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Indian Meal Moth

Summary: Indian meal moth can develop in unopened boxes of pantry products that are past their expiration dates.

We are all guilty of buying food product, putting it up on a shelf and forgetting about it. I mean, how often do you have the urge to eat couscous? Seemed like a good idea when you bought it, but you just never got around to preparing it. So, when someone suggests having something “middle-Eastern” for dinner, you remember and dig way in the back of the top shelf. At last, you find it, but when you open it, surprise, surprise. The couscous has company.

How did this happen to you? The kitchen is spotless and the couscous was never opened. The answer is that the Indian meal moth is common around the world and is well known for getting into stored grain products. You have just learned that Indian meal moths can get into sealed plastic bags or cardboard boxes by chewing through them.


The larvae of Indian meal moths eat cereals, whole grains, dried fruit, powdered milk, flour, pastas, seeds, spices and other pantry items. They spin silk as they eat and leave behind webbing in the grain. They are sometimes referred to as pantry moths or flour moths.

The adult moths are small with reddish brown wingtips. The moths are nocturnal and attracted to light, so sometimes you see them at night hovering close to your TV screen, but away from their food source. This can be confusing to someone who has not identified the moth because you wonder where they came from and how they got inside.

Usually, Indian meal moths get indoors via a packaged good like pasta or cereal. Dried dog food and bird seed are common culprits, as well. In spite of their efforts, it is nearly impossible for manufacturers to get rid of all Indian meal moth larvae in their product because new larvae are small enough to pass through the smallest of many mesh screens used for filtering. We suggest you inspect grain products carefully when you open them, especially if they are in large containers or they have gone past their expiration date.

To get rid of Indian meal moths you need to get rid of their food source. Once you find one moth you'll need to examine all the packages in your pantry containing any kind of grain, especially packages that have been there for a while. Throw away any food item that has silk threads on it or the white worms. You could also freeze the food items for several days or heat it in the oven for an hour or so and this will kill the eggs and larvae. This can be done if you want to save bird feed or seeds, but it isn't appetizing for something you plan to eat yourself.

After throwing out the contaminated food, vacuum the shelves carefully and wash them with soap and water. This will sanitize the storage place and help prevent a reoccurrence. Separate and store large packages of grains or seeds

Indian Meal Moth Larvae

apart from other pantry items.

You can treat the cracks and crevices of storage shelves with a product like Tri Die Aerosol, but you must be sure the pesticide has dried before putting any product back on the shelf. Read the warning label on any pesticide.

For a totally non-pesticide solution consider using Indian meal moth traps containing a pheromone that attracts the moth. It's a good tool to use to confirm it the moths are still present.

Indian meal moths can be quite a nuisance, but are harmless. They don't bite, sting or poison your food. For a large infestation you might have to call a pest control operator, but it is likely a problem you can save some money on by solving yourself. Just find the source of the infestation, remove it, and sanitize the area. Also, don't store dried foods in damp places for long periods. Follow these simple rules and you might avoid the YUCK factor of opening a box of cereal and finding that something has beaten you to the breakfast table.

Ask Rick A Question


30 Sep 2011, 20:09
We have had these pests for over 20 years. The bird has been dead 11 and we still can't get rid of them. All food is now in air tight containers or in the refrigerator. Any other type of container gets infested almost immediately after being brought into the house unless refrigerated or put in an air tight container. I find OXO storage containers work best. I'm going to try moth balls. I hate the smell of them, but it's a last resort.
Ask the Exterminator
03 Oct 2011, 19:03
If you have food products that are past their expiration dates and have never been opened, open them and check for infestations. Crackers, cereals, spices, chocolate, pasta, flour, rice and other grains all need to be checked. It is a common problem. Also, if you have had squirrels in the attic you need to check for stores of nuts. The stored nuts will become infested with Indian meal moths.
14 Oct 2011, 23:36
I have had these moths in my house for three year now, I do not know what to do, I buy orange oil spray every week at $10 a bottle, and and have placed pheramone traps all around as well. Please help.....
Ask the Exterminator
15 Oct 2011, 09:08
Read my comments about squirrels.
21 Oct 2011, 23:43
I had these worms in my cat food and I found the bag that they were in and immediately threw it away and I have other food like peanut butter around the cat food so should I throw that food and the other unopened cat food away 2? and after I do throw away the source will they just go away?
Ask the Exterminator
23 Oct 2011, 10:29
If you have food products that are past their expiration dates and have never been opened, open them and check for infestations. Crackers, cereals, spices, chocolate, pasta, flour, rice and other grains all need to be checked. It is a common problem.
28 Oct 2011, 19:29
We have a buttload of these buggars.

My lorikeet passed away, and a year later I got a Jardine's Parrot.

I kept a bag of peanuts in my bedroom for her treats, she loves them.

Then I got a few moths- probably unrelated.

Then more.

Then More.

It's no longer a coincidence BI

We took Jenny(bird) to the birdsitter, then bombed my room and cleaned the house, cleaned my room, got rid of the nuts.

2.8 years later, I still have them.

Is there a way that I can get rid of these without harming my birds? I've since acquired 3 cockatiels, so I can't hurt them, either X3
Ask the Exterminator
30 Oct 2011, 07:53
You've discovered that "bombing" the room does little. That's because the larvae of these moths are hidden well into locations where the "bombs" simply cannot hit. You need to better understand about the moths. It's not the adult moths that you should be seeking. It's the larval stage and that means looking for the foods they eat. The adult moths fly around laying eggs in new areas, so you need to expand your search. Don't forget attic spaces where they could infest stores of nuts brought in by squirrels.
10 Jun 2012, 12:56
I think I have these moths in my attic area. Have been doing some renovations.We noticed the moths a month ago cleaned the kitchen area & storage areas but nothing. How would you find the source if its under the insulation? Will they die off if the source of food runs out? I am useing the traps but still have them flying around.
Ask the Exterminator
10 Jun 2012, 16:25
If the source is coming from the attic under the insulation, you will probably be looking for nuts stored by squirrels. It's a matter of lifting the insulation and doing a visual inspection.
07 Oct 2012, 00:04
Yo Rick you rock. Thank you for this website. It's really good to find out this info and it is going to help us deal with our Indian Meal Moth prob.
08 Feb 2013, 20:53
I am at a loss....We have noticed these pests for about 2 months now! We moved into our house in late November. The house had previously been vacant for about 14 months before we took ownership. We had it inspected and everything is good - and also, no squirrels in the attic. I noticed 1 larvae on the wall in the kitchen and 1 in my bathroom upstairs upon the day we moved in. Thought it was just because it had been empty. We sprayed all of the cabinets with the Bayer Home Defense, Cloroxed them, and also vacuumed them before we EVER even put food in them. Well my pasta got bugs in it, as well as our cat food. Ended up taking a few of the larvae to a pest company who identified them, came and treated our house and cabinets. One week later and we still had them, so they came and used an aerosol on all the cabinets. Well WE STILL HAVE THEM!!!! They are now dying in the cabinets, but are now coming on my counters. I have never once seen an adult moth - they are always larvae. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE HELP!!!!! After reading some of the comments above about having birds, I am thinking that maybe these pests were here and survived because the previous owners had A LOT of birds!! All the carpet is new and the whole house is pretty much renovated, but we have a pest that we can't seem to get rid of and I am going crazy.
07 Jun 2013, 13:45
I have a question. I have battled the moths, won the fight, then apparently brought them home again when I bought cat food for a new pet. But I don't understand how they get into my cayenne pepper, which they must love, when it has a really good screw on lid. Any ideas?
Asks the Exterminator
07 Jun 2013, 13:54
If the lid is bent in any way, they can find their way inside. Or, the pepper contained larvae when you purchased it. That is very common with our food supply. Most food contains some small portion of insect parts and/or larvae. It's nearly impossible to produce perfectly pure food. The only time we see evidence of the insects is when food goes way past its label expiration date.
Duck Dodgers
09 Sep 2013, 23:07
Had these bastards for almost 2 years, here is how you get rid of them, it will take a whole, but it will help.

Number 1) that natural isht doesn't work, you'll need pesticides

Number 2) stop storing anything in your cabinets that isn't canned, I actually took everything out, because I didn't want them to have anywhere to hide

Number 3) no crumbs,anywhere ever, I mean not one, after you cleaned the cabinets, washed then down, vacuum every nook and cranny in the kitchen

Number 4) pheromone traps, and actually keep a count of how many you catch before you change them, to know if you are denting their population, I caught over 1000 in the first couple of months, I had 7 traps spread through out the kitchen and living room where I saw them flying

Number 5) kill every adult you see, squish, spray, swat whatever, females fly generally after laying their eggs but it will make you feel better... also bomb very 2 weeks, I'm talking super soak the area

Number 6) by the industrial Chem, Gentrol, that they use disrupt the growth cycle of insects, it's a far in kitchens and comes in pods or aerosol, I used both.

7) Did I mention all that homeopathic isht doesn't work and it took insecticides and growth inhibitors to finally lick this problem.

Good luck, once you find the food sources the battle can actually begin, it will be long but if you are diligent, and really on top of it, you will win!!!
13 Feb 2014, 11:21
We have been battling them for about 4 months now. We still see one flying around every now and again. We have had pest control come almost weekly. We do get a week off here and there and see none then bam another one or two either crawling up the wall, hanging from the ceiling or the adults flying around. I am feeling like we will never be rid of them...

But I have to remember at one time we had 1000s of them, when I found their food source.
26 Jun 2014, 11:31
Brought the moths in with a bag of rice. (Threw out everything that wasn't stored in the refrigerator, except my spices which didn't seem infested at all and my canned goods. I set up pheromone traps in the kitchen. I very seldom see them in my kitchen. HOWEVER, I noticed a bunch of them in the upstairs bathroom flying around. I set a trap there and it was full within a day. What are they feeding on in the bathroom? I cannot find any worms, only adult moths that are sticking to the trap, and where are the females? I don't see them either. I already threw out my potpourri as a precaution (no bugs there). Please, help. Thanks.
26 Jun 2014, 11:50
Look everywhere, everywhere, the adults may not be close to where they hatched, they like to fly in dark areas. We found our source and it was under our bed. We had spilled some cat food under there picked it up but didn't vacuum, I pulled out a box and there were hundreds in there. Also look around your house for cocoons, in the corners on the ceiling. We have had to have pest control come multiple times to rid our house of these. They were even baffled by what they were feeding on... My friend had them in a food source and they had crawled into a light in her pantry, that was the source for her and once she cleaned it all out they went away for good. Good luck.
08 Oct 2014, 14:55
Okay, you've all scared me! I've seen two adults right in two separate packages. What to do? I might throw everything out and wash everything down and hunt the house over for tell-tale signs. I probably don't need the traps - but wonder if I should get them. I double bagged the unopened oatmeal and flour, but think that should be tossed to from what I've read!
23 Oct 2014, 02:02
I've been dealing with this pest for over a month now. I vacuumed and sprayed all my cabinets. I cleaned everything, got rid of flours, cereals, pasta, etc. I put moth traps and they work! I barely see them now, but when I do I kill them. I keep on checking the cabinets and the pantry every now and then. I have the rice and sugar in air tight containers now. The only things I never put in air tight containers are my spices. Black pepper, paprika, oregano, vanilla extract, curry, etc. Do they eat this stuff too? Should I put them in air tight containers as well?
10 Jul 2015, 03:10
Ninjapancake, back years later. Guess what I'm STILL dealing with in 2015? The Damn things followed me when I moved.

The pheromone traps work well.

No advice to offer here, but if you notice them get rid of them asap. They just won't die.
F. Henninger
03 Aug 2015, 21:34

With $15 worth of sunflower seeds left in the 30-gallon trash container we use for 50 pounds of seed, we found Indian Meal Moths had infected the seeds. We put $6 worth of dry ice pellets on top of the seeds, covering the container only loosely so the expanding carbon dioxide wouldn't cause it to explode. A day or two later, all was quiet. The ice melts; the carbon dioxide slips heavily down among the seeds; the insects suffocate.

F. Henninger
Akron, OH
Ask the Exterminator
03 Aug 2015, 22:36
Very cool idea! I like it.
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