Indian meal moths are the most common stored product pest found in homes that get their name from their diet of grains — “Indian corn" or maize.
Adult Indian meal moths can be up to five-eighths of an inch long, with a wingspan of about three-fourths of an inch. Their forewings are reddish-brown with a coppery sheen on the outer two-thirds and gray on the inner third. At rest, they hold their wings over their body in a roof-like position.
WHERE DO INDIAN MEAL MOTHS COME FROM?
Indian meal moths are commonly brought into your home through infested food items. In some situations, they may be brought in by rodents stashing foods, or they can fly into a home. They have four stages during their life cycle: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The female moth lays 200 to 300 eggs (in a 1-18 day period) directly onto food. After the eggs hatch, the larvae feed for 6 to 8 weeks. Food can become contaminated with silk and frass as the larvae feed. Before they turn into pupae, the larvae crawl a considerable distance away from their food source.
WHERE DO INDIAN MEAL MOTHS LIVE?
Indian meal moths can be found in a wide range of climates and live in stored food products, including grains, seeds, dried fruit, pet food and spices. Infestations often start in dry pet food and bird seed. People often store large quantities of these foods in unattended locations, where infestations may go unnoticed for days.
CAN MEAL MOTHS GET IN MY HOUSE?
Indian meal moths may be brought into your home through infested food products or by rodents stashing foods. In some locations, the adults can fly into your home from the outside. Usually the first sign that you have Indian meal moths is seeing the adults flying around in your kitchen. You may see pinkish-white larvae (caterpillars) crawling on your shelves near infested food items.
CAN MEAL INDIAN MOTHS CAUSE DAMAGE?
Indian meal moth larvae can damage grains and other foods stored in your pantry, mostly by spinning large amounts of silk, which collects frass (fecal pellets), discarded skin and egg shells in food. They also feed on the food that they are in and that damage is usually less than the damage from the silk and frass. Indian meal moths damage more food by contaminating it than by eating it. Adult meal moths don't feed, but if you see winged moths in your pantry, you'll know you have a meal moth infestation.
DO INDIAN MEAL MOTHS EAT CLOTHES?
Indian meal moth larvae feed on grain and stored food, not on fabric. Adult Indian meal moths are attracted to light and may fly away from the pantry into bedrooms, where they may be mistaken for clothes moths.
Related > Why Do Moths Eat Clothes?
HOW CAN YOU HELP CONTROL PANTRY MOTHS?
Good sanitation and proper food storage are effective ways to help prevent and control Indian meal moth infestations in your house:
When you bring food home from the grocery store, inspect packages for pinkish-white worms (meal moth larvae). Throw away any infested food.
Don't purchase more food than you can use in two to four months. Those huge bags of food from your favorite warehouse store may not be the best choice, pest-wise.
Store food, including dog food and bird seed, in tightly sealed containers. In warmer climates, corn meals and flours should be refrigerated.
Keep your counters, cabinets and pantry shelves clean. Wipe or vacuum food spills immediately. Use soap and water to clean your cabinets or vacuum. Make sure you dry the surface after washing because water can mix with food particles and create a pasty residue that can attract stored product (pantry) pests.
A pest control professional can also help you get rid of and prevent Indian meal moths. Learn more about Terminix pest control today.