Indian Meal Moths

Image via flickr by Ilia Ustyantsev

What Are Indian Meal Moths?

Indian meal moths are some of the most destructive pests in the United States. Their diets consist of practically any processed food that has vegetable origins, including candy bars, cereals, grain products, pet foods, spices, dried fruit, powdered milk, nuts, and occasionally a dried flower arrangement. With such a wide range of foods, they are widespread and can be found infesting the entire production chain. Indian meal moths often plague places like warehouses, restaurants, pet stores, mills, and seed companies.

Indian meal moths undergo full metamorphosis. There are four stages in a moths life cycle: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Within a two- to three-week period, an impregnated adult female will lay as many as 400 eggs on or in a food source. If they are left unchecked, Indian meal moths can produce up to eight generations in one year.

After the adult lays the eggs, it will die, having fulfilled its purpose. When the larvae hatch, they will immediately begin to feed. After some time passes and they are ready to pupate, they will leave their food source to find a suitable location to pupate and spin a silken cocoon. They reach adulthood after emerging from their cocoon.

What Do Indian Meal Moths Look Like?

An adult Indian meal moth’s body and wingspan measures in at around an inch long. The adult’s wings are usually gray, with the rear half nearly bronze or rusty brown; this unique pattern on their wings distinguishes Indian meal moths from all other moth species. The larvae are cream-colored with shades of pink or yellowish-green and dark brown heads.

Where Do Indian Meal Moths Live?

Indian meal moths are found around the world and can survive in many different environments. In the United States, they are considered to be the most destructive and most common pest to ravage stored foods. They are more than capable of surviving out in the wild but prefer to infest any place where food is stored. This type of environment is ideal, as it provides them with a food source, safety, and shelter as the larvae develop into adults.

Problems With Indian Meal Moths

Adult Indian meal moths do not eat, yet they survive long enough to mate and lay eggs. Larvae are destructive while they feed. They do not carry parasites or diseases, but while eating, they leave behind a sticky webbing, fecal pellets, and cast skins; this can make for an offensive surprise when you pull out an infested bag of flour to make biscuits.

Foods stored in cardboard boxes or soft plastic bags are still vulnerable, making your pantry an open buffet for Indian meal moth larvae. The larvae are capable of eating through cardboard or plastic to gain access to food. When you find that they have invaded the food stores in your pantry, you will have to throw out all contaminated food. The cost can quickly add up, depending on how bad of an infestation you have.

Indian meal moths also promote the growth of mold, adding another problem for you to deal with. If an Indian meal moth infestation is not adequately contained and preventative measures are not put into place beforehand, eliminating them can be a long, drawn-out process. When it comes to these pests, the best offense is a good defense.

Indian Meal Moth Control Solutions

If you fear that Indian meal moths have invaded your pantry, you should take the following steps:

  • Inspect every food package within your pantry and any cabinets. All food that is contaminated must be thrown away. Discard any infested ornamental dried flowers or plants.
  • After removing the contents of your pantry and cabinets, thoroughly clean all the shelves, gaps, cracks, and crevices with a vacuum and soapy water.
  • Seal off any holes that may be in your pantry or cabinets. You should also look for crawling larvae on the floor and for cocoons on the ceiling of your pantry to ensure that you leave no trace of the infestation.
  • Restock your pantry and cabinets with hard plastic containers and sealed glass containers to help prevent further infestations. Store any pet food in an airtight container to protect it from moths.

Moths can be a real nuisance, especially when they take up residence inside your home. Moths are very destructive, and depending on the species, they will invade your pantry or your closet and wreak havoc. In your pantry, they will contaminate food, and in your closet, they will eat your clothes. Identifying which moth species you are dealing with is vital when battling against an infestation.

In most cases, you only notice that a moth is in your house when you are watching TV at night and one flies in front of or lands on the TV screen. A lone moth doesn’t seem like much of a threat, but one moth can quickly turn into many if it can successfully lay eggs. Since moth infestations can be hard to manage, you should always be vigilant and remove moths from your home — even if it’s only one.

If you have an Indian meal moths infestation, you may need the services of a professional pest control agency to eradicate the pests. A trained technician can identify and neutralize the threat and implement a plan of prevention that will safeguard your home and your family. The time it takes to read up on Indian meal moths will be time well spent when you have them living and breeding in your home.

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