Pantry Pests

Indian Meal Moth

Indian Meal Moth

The other night I saw a moth in the house and about freaked out. You see, it was about this time last year that we found we had an infestation of Indian Meal Moths. The one the other night was the larger moths found outside (he was promptly relocated back out), which was a huge relief.

My mother always kept a sparkling clean house and we never had a problem with bugs. That explains why I didn’t know what a cockroach looked like when I took my first full time job, which happened to be in apartment management.
I won’t say my house is clean all of the time, but during our 23-year marriage, we have managed to keep our house clean enough to keep pests away.
There’s almost nothing I hate more than a bug in my kitchen.

Another meal moth

So, imagine our surprise when we learned that what we thought were harmless little moths were actually a “pantry pest,” or Indian Meal Moths, as nasty a critter as the cockroach and just as destructive to food – both human and dog.
It’s not uncommon to have a stray moth fly in our house, we’re usually invaded by ladybugs in the fall and at first I thought this was just another critter that slipped in the door or an open window.
In all our years of having pets, we’ve never encountered this problem before, but apparently, these things usually hitch a ride in on dry pet food or treats, or birdseed – all of which we had in our pantry.

This was Lesson #1,987 of living in a small house. Since there is no separation from the pantry and kitchen areas, it was easy for these critters to make their way across the room and get into our cabinets.
We realized we had a problem when we spotted more than just the stray moth flitting around the house.
When I learned that these icky things were probably nesting in our house and helping themselves to whatever was in our pantry, I immediately began researching eco-friendly ways to rid ourselves of them and their off-spring.

First, almost everything that was open in the pantry needed to be tossed.

Second, thoroughly cleaning the suspected infected pantries with straight vinegar (including removing all of the shelves as these things are hard to spot in egg and larvae form) and cleaning all cracks and holes in the pantry will usually do the trick. (I even found nests in the round peg holes where the shelves can be move. Ugh).
I used a combination of Clorox spray (purchased before my quest to go chemical free) and vinegar to clean the pantry. Luckily, I only found evidence of the moths in one pantry. Next, Dale bought a bunch of plastic containers that seal tightly before we brought anymore food home.

Finally, I read that both lavender and whole bay leaves will keep them, well, at bay. I used both. I also used sticky Pheromone traps, which lures the male moths. Once all of them are gone, they cannot reproduce. The problem was that it took several months before all of them were caught.

However, we finally rid ourselves of these pesky critters and I hope we never get them again.

What’s the worst pest you’ve had in your house and did you get rid of it using a green method?

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24 Responses

  1. Conny says:

    A little late on the commenting here, but I have something to add. I learned this useful tip and it seems to work at my house. If you put the flour, or grains in the freezer for 24 hours before putting it on your pantry shelf, the freeze kills any eggs that might be in the product. I do this when I buy a new bag of flour and it has worked for me.

    That doesn’t help with clean up, but does help with prevention. Good luck. 🙂

  2. Fran says:

    I got a bunch of those nasty moths last year. I had no idea they would come in on dog food and flour.And would you believe I had all that stuff in one pantry lol. I didn’t think I would ever get rid of those things.I had to throw away soooo much stuff it made me sick. I now keep everything in glass and plastic. No moths so far this year. Yahhhh.
    But I did find my yearly ants in the kitchen though. Guess you can’t have everything lol.

    • I know, Fran, moths are just terrible! For the ants, use Torro liquid traps. They’re safe and the ants will carry it back to their nest and in a week or less…gone!

      • Fran says:

        Thank you for the idea. I will give that a try. These ants are driving me crazy lol.

        • Mary says:

          I had ants a few years ago and found that they don’t like cinnamon. They were coming in by the front door. I sprinkled cinnamon all around the porch and sidewalk and they haen’t come back.


  3. MarthaandMe says:

    We’ve had these and the first line of defense is to clean everything out and find where they are and toss it. Then put everything in glass or plastic containers. Lastly I buy these little triangular shaped traps that are sticky and they get stuck on them.

  4. In our twenties, my husband and I purchased our second home in a rural area and our surprise was mice. I had never had to deal with them and was so upset that I packed up myself and our two young children and went home to mom. Told my husband to call me when he had gotten rid of the problem. He did with traps and we had a lot of happy years, there.

    • kerri says:

      I haven’t decided if it’s unfortunate or fortunate, but I have a Doxie that will hunt down a mouse and eat it whole if she catches it! We had mice in the studio last year and gulp, she got two before I could stop her!

  5. Sandy says:

    I have to say without a doubt….I hate roaches or around here we call them waterbugs. I’m from WVa and honestly had never seen anything like them until I moved here(NC coast). They are ugly and fast, and if they fly, well that just does me in. I can’t sleep until it’s found and killed. It’s terrible to be so scared of them, but really…I can not stand them!

    • kerri says:

      Me too, Sandy. I will actually leave the house until Dale deals with those flying ones. They just make my skin crawl!

  6. Kathleen Winn says:

    I’ve had an infestation of those horrible little moths before Kerri. I feel your pain. In addition to hitching a ride home in dog food and birdseed, I learned that when you buy flour, baking powder, rice or other grain based products,there are always a tiny amount of the eggs of those moths in there (maybe other critters as well.) Most of the time we bake with and eat those products and it doesn’t harm us, but if a particular grain based product sits long enough, especially in a warm environment, the eggs can hatch out into those moths! I know- eeeeeuuuuww!

    I don’t remember what I used to kill the adult moths, but I threw out every single grain based product that I had in my kitchen and that alone went a long way towards solving the problem. Now I make sure to use a permanent marker to date all of my baking products so I know when they need to be used or disposed of.

    • kerri says:

      I try hard not to think about what I can’t see in the food I’m eating! I ended up even having to throw away all of my spices, as the moths had even gotten in those. Yuck!

  7. Reader says:

    Being lucky enough to live in Hawaii means I am unlucky enough to have to put up with insects by the bazillions. But for many years the hardest thing to avoid was ants. Finally found a reasonably green cure – Avon Skin-So-Soft. Which purportedly repells mosquitos. I read a tip about it somewhere and started spraying it around – took awhile but no more ants! Or at least a lot less. I’ve tried many things and this is the first one that worked.

    • kerri says:

      Wow, I never heard that about Skin So Soft with the ants. It works with mosquitoes too! We have larger bugs here in Arkansas than we did in KC, I think the warmer weather climate. We use the Torro ant liquid ant baits if we get ants, those are the only thing we’ve found to work. Still environmentally friendly, it is just Borax and sugar water, but the ants will take it back to their nest and no more ants!

  8. Cindyt says:

    LOL…reminds me of when I was a young Bride many years ago 😉 moving from California to Texas…I had never seen a ROACH before! We were out apartment hunting and I opened a closet door and out FLEW a GIANT COCKAROACH!!! I screamed a blood curdling sCreACH and took outta of there and refused to go back in the apartment…needless to say we did not rent that place. The manager and my husband took care of the BEAST in a Green Way….Steped on him with a crunchy squish…EWWWWWWWWWE.
    But unfortunately over the years I have come in contact with little buggies in the Food Pantry! Most of the time these things are brought home from the Grocery store! but what a pain and a lot of washing, scrubbing and sadly tossing has to be done to rid them. Mostly, I employ prevention and opened cerals, flours etc are put into sealed plastic containers! But I am still vigilent..Hate Buggies! Cindyt

    • Oh, those BIG flying roaches are the worst! I have a roach phobia and hate those big flying ones the worst! They’re called wood roaches here. I saw one the other day when I went out to get a log from the woodpile. Yuck!

      • Cindyt says:

        We call them Grass Roaches here…but by any name they are UUUUgly! & I hates them. Have noticed a few around the new place here! But my foot stomping boots are at the ready! and I still let out a Girlie Scream whenever I see one! yuck!!! BTW raining here today and enjoying the view out my window watching the ducks swim around in the rain…Very peaceful…bet I’ll be able to throw away the Blood Pressure Meds soon!!! 🙂

  9. Alexandra says:

    When we moved to Cape Cod a dozen years ago, my elderly parents had some kind of pantry bug that I did not try to identify, tiny bits of black in the flour. Throwing everything out seemed to get rid of the pest.

    • Ugh, Alexandra. Sounds like throwing out everything was the way to go. Unfortunately, even after we threw everything away from the moths, they were still nesting someplace. It took us months to finally rid the house completely.

  10. I have had them only once. They came with the house we purchased in NW Arkansas. What a Time, I had getting rid of them. Washed everything down in purx water. Never had them again. I used bay leaves and whole cloves.

  11. S.A.B.L.E. says:

    These days the worst pest in my kitchen are my cats. I recently discovered not only were they opening the cabinets but also stealing things off the counters and taking these things into one favorite cabinet. It looked like a rats nest. I couldn’t believe what I had found as well as the cereal boxes torn open with the plastic inner bags chewed into. Cheerios were everywhere. My environmentally safe solution, I installed child safety latches.

    When I do find food that the bugs have invaded, I give that food to the chickens. That way the food isn’t a total waste.