvae can infest a wide range of dry foods, which explains why they are considered by many experts to be the most common stored-food pest in homes and grocery stores. Commonly infested foods include:

  • Birdseed
  • Breads & grains
  • Cereal
  • Dried fruits & nuts
  • Dry pet food
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Spices

Life Cycle
The Indian Meal moth life cycle is described as complete metamorphosis:

  1. Egg
  2. Larval (caterpillar)
  3. Pupal
  4. Adult stage