Currently viewing the category: "Pantry Moths, Clothes Moths, Case-Bearers and Meal Moths"
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Inchworm in dirt cocoon?
September 9, 2009
This creature was found on our kitchen counter early yesterday morning. My wife thought it was a bit of dirt (like a small, dried chunk of mud that fell out of a groove in the tread on the bottom of a tennis shoe). Then a small dark-brown head of what appears to be a worm protruded approximately 3mm, and the “dirt cocoon” inched it’s way along in roughly 0.5-1.0 mm increments, moving along just like an inchworm does. The head end extends out 1-3 mm, then it drags the “cocoon” along behind it.
The “cocoon” appears to be made of fine particles of dirt (very fine particles like silt) or maybe wood or paperboard (like cereal box material).
The cocoon is open at each end, slightly fluted (like the mouthpiece of a trumpet), and the “worm” inside can stick its head out of either end.
It seems to be quite shy, as most of the time it stays inside the cocoon, motionless. When taken out of the plastic bag (with a smallpiece of moistened paper towel kept in the zip-lock bag) and set out free on the table, if we are very quiet it will stick its head out after a few minutes and start to inch along.
I might be able to take a video of it moving, using our ditigal camera, if that is of interest (although like all videos the file size could be too large to send easily, and the resulting video does not have the best resolution/clarity). Let me know if you would like the video and I will make one.
We would be most appreciative if you can identify this creature for us. We will make donation to support the website as soon as this is submitted.
Thank you.
Ray
Newhall, California

Case Bearing Moth Larva

Case Bearing Moth Larva

“How does this work?”, or “What happened to my submission?”
I’m wondering how this works. When you, BugMan, or BugMan’s proxy, reply to a “What’s That Bug” submission, does the submittor receive an email notification that you have responded? Or does the response only appear on the website and the originator of the submission needs to check back on the website to see if a response has been posted?
Also, gving the benefit of the doubt, I made a $20 donation immediately after I submitted my question (subject: “Inchworm in dirt cocoon?”, submitted 2009-09-09 circa 17:30 Pacific time US), but I see a few submissions that were made after mine have already been answered on the website, whereas mine has not been replied to as yet.
I don’t know what to expect from your website, so please take a moment and enlighten me as to what to expect. Was the $20 donation too small, or did I submit a difficult question, or are you off on a trip? Please advise & enlighten.
Thank you,
Ray

Hi Ray,
First we want to thank you for your generous contribution.  We also apologize for our delay and your resulting confusion.  We have a very small staff (one person who makes the identifications, formats the images and posts the letters and images to the site, and another person who manages the logistics and technical problems of the website), so we are only able to respond to a fraction of the inquiries we receive.  Though contributing a donation does not ensure that we will be able to respond to a question, we felt guilty that you were given that impression, and we tracked down your original submission in our inbox.  To respond to your question, we try to post interesting or unusual letters or photos, or submissions that might have a general timely relevance and we also directly email that response to the querant.  Other letters just get a brief identification email response, but the majority of letters are unanswered.  Your household intruder is a Household Casebearer, Phereoeca uterella.  BugGuide has much information, including:  “Habitat  Larval cases can be found on wool rugs and wool carpets, hanging on curtains, or under buildings, hanging from subflooring, joists, sills and foundations; also found on exterior of buildings in shaded places, under farm sheds, under lawn furniture, on stored farm machinery, and on tree trunks
Food  larvae feed on old spider webs; may also eat woolen goods of all kinds if the opportunity arises
Remarks  The larval case is silk-lined inside and open at both ends. The case is constructed by the earliest larval stage (1st instar) before it hatches, and is enlarged by each successive instar. In constructing the case, the larva secretes silk to build an arch attached at both ends to the substrate. Very small particles of sand, soil, iron rust, insect droppings, arthropod remains, hairs and other fibers are added on the outside. The inside of the arch is lined exclusively by silk, and is gradually extended to form a tunnel, while the larva stays inside. The tunnel is closed beneath by the larva to form a tube free from the substrate, and open at both ends. After the first case is completed, the larva starts moving around, pulling its case behind. With each molt, the larva enlarges its case. Later cases are flattened and widest in the middle, allowing the larva to turn around inside.
[from Featured Creatures, U. of Florida].
”  Again, thanks for your generous contribution.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

What are these moths?
Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 8:32 AM
We live in Western Pennsylvania, and seem to have found moths which have eaten some of a wool rug we have in a storage area. We started finding them a couple of weeks ago on our walls and ceilings. I have killed about 6 of them. I did my spring cleaning and found some damage on the edge of a wool rug. I am assuming these are the culprits, but I can’t find these on the web to id them.
Moth
Western Pa

Meal Moths Mating

Meal Moths Mating

Dear Moth,
These are mating Meal Moths and they would be feeding on your stored grain products, not your wool rugs. Generally when we get photos of Pantry Moths, it is the smaller Indian Meal Moth, Plodia interpunctella, but your moths are the Meal Moth, Pyralis farinalis. It has a worldwide distribution. According to our Audubon Guide, the “Caterpillar eats grains, meal, bran, husks, straw, and moist stored hay. … Cleanliness and frequent emptying of storage bins are the best means of controlling this insect. Its caterpillars spin tubular webs amond food, eating from an open end.” We would advise that you check the pantry to see if you have an infestation in the oatmeal or other likely food source.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Indian Meal Moths
Sat, Mar 7, 2009 at 4:25 PM
First of all, let me say I love your website. I moved from a fairly new and well-insulated family house into a pretty old appartment building, ground level, a few months ago. I’m no more a bug lover than the next person, so I’m just happy I found this site, which has saved me from freaking out a couple of times. First time with a classic case of house centipedes. Now, I only wish! I haven’t killed them (at least not once I knew what they were), but for some reason there are none around anymore. Maybe because of winter? Anyway, now I found out that I have some Indian Meal Moths. They’ve been around on and off. During summer and fall I was pretty sure they were just some normal moth that came in from outside (especially since there was only one or two of them), but in the middle of the winter, much less probable. So I researc hed your website, ended up cleaning my whole pantry (and yes, some stuff was infested, I’m still grossed out). I do still have a few questions, though. Do these types of moths also have cases at the larva stage, or am I dealing with more than one type of moth if I find discarded or unhatched cases? Might meal moths also infest pasta, raisins or even chocolate (I found a larva in an old Nutella jar, which fortunately I hadn’t eaten from in very long)? Also, they seem to be able to munch through thin plastic wrappings….just how thick a plastic bag can they break open? Last question, apart from transferring everything to plastic and glass containers, is there anything that might keep them away, sort of like cedar wood with clothing moths? I tried a bit of rosemary branches in the past, seemed to work, but when I cleaned up, the little pile of rosemary needles had unhatched cases in it….gross. (For the record, I have cleaned the pantry regularly since I moved and I do throw out anything that sits around too long…)
Thanks for your time, I know there are a lot of questions. I’ve included a picture of two meal moths apparently reproducing, which I found while cleaning the said pantry. Thought it might be an interesting addition to the nice pictures on your website. I guess spring is coming for everyone! :P
Genevieve
Ottawa

Mating Indian Meal Moths

Mating Indian Meal Moths

Dear Genevieve,
The cases you are finding may be the cast off larval or pupa skins. when the insect metamorphoses, it leaves behind the exoskeleton. The caterpillars form a silken webbing in the food source. According to BugGuide, the larvae of the Indian Meal Moth “infests a wide variety of stored food products such as flour, oatmeal, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, powdered milk, biscuits, chocolate, and bird seed ” and “spin silken threads as they crawl through stored products, creating a matted layer of product, frass, and pupal cases.” Vigilance is the best method for controlling Indian Meal Moths and other pantry pests. Your question regarding chewing through plastic may need an expert to answer.

Update: Mon, Mar 9, 2009 at 8:32 AM
Thank you for the information. I read somewhere online that bay leaves might be a good way to repel insects from your food stores, so I might give it a try. I’ve captured the remaining adults, so as to limit the damages, and was a bit surprised this morning to find eggs in the jar. They’re still laying them, it’s sort of interesting to see. Anyway, I’m keeping tabs on that (taking pictures and everything) from now on, because I strongly suspect an already-infested bag of rice was the source of the problem (the need to pinpoint a source has become quite strong to my curious mind). I put a few rice grains and a bit of what looks disturbingly like eggs in another jar, and I’m also keeping tabs on that. The egg-like grains were already in the bag before I even opened it. Well, this said, I’ll let you know if anything interesting comes up from all of this.
Genevieve, Ottawa, Canada
P.S. I don’t know if it’s of any interest, pantry moths being very common, but I’ve enclosed pictures of the said moths and eggs…they’re kind of blurry, but it’s the best quality I could get out of my generic Canon. The whitish blurs are the eggs (but obviously not the pile of rice grains!)

Thanks for teh update Genevieve.  Your photo is a bit too blurry to post.  Many aromatic plants are said to repel moths, including your previously mentioned rosemary.  We have also heard wormwood (Artemesia), lavender and mint will repel moths.  The cedar you mentioned may also work.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Pantry moths Sat, Jan 17, 2009 at 12:53 PM
Hi, Bugman! I just spent the day cleaning out my pantry, re-packaging food, and cleaning everything down.
I am having a problem with small tan moths that I haven’t been able to identify online. I see the moths most often at night, and they seem attracted to lights. The moths are about 1/2 inch long.
The closest match I can find is the angoumois moth. As you can see from the attached pic, they do have a fringe at the ends of their wings. However, the pics I’ve seen of angoumois moths show pointier wings. And my moths all have a pair of large brown spots midway on the wings.
Erika
Pacific Northwest

Mediterranean Flour Moth???

Mediterranean Flour Moth???

Hi Erika,
Most Pantry Moths we receive are Indian Meal Moths, but we believe you have Mediterranean Flour Moths or Mill Moths, Anagasta kuehniella, or sometimes Ephestia kuehniella .  The PennState College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Entomology has fact sheet on the Mediterranean Flour Moth with drawings, and describes the moth as:  “a pale-gray color and from one-forth to one-half inch long, with a wingspread of slightly less than one inch. The wings are marked with two indistinct, black zigzag lines. The hindwings are a dirty          white. When at rest, the moth extends the forelegs which raises the head          and gives the body a sloping appearance. This posture is very distinctive          and is a more reliable character for identification than the wing markings         which may be rubbed off. ”  There is also a drawing on the UK Stored Product Insects website.  The larger size of your specimen is a contributing factor to our hesitant identification, but we eagerly welcome a more expert opinion on this matter.  Though it doesn’t have a photo that resembles your moth, we found the very helpful Kendall Bioresearch Services Domestic Moth page.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

1/4″ Fly / Moth / Roach looking bug. What is this??
Sun, Oct 5, 2008 at 10:13 PM
Hello Bugman!
I’ve had a few of these interesting yet annoying bugs flying around my house lately and I’ve been unable to find anything resembling it online.. It appears to have antenna folded along it’s wings and is approxamately 1/4″ long. Luckly it had no problem staying in one position for an hour while I attempted to capture some decent pics of it.. I am located in southeast Georgia in the little town of Ludowici, 45 minutes south of Savannah. Thanks for helping me put a name with this face!
Tom Goss
Ludowici, GA 31316 Southeast Georgia

Indian Meal Moth

Indian Meal Moth

Hi Tom,
This is an Indian Meal Moth, Plodia interpunctella, which probably means you have an infestation of caterpillars in some stored grain product in your pantry.  Check the oatmeal box or corn meal for the caterpillars and check BugGuide for more information.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Indian Meal Moth
I am having difficulty sending this. We just got power back after a week from the effects of Tropical storm (previously hurricane) Ike. I am writing today to hopefully help others with this nuisance. I searched your site (which I love) for information on the Carolina Praying Mantis we found and thought I’d look up this little booger too. Since you don’t have any photos, I thought I would include some for you. The eggs are almost impossible to see as they are camouflaged to look like the food they are laid in. The white caterpillar, AKA ‘worm’ is about 1/2″ in length.

Indian Meal Moth Caterpillar

Indian Meal Moth Caterpillar

The adult moth is much shorter at approx. 1/4 ” in length.

Indian Meal Moth

Indian Meal Moth

After the first infestation, in which my kids almost ate some of the ‘worms’ in their Cheerios UGH!! , I threw away all infested food and thoroughly washed out all cabinets and canned goods before putt ing them back. It seems that they are able to chew holes through plastic bags also, so I bought see-through canisters to put my dry goods in the last time. This worked for about a year or so. Imagine my mortification when I came across this last sight…… I bought Raisin Bran and after coming home from the store, it was placed in it’s canister. It sat for a while in the canister on the bottom of the cabinet and recently found at least 50 or more ‘worms with their silken threads all in the cereal!!! :oP I always check my bags for holes especially if I find, for example, a small amount of brownie mix finding it’s way out of the bag before I open it. I’ve heard these are quite common and most people, disgustingly enough, inadvertently eat the eggs in their food without realizing it!! I know y’all don’t endorse extermination, but I draw the line when they are in my food! :o) Hopefully the files are small enough not to block your e-mail and big enough for everyone to see. Pl ease let me know if you have any problems. Thanks! I’m off for a good scrubbing again!
Disgusted in OH

Indian Meal Moth Infestation

Indian Meal Moth Infestation

Dear Disgusted,
First off, we sympathize with your loss of power. Mom, in a suburb of Yourngstown’s east side, was without power for twenty hours. Thanks for this wonderful letter and documentation. We do have images of Indian Meal Moths on our Pantry Pest page, but we need to check to see if they got lost in our site migration. Keeping grain products in tightly sealed cannisters is not always a solution, as food may be infested at the factory, at the warehouse, or on the shelf in the market. Spring cleaning of items in the pantry on a yearly basis will help reduce the risk of infestations. Also be mindful that nuts and spices are not exempt from beetle and moth infestation.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination