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.

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What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
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5 Responses to Pantry Infestation: Indian Meal Moths

  1. PatS says:

    There are sticky traps, baited with a pheremone, available for Indian meal moths (aka “pantry moths”). I have found them at hardware stores, and on the internet. They are useful for early detection of infestations, and help keep mile infestations under control by trapping the flying adults before they lay their eggs.
    Unfortunately, I can’t help with a source in the U.S.

  2. Flora says:

    During a bad infestation 25 years ago, I discovered pupae nestled in the holes running along the edges of my Ikea cupboards. The holes are there to let you adjust the shelves to various heights.
    I cleaned out the holes and taped them all up with plain ole transparent tape.
    You’ll still have to clean up the adults and larvae, but the favorite nests will be off limits.

  3. We’ve brought these fun bugs home from our local store too many times. Most often, in the Kroger brand sesame seeds (the old tin type two times!!!) i’ve since switched to the expensive seeds in the clear glass shaker just to check first. its always a bummer to make fried rice and pop open a fresh can of sesame seeds to find silk, larva, and a few moths flying out at you. Worst infestation came from a box of cheerios that we didn’t open right away.. after a week we spotted moths and they had managed to infest just about every bag store grain we had. Took a good few weeks of bleaching the pantry to rid, and learning about the moth. It would appear our local grocery store is infested. for the OP.. you can eat them…. not that we have by choice but its basically a meal worm.. we’ve all likely (people in general) ingested thousands of eggs over our lives thus far, they are dust sized… and look like the bits of ground up grain at the bottom of any dry grain food product bag. Keep your grains in a hard Tupperware plastic type bin that seals.. and if they pop up in that sealed box.. its a good chance it was infested at the store, or during packing at factory (don’t buy that product anymore).

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