Moths in pantry - help! (long)

lola1(z9 Cen. CA)July 25, 2005

I have been battling moths now for a few months or so, and it is driving me crazy. I have tried several things and I'm getting tired of cleaning the shelves, corners, walls,---you name it--- because these &$@*%!!!

I have encased all dry goods in ziploc plastic bags. This includes pasta, rice, cake mixes, puddings, cake decorating sugars. Practically everything (Ziploc probably loves me - $$$s) is in a bag except for the can goods.

Since about 5-6 weeks ago, I discovered Safer brand Pantry Pest traps for moths that utilize a phermone (sp?) that attracts the male moths to it and they get stuck on the double-sided tape (a little like a glue trap). Well, this worked for a while and I kept thinking each week, 'okay, there'll be less, okay, there won't be any. . .' Ha! I find anywhere from 5 to 10 a day, just sitting on the ceiling or walls.

Where are they coming from? This is my guess:

1) they could be coming from other areas of the house, like closets, although I literally have not seen any in our closets

2) there is access to the crawl space on the floor of the pantry. The woman who used to own this house used to keep potatoes down there because it was naturally cool. Personally, I am way too much of a wimp to even think of opening it up, for fear that I'll see something that'll give me nightmares for weeks to come. My fiance says that since most bugs do not like the crawl space environment, it's unlikely they're coming from there. I'm not sure I agree with that.

3) new groceries- but I've made a strict rule that no dry goods enter the pantry unless they're "ziplocked."

Over the weekend, I put a handful of moth balls in there, a couple on each shelf, because I was disgusted with these things. I open the door this morning and 3 moths were just hanging out.

Any insight? Suggestions? Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease. I can't stand these things and I'm tired of constantly finding them, cleaning off the surfaces and throwing away [good] food!!!

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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

First of all, you need to remove the mothballs. They are not intended for that use and are very toxic. Use mothballs in a closed (sealed) environment to create fumes that will kill clothes eating insects.

Some time ago, I helped a friend with her mothy pantry. It was then that I learned that ziplock bags were virtually useless for protecting food from these critters. She had a BIG pantry, but had carefully zipped everything up that she thought might be a problem. We found larvae inside every single bag, in every single possible food source.

If you have the space, I strongly suggest that you purchase an inexpensive chest freezer. Double bag your food and store them in the freezer! Air tight containers with secure lids 'might' be good enough. (See food sources below)

Okay, let's talk about possible food sources: any packaged dry food, opened or otherwise, dry animal food, bird seed, tea, closed jars of peanut butter (!), cones and pods and other craft items, potpourri, spices, dried peppers, nuts, etc.

Once you have eliminated all possible food sources, they will disappear. Continue to use the traps to find the adults and, of course, clean off all of the little cocoons as you find them.

Now, about the crawl space. You really should look down there just in case. The panty moths won't live down there unless there is a food source. HOWEVER, your fiance wrong about those crawl spaces. All kinds of other critters prefer that kind of enviroment. It's bug heaven.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 9:31AM
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lola1(z9 Cen. CA)

Thank you, rhizo, for your info, I appreciate it. I literally just got up and got rid of the moth balls. I didn't think they were the best defense, as you rightly pointed out, they are really intended for use w/ clothes and in sealed containers,--- but I'm desperate. However, they are back in their container.

I am bummed about ziplocs not being a good line of defense. My pantry is pretty big, too, and I can't afford to get a chest freezer. Our new side-by-side fridge/freezer is only 1 year old, but I can't possible fit my pantry inside of it!

I have enclosed all the aforementioned items you outline in your response,--- coffee, tea, nuts, mixes--- you name it.

I will ask my fiance to look in the crawl space, below the pantry, but I guess my question is: what would I do once we look? I have a monthly pest service (for the outside) anyway, which during my last annual termite inspection said everything looked "okay." Now, you need to know that the pest people know I HATE bugs, so I think he was being honest with me. Besides, I would also think they see dollar signs w/ a client like me, who is all to willing to ask them to get rid of something. Anyway, I will ask him to look down there, to really understand what, if anything, is located directly below.

Since I mentioned the pest service, I suppose I should also say that I asked them early on about the moths, to which I got the reply that 1) they're often seasonal and 2) take away their food source. Even though I knew I would not spray or use any chemicals inside the house, I was just wondering what their take was.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 2:46PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Another thing to try also makes use of your freezer. Double bag those items and place them in the freezer for a couple of days, and continue on until everything has had a 'vacation' in the deep freeze! That may really help kill any living larvae that may still be in your dry goods. Give things that you bring home from the store a visit to the freezer, too.

I purchased my little freezer at Sams' for less than $100. I keep it out in the garage.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:31AM
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The larvae of Indian meal moths also can chew through plastic and you will often find the tiny caterpillars and pupae in the loose "cocoons" on sides of boxes or betwen the inner bag and the box on cake mixes and such.

I use the freezer to kill existing larvae and pupae. Unfortunately, many flour and grain products are already contaminated from the store or even the mill from which they came in the first place.

After freezing for a long time, I transfer flour, meal and grains to sealed plastic drink bottles. That works. I still have the moths. They are in new stuff from the stores and in my bird feed and seed. I can't totally eradicate them, but I can keep them out of my own food.

If pasta, beans or rice is contaminated, simply sift out the frass and sort to remove all cocoons, cook and serve. The bugs are really quite harmless as far as any health risk goes, but they are quite annoying. One little bug I can do without!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 9:42PM
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Lola - I sympathize with your problem. Off & on over past years, have experienced it myself. Don't know why some years it happens, and not others. I have found cloves to work. After cleaning off all the shelving, set out little dishes of cloves - ground or whole, doesn't matter - throughout the pantry. Supposed to be a deterrent. Also, keep as much in your freezer as you can until you get rid of the problem.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 8:05AM
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One thing that I heard might help (though I've never tried it myself) is to place unwrapped sticks of Wrigley's Spearmint gum on your pantry shelves. Weird, but it would be non-toxic and relatively cheap.

But freezing everything in sight really is the best thing to kill the problem in the bud... or the egg...

    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 2:56PM
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lola1(z9 Cen. CA)

Thanks again, for the info. I'll take all the help I can get! It seems that the amount of moths waxes and wanes, and I have no idea why. It does seem as though I have quite a few less, but they are not totally eradicated. I am trying to use our freezer and I will try the cloves and gum.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 4:47PM
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i hope people are still reading this posting... i too am battling with these viscious little creatures. i have already cried as i threw away pretty much all of our food. i only left what's in the refridgerator/freezer and a few things i really want to save that i thought were safe. so from what i read tea is not safe? all teas? ( i had a huge collection) and how about coffee? licorice?

my other questions are about prevention. everyone talks about the freezer, but is the refridgerator safe? i was planning on pretty much not buying groceries anymore unless it's something i can keep in the fridge or freezer. the main one i'm concerned about is the bread i'm planning on keeping in the refridgerator. ( i dont want to have to deal w/ defrosting everything all the time. ) and, lastly, so plastic bags are not strong enough, what about plastic containers? like those cheap ziploc snap-top things? they're not *that* thick, but...ok. thanks in advance it you can help. :)

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 2:52PM
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spriggan(z7 PA)

I've had moths off and on for years. While freezing works for grains, pastas, etc, these moths come in frequently in large packages of birdseed, dog food, cat chows, and items that may be too large for the freezer you have. I tried the triangular-shaped cardboard sticky traps made for these moths, which use pheromones. THEY WORK! I told a friend about them recently and was assured they worked for her as well. I've seen them at wild bird centers and some catalogues, or online at sites like ; and Gardens Alive! as well.
This has been the best thing I could find. Try them out....they're not expensive, last for about 3 months, breaking the cycle (hopefully!). Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2006 at 2:50PM
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The previous owners left my house moth infested. I didn't know what one was until I moved here. I didn't unpack my kitchen for two months...that's how long it took to get rid of them. I knew I had a problem after we closed on the house and spent a week cleaning and painting before moving in. The first night, I found some larva on the kitchen ceiling. Gross, but it didn't alarm me...yet! Previous owners were elderly and couldn't get around well. The next day, I found more larva on ceiling and in cabinets. Okay, time to investigate. And you have to remember, I HATE bugs, but an infestation literally makes me insane!

After researching these Indian meal moths, I learned they will travel upwards to pupate. I wanted to replace the ceiling light fixtures anyways, so off they came. There were thousands, not kidding, of larva hiding under there. The fixtures were the long flourescent (sp) types and there were two of them. So imagine how gross it was. Next, we took down the upper cabinets and found another bundle.

This house was infested for quite some time, and it was going to take time to get rid of them. But we finally did it. I set out those phermone traps, too, the kind that look like little roach hotels. Not the sticky tapes. I have to confess that I called in a exterminator, twice. Remember, I'm insane when it comes to having more than a couple bugs at one time.

Everything was sealed in watertight containers that couldn't go in the fridge. I even kept my cereal in the fridge for 2 years after. It's been almost seven years now, and I still panic when I find an errant piece of rice on the floor or counter that escaped during a chinese meal.

Bottom line is, take away the food source, search for the hidden larva, and life will get back to normal in a few months. Inspect every grain item that comes from the store. And keep pet food outside or very tightly wrapped.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 12:04PM
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ofionnachta(z6 WNJ)

Anitamo is right---keep it all super clean. Another thing is, don't buy more food than you will use in a few weeks--nuts, rice, pasta & the like.
I used to babysit for a family whose Dad worked in the grocery wholesale biz. He told me that all these foods have the eggs of these critters in them---that if the food packagers sprayed enough pesticide on the food to kill "everything", you would not be able to eat it yourself. They do the best they can with keeping warehouses clean etc but there just can't be 100% eradication of the critters unless you want to poison the consumers too.
We have neglected my own advice & had infestations--especially bad from birdseed left sitting around too long (tells you how much more poison has been sprayed on the human food!)and the only thing to do is throw out everything, clean clean clean & start over.
At least if you keep a compost pile,and a veggie garden, the food will eventually be "coming back" to you!

    Bookmark   July 22, 2007 at 4:46PM
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I have been going thru the same situation many of you have. Battling with kitchen "worms"; crawling all over my ceiling on a daily basis. It's been happening to me, for over a year; I happen to kill more than two every day...and I just can't take it anymore.!
I'm a clean person, as well as try to maintain a clean home. I clean my covers thoroughly, at least twice a year; but it seems that I have not yet get to the "root" of this problem; or have noticed, that I ever had it, existed, or was developing in my own kitchen. Well; I have to say that I'm glad I finally got the idea to look into your site for help; I'm definetelly going to follow all the advice I read from you, in order to get rid of the problem.! I understand, that I need to be patient, being that it will take time; as long as it helps me get rid of the situation.
Thank you all in advance, and Happy Holidays.!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 10:19AM
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I am having the same problem now too and I have never, ever had this problem before. I just killed 5 or 6 moths. I have been sealing all new grain items in vacuum sealed bags and am now wondering if this is enough. Maybe I'll pack them all up and put them out in the garage (it's about 17 degrees right now) and leave them there for a while). How long does food need to be frozed for the eggs to die? Are the vacuum sealed items good enough? What about storing in glass jars with screw tops? Are these moths the same kind that like to eat clothes? Please help! Where should I look for larvae? What do they look like? I hate to be spending my last few days before Christmas fighting these bugs, but they are driving me crazy. Thank you for your replies!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2008 at 1:28AM
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The standards that the USDA has developed for grains allows a certain amount of these insect eggs, and other stuff, because totally removing them would cost the companies too much money, so you need to keep these grains frozen because very few of those insects eggs are adversly affected by cold temperatures. If the eggs were killed by freezing it would be a simple matter of having the processors freeze the products several times while handling. Grain moths are not the same ones that eat clothing, and as you look at the grains or flour and there are larva in that you will see wiggling going on. These eggs will hatch when conditions (temperature and moisture) are right and sealed containers will not stop the process.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2008 at 7:01AM
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Good advice all around. For on going problems don't forget 'mouse bait,dog biscuits,decorative Indian corn are just a few other places you can check, For more info check out this article.Solid info with great tips.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pantry pests

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 11:45PM
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Here's something you might try. I use Dry Ice, in sealed buckets of flour, grains, and dry goods. Clean out your pantry from all traces of infestation then open any sip-lock bags you may have put a pound or so dry ice per 3 sq feet on each shelf on a piece of news paper then completely seal off the entire pantry or cupboard with heavy gage plastic, leave for four days. Then as you re introduce new dry goods use the bucket method to kill any thing brought into the home. But when putting the dry ice in a bucket of dry goods it will need to be burped once a day or the bucket will implode.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 12:42PM
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If you have a freezer readily available why would anyone spend money purchgasing dry ice? Handling dry ice is fairly hazardous in itself.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 7:00AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

That dry ice idea seems a

    Bookmark   May 8, 2011 at 4:16PM
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Well when you deal with the volume of storage that we do the freezer is full of frozen goods, and the dry ice works pretty good. But if you don't like that here's another one that works. Diatomaceous Earth! clean out your cupboard or pantry take food grade DE (NOT pool grade it's been baked) put it in an applicator and dust the shelves, walls, and ceiling this is vary safe and effective. Go to this website, scroll down to the bottom and watch the video and be a believer...

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 2:24AM
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More often than not the millers of grains put Diamotaceous Earth in the products they bag because they know these grain moths are going to be there. Keep in mind that the FDA allows a certain level of contamination, grain moth eggs and mouse excrement, in the grains and flower you you buy, because cleaning it free of that is "too expensive".

    Bookmark   June 3, 2011 at 7:27AM
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