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If you open a packet of food and discover messy strands of silk webbing and caterpillars already enjoying its contents, it’s usually because pantry moths have beaten you to it.

Also known as Indian meal moths, these troublesome pests are sneaky and silent, and their presence makes your food unfit for consumption

You’ll find them lurking in your cupboards and food storage areas where they manage to crawl inside hard to reach places and lay hundreds of eggs…weeks later you have a full-blown outbreak on your hands.

So it’s no surprise then that pantry moths have been known to cause major headaches in both homes and businesses around Adelaide.

If you’re worried about Indian meal moths, we’ve put together some information to help you identify the signs of an infestation, as well as some tips from our pest control technicians about how to prevent, eliminate and treat an outbreak.

Get to know pantry moths

These pests are attracted to dried food products and are typically found hiding in stored items in your pantry. This includes flour, rice, oats, grains, cereals, powdered milk, cocoa, dried fruit, nuts, herbs, spices, confectionary, nuts, pet food and bird seed. They are normally introduced into your pantry from other contaminated products.

Indian meal moths vary in appearance

Identifying an outbreak means becoming familiar with how they look at different stages of their life cycle.

  • Their eggs are white in colour and about 0.3-0.5mm long
  • Once they have hatched out of their eggs as tiny off-white coloured caterpillars or larvae, they crawl around searching for food
  • Once they’ve established a food source, larvae leave behind their droppings and spin silky strands to form cocoons, where they become 0.6-1.1cm brown coloured pupae
  • After a few weeks, adult pantry moths emerge from the cocoons. They are approximately 1cm long, with bronze or tan coloured bands near the tip of their grey wings

They are clever at sneaking into food items

Caterpillars and larvae are small enough in size to crawl under poorly sealed lids, and inside tiny cracks and holes in food packaging. Large larvae have even been known to penetrate well-sealed packaging. They can also hide in corners of cupboards and pantry door hinges.

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Why should I worry about Indian meal moths?

Pantry moth larvae are thought to be harmless to people as they don’t spread diseases. However, having silk webbing and droppings in your food items makes them unfit for consumption.

With females able to lay 60-400 eggs at a time, often in hard to reach places, it doesn’t take long for an outbreak to happen.

This means that pantry moths pose a major threat to warehouse and distribution facilities in particular, where there is a large volume of stored food. An outbreak could result in a significant and costly loss of stock.

Signs you’ve got a pantry moth outbreak

If you’ve observed some unusual changes in your food, kitchen, pantry or storage room, it’s likely that you have a pantry moth problem on your hands.

Webbing

As Indian meal moth larvae produce a silk webbing to form cocoons, pay attention to silky white strands in your food or within food packaging. They are commonly mistaken for spider webs.

Feeding tracks

Larvae leave trails as they burrow through your food.

You notice pantry moths flying around

This is one of the earliest signs of a pantry moth infestation and they are most likely to be seen during their active times at dusk or in the evenings. They tend to fly around with an unpredictable path.

Have you noticed these signs of Indian meal moths lurking around?

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Pantry moths in commercial facilities

Whether you’re at home or at work, having these pesky insects flying around erratically is sure to be distracting, off-putting and frustrating to find them hiding in your staple food items.

Cafes, restaurants and hospitality venues

With a large amounts of stock and ingredients, an outbreak of Indian meal moths can render your supplies unfit for consumption. This can result in a loss of stock, reduced trade and income, and failure to meet government food safety standards, leading to substantial penalties.

Food handling and distribution facilities

Pantry moths fluttering around a warehouse aren’t just a nuisance; they can become dangerous when there is heavy machinery in operation. With many hiding places and an abundance of food to choose from, an outbreak can happen quickly and quietly, resulting in a violation of industrial health and safety regulations as well as hefty fines.

Preventing a pantry moth problem

You can be pro-active in taking the following steps to protect your home from an outbreak:

Keep your pantry and kitchen clean

  • Regularly wipe or vacuum all the shelves, cupboard doors and walls, containers, kitchen utensils, cutlery, especially potential hiding spots such as hard to reach corners and holes
  • Dispose of old or poorly sealed food items
  • Wipe up spills immediately
  • Replace shelf liners

Inspect stored food regularly

  • Carefully check lids of cans and spice jars for migrating larvae
  • Check flour carefully as tiny pantry moths can easily be camouflaged
  • Don’t forget dried pet food

Dispose of any affected food immediately

As larvae can migrate, it’s best to remove any potential sources of further contamination as quickly as possible to stop an outbreak from spreading

Inspect food before purchase

If possible check packaged food for signs of contamination prior to bringing it inside your home, and ensure it is properly sealed

Store food in airtight containers

Securing pantry items in metal, glass or plastic containers with screw-top lids rather than plastic bags are an effective way to reduce the spread of a pantry moth outbreak.

Homemade repellents

Spraying and wiping over surfaces with a mixture of water, white vinegar and essential oils can act as a deterrent. You can use a combination of peppermint, cedarwood and eucalyptus oil.

Flying termite swarms and discarded wings

Every three to five years, a colony will send winged termites or swarmers to start a new colony elsewhere. If you notice white flying insects or piles of wings around your property, near lights or windowsills, particularly during spring and summer, you may have an outbreak of swarmers. They nest in woodpiles and tree stumps, so it’s recommended to clear your yard.

Short-circuiting power

Electrical wiring in walls, floors and ceilings are all susceptible to termite damage. If you experience electricity interruptions more often than usual, check for mud tubes or a build-up of organic material around your electrical fittings. Remember to take extra care when handling high voltage electricity fixtures.

How to remove a pantry moth outbreak

 

If you’re looking for ways to eradicate Indian meal moths, here are some options:

Exposure to heat

Pantry moth larvae and eggs cannot survive exposure to freezing and temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius, so applying heat or extreme cold can help to sterilise areas and items which can harbour these pesky creatures.

Insecticide aerosol

You can spray this directly onto flying moths and applied inside empty food storage areas, however, ensure the product has completely dried before restocking your food inside.

Setting up traps

You can find these products at hardware stores. Non-toxic pheromone-laced traps placed inside at risk areas are designed to attract male pantry moth larvae inside, where they become stuck to an adhesive lining the walls of the trap. This method disrupts the life cycle of pantry moths.

Professional pantry moth eradication

Our pest control technicians will come up with a treatment plan that is in line with food standard HACCP. We follow a 4 step management approach to ensure that all traces of an outbreak are removed as quickly and effectively as possible.

Inspection

Our pest technicians will perform a physical assessment of the affected area and deteremine if any parts can be isolated, and which items are contaminated and should be immediately discarded.

Clearing away eggs and larvae

We usually vacuum or thoroughly wash the affected area to ensure it is clean, sanitised and free of any traces of pantry moths. It’s often best to only clean out pantry moths

Treatment

We use a combination of non-toxic aerosols and well-placed traps, depending on the severity of your outbreak.

Follow up

To prevent a re-infestation, we usually recommend leaving the affected area empty for a few weeks to ensure that all eggs and tiny larvae have been removed. If additional treatment or monitoring is required, we’ll let you know.

Reporting back to you

We’ll provide a useful resource for you to refer back to as part of your workplace health and safety plan. Having a copy of our report ensures that you stay informed of our assessment and treatment plan regarding your pantry moth outbreak.

You can count on Allstate for a reliable pantry moth elimination service

Our highly trained team at Allstate has a thorough understanding of food standard HACCP and is always fully equipped to assist you in resolving a pantry moth infestation. We understand how stressful and overwhelming an outbreak can be and we draw on many years’ experience in helping homes and businesses around Adelaide get rid of pantry moths for good.

As Indian meal moth outbreaks can be hard to detect until the problem is severe, we’re available 24/7 to all suburbs in Adelaide to assist in all urgent cases. Our technicians are happy to work around times that suit you in order to minimise disruptions.

We value the safety of people, pets and the environment, so the treatments and products we use are nontoxic and applied with careful consideration.

Our treatments and services are covered by competitive warranties, and we offer a 100% money back guarantee if you are not satisfied. With interest-free payment plans available, this enables you to eliminate pantry moths as quickly as possible.

For a tailored approach to control any pest outbreak, with follow up checks to ensure that you stay pest-free permanently, choose Allstate Pest Control.

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