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There are several insect pests in the United States that are categorized as “pests of stored food products.” The most commonly encountered insect pest of this sort in the US is the “Indian meal moth.” These insect pests invade pantries and kitchen cupboards where they infest a variety of packaged foods, including grain products, seeds, dried fruit, dog food, and spices. Both adult and larval Indian meal moth specimens can be found in infested conditions, but only larvae feed upon stored food items. Due to their small size, Indian meal moth larvae do not consume large amounts of human food, but all foods within an infested kitchen should be discarded for several important reasons. Unsurprisingly, consuming foods that have been contaminated by Indian meal moths can be hazardous to health, as larvae spin nasty silk webs within the food containers they infest. These silk webs gather many environmental impurities, namely insect feces, which render packaged foods within infested pantries unfit for human consumption.

In most cases, the first sign of an Indian meal moth infestation is the presence of adult moths, which can travel to various rooms within a home, leading many people to confuse these moths with clothes moths. Adult specimens are attracted to artificial light sources and they can be recognized for their half inch body length, their reddish-brown forewings and their fluttering flying style. While at rest, the moths situate their wings over their body for shelter. Female moths usually place their eggs directly on food sources in order to provide emerging larvae with an immediate source of sustenance. These eggs are exceptionally tiny and are not likely to be spotted with the naked eye, as they are rarely larger than .5 of a millimeter in length. Larvae are around half an inch and they possess five sets of prolegs that allow them to travel rapidly in order to find ideal conditions in which to pupate. Pinpointing the source of an infestation can be difficult, as larvae can move from shelf-to-shelf within a pantry before pupating, and pupation takes place away from food sources. Indian meal moth activity within pantries can be monitored by the strategic placing of pheromone sticky traps within infested areas or areas at risk of becoming infested. There exists a variety of methods to eliminate infestations, including heat and freeze treatments, environment modifications and chemical controls.

Have you ever spotted moths within your pantry?