What are Indian Meal Moths?

Indian meal moths are a common household pest that get their name from their diet of grains — “Indian corn” or maize.

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 meal moths come from?

Indian meal moths can be introduced through food or can come into homes from the outside. They pass through 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. They weave together silk and frass (droppings) to create a tunnel-like protective case. The meal moth larvae stay in or close to this case while they feed. Just before they turn into pupae, the larvae crawl a considerable distance away from their food source.

Where do 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 hitchhike into your house via stored food products. They can also come in from the outside. You may see pinkish-white caterpillars (larvae) crawling across your counters, walls or ceilings. You may also see a few adult brown moths flying in your kitchen or adjacent rooms.

Can meal moths cause damage?

Meal moth larvae can damage grains and other foods stored in your pantry, mostly by spinning large amounts of silk, which collects fecal pellets, discarded skin and egg shells in food. 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 meal moths eat clothes?

Indian meal moths feed on grain and stored food, not on fabric. Indian meal moths are attracted to light and may fly away from the pantry into bedrooms, where they are often 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 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, meals and flours should be refrigerated.

Keep your counters, cabinets and pantry shelves clean. Wipe or vacuum food spills immediately. Don’t use water to clean your cabinets because this can create a pasty residue that may attract 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.