Seeing one or two pantry moths fly out of your cabinets during the warm summer months might not sound alarm bells. But left unchecked, the number can quickly multiply! Read on to learn all about pantry moths and how to keep them away for good!
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What Are Pantry Moths?
Pantry moths are relatively harmless to humans and pets but can wreak havoc on your dry goods. Also known as “pantry pests,” “weevil moths,” and officially“Plodia interpunctella” or “Indianmeal moths,” these moths differ from clothes moths, though they look very similar. Essentially, clothes moths eat fabric, and pantry moths eat food.
What do pantry moths eat specifically? Their favorite treats include grains, nuts, fruit, and even dog food! I was more likely to find them there than around something like protein powder. In one instance, pantry moths actually broke through the plastic of an unopened bag of cereal. So long, Honey Bunches of Oats!
Are Pantry Moths Harmful?
While moths are gross and a nuisance, they’re not harmful to people or pets. They might wreak havoc on your dried apricots or pecans, but they’re more “icky” than dangerous.
Before you add pantry moth infestation to your growing list of random fears, consider how many times you’ve been to houses with these pantry pests versus those without. Chances are, even if you’re dealing with your own outbreak, you’ve spent most of your life moth-free! This, too, shall pass!
How Did I Get Pantry Moths in My House?
A full-on infestation could usually start with a small moth or eggs hiding in your groceries. I have a feeling our infestation might have started in a bag of bulk rice, but it’s impossible to know the exact origin.
Even though you can’t really know how the moths came, you can recognize the signs. It’s time to take action and take steps to eliminate them for good!
What Are the Signs of Pantry Moths?
For me, the first sign of the pests was seeing one or two moths flying out of the cabinets. I didn’t think much of it since our house often has some unwanted ants or flies during summer. But the damage was more extensive than I realized at first.
Most of the food we were consuming regularly was untouched, but when I opened a bag of nuts I thought was well-sealed, I was mildly horrified to see some of the food the moths had eaten. There were also little web remnants where they had laid eggs and tiny larvae inside.
I quickly threw out a lot of food that afternoon!
If you think you might have a problem with moths or other types of insects, don’t wait around thinking the issue will resolve itself. Chances are, if you think you have pantry moths, you probably do!
How Can I Eliminate and Prevent Pantry Moths?
One of the challenges when it comes to eliminating pantry pests lies in the lifecycle of the moth. It can take 14-30 days for the moths to mature, so it’s essential to keep an eye on the affected area for about a month to ensure these pests are gone for good!
But even if it seems like you have a moth army around your food, it’s never too late to say goodbye to these unwanted visitors! Here are some practical ways to rid yourself of pantry moths and prevent them from returning. First, sanitize, then organize.
Deep Clean Your Pantry
First, you’ve got to eliminate the source of the problem. This process can be tedious, but because the moths, their eggs, and larvae are all relatively small, you’ve got to get these guys out at the root!
1. Inspect Your Food
Check your existing food containers for any signs of moths nesting. You might find moth eggs in entirely unexpected places like sandwiched between plastic bags with no food.
I even found two under the lid of a factory-sealed bottle of Tums! Thankfully, they couldn’t penetrate it, but they definitely would have given the chance. Also, gross!
2. Remove Your Food From the Pantry
You can do this process shelf by shelf or just rip off the Band-Aid and remove everything. But going through everything helps you identify what you need to eliminate and gives you a clean slate to wipe things down.
3. Vacuum the Pantry
Before you wipe down your counters, it doesn’t hurt to run the vacuum through the different nooks and crannies. That way, you can suck up any extra crumbs or eggs hiding in the pantry.
I’m a big fan of our Dyson V12, which helps you reach into all of the random corners where the moths try to hide. Be sure to clean out the vacuum canister and filters after you suck up the pantry moth remnants so they don’t inadvertently spread elsewhere while vacuuming elsewhere.
4. Clean Out the Nooks and Crannies
Get out your Clorox wipes or cleaner or choice, and scrub down your pantry shelves. It’s helpful to do this after the vacuum, so you pick up the remaining crumbs.
5. Get Some Pantry Moth Traps
Traps like these give off a moth pheromone and help to trap any stragglers your initial moth cleanout didn’t catch. You can put them in the corner of your pantry, cabinets, or possibly near pet food if they’ve wandered over there, too.
Be sure to check on them periodically to ensure they don’t get overcrowded. Hopefully, you won’t find too many in there if you did a decent job with your overall cleaning. This is more of a backup measure.
5. Clean Out Food Before It Hits Your Cupboards
It might be over-the-top, but if you really want to make sure you don’t bring any pantry pests into your house, freeze your grains for 24-72 hours before putting them in the cabinets. The cold will kill any eggs, moths, or larvae.
Similarly, if you can’t tell whether or not your food, like rice or nuts, has been compromised, you can put it in your freezer for 24 to 72 hours. Even if you end up eating something, the bugs won’t hurt you. Of course, when in doubt, throw it out also applies!
7. Regularly Clean and Inspect the Pantry
Even the tidiest cupboards can get messy again–especially if you have kids! So take a minute or so every day to make sure you don’t have empty food or crumbs lying around your pantry that might be appealing to more pantry pests.
Pantry Organization Overhaul
Unfortunately, my experience with these moths made it clear that chip clips and half-closed zipper bags aren’t ideal for moth prevention! I needed to take drastic action to make sure I could locate the moths and eliminate them forever. Here are my favorite pantry ideas to keep everything organized.
8. Transfer Your Food Into Another Airtight Container.
In addition to helping with the organizational process, this step also helped me see where most of my moths hid– with the dried fruit and nuts! That allowed me to throw away the food that was shot but also preserve the food that remained untouched.
9. Do a General Pantry Inventory.
Granted, this step isn’t crucial to eliminate moths, but it lets you see your food more clearly. You can tell when you bought certain pantry essentials and which foods you could live without.
Keeping tabs on what you have, when you bought it, and what you need can be one of the most effective home remedies to rid yourself of these moths.
10. Invest in Clear Containers for Your Food.
Organize your food in clear, uniform bins where you can see what you have. My moths had a lovely place to stay in the back of my cupboards where I wasn’t looking, which resulted in me wasting money on spoiled food. Proper food storage really does matter!
I have enjoyed these bins, which cost just over a dollar for each one. They come with a pen and reusable pantry labels, which work really well! You can also use Mason jars or any container that makes it easy to see what’s inside.
Invest in the pantry storage solution that fits your lifestyle and budget. If you can’t purchase lots of clear bins, plastic Ziploc bags can also help keep moths away. While I can’t successfully use chip clips, if they work for you, great!
11. Do a Weekly Pantry Check.
It’s easy to assume your pantry cleanout job has ended after everything’s perfectly labeled and organized. But it’s more of building a foundation toward a happy pest-free home.
Keep an eye on your pantry- maybe just for 5 minutes a week- to ensure it still looks good. You’ll probably end up changing things around after the first week or two, but in time, it will be fantastic! Not only will your food look good– but you won’t have to share anything with moths!
Preventing Future Infestations
Keeping your kitchen clean and organized is vital to keeping the moths away. You don’t need moth balls or insecticides around your food! Natural remedies like moth traps should work pretty effectively.
The most effective home remedy remains a clean and organized kitchen. There’s no quick fix to this tried-and-true process, but it can keep your kitchen free from unwanted pests.
What are your best pantry moth prevention tips? Let us know on social #getfamilyapp!