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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


28 Mar 2009, 21:44
Thanks for your honest help. Most would suggest an exterminator just to make the extra buck.
Armond Jones
29 May 2009, 09:03
THANK YOU, sooooo much
20 Aug 2009, 16:55
I think I just had an infestation of these, but wanted to check - are there similar-acting/looking bugs sometimes mistaken for these? Just curious.

I noticed them around my pantry (dried goods like pasta, flour, granola bars, chips) before a vacation and should've done something about it; since arriving back the other day, they're all over the cereals, etc., and now i'm noticing larva crawling up the walls near the pantry.

Took everything out, threw away 90-something percent of it, washed/wiped down a few cans to save.

I sprayed disinfectant over the cupboard, washed with soap/water, then sprayed disinfectant again.

This is a great site/service! Like anything else in modern life, you have a problem and wanna go on the 'net and see if you're alone in this/what can be done about it.

I think I have the problem beat, but only time will tell.
leonard poole
21 Dec 2009, 15:54
re:indian meal moths,would ornamental gourds attract these moths, we threw all grain products away,put everything in locknlock boxes and put the bread in the fridge we have cleaned and sprayed all the food cabinets with pesticide and have five pheromone traps in the kitchen to watch the control, it seems to diminished but we still find 3 to 5 everyday.WE HAVE DONE EVERYTHING EXCEPT TEAR THE CABINETS OFF THE WALL LOOKING FOR A SOURCE..PLEASE ADVISE. THANK YOU LEO & KAREN p.s. need stronger pesticide?
11 Sep 2010, 22:10
We have had these meal months for almost 2 years. We found the original source and got rid of it in a plastic bag, and cleaned the heck out of everything, then sealed any cracks with silicone in the cabinets, just in case. We took out the stove and cleaned in there We threw away all dried type foods, just to make sure. Kept the pheromone traps out, still got several. I have everything in airtight containers, in the freezer, I freeze everything grainy that comes through my house. We still have them, and they are now in my bathroom (we don't eat anywhere but the kitchen), in the front hallway and the kitchen. There was maybe a 2 month period where I thought I got rid of them in the winter, but as soon as the air conditioner came back on, they were back, so we had our air ducts cleaned just in case they were hiding there. I am so exhausted of sharing my home with these pests, but I have heard that pesticides can make the situation worse.
Ask the Exterminator
12 Sep 2010, 07:54
Have you ever had squirrel problems in the attic? Squirrels store nuts and nuts can become infested with Indian meal moths. Inspect the attic. It may be the source.
20 Jan 2011, 19:51
Thanks so much for such a quick response and certainly this looks like what I have. As soon as I think we're rid of them, more show up. I think they're diminishing but still will need to go through my pantry and clean extremely well. Again, thanks for your honesty about first trying to get rid of them and an exterminator as the last resort.
25 Feb 2011, 11:00
I have indian meal moths , which started
in bird seed. Just when I think I got rid of them I find them in another part oof the house. we have tried everything. just can seem to get rid of tthem. I even bought a new bird cage, and moved my birds to a diff room. I threw out 2 vacuums because bugs where in the vacuum cleaners. what else can I do to get rid of these annoying moths.???
Ask the Exterminator
25 Feb 2011, 11:15
Once Indian meal moths get into a house they spread quickly to any available food source. So, you need to pinpoint where they are breeding other than the bird seed.

I suggest buying Indian meal moth pheromone traps and placing six traps in locations where you find individual moths. The more moths caught in a single trap indicate that you are getting closer to the source. Then, it's a matter of searching for the source. Google "Indian Meal Moth Traps" to find them.
Audrey Chuckas
03 Jun 2011, 08:29
Thank you for your good advice regarding the Indian meal moths. They are hard to get rid of but I'm trying and it is quite expensive but will throw out a lot of food.
19 Sep 2011, 05:15
hallo, bij het aankopen van gedroogd fruit (zowel bij vijgen als bij goji bessen, trof ik deze larven aan. Ook in Tunesie bij verse abrikozen...ik denk zelfs een paar te hebben opgegeten aangezien ik de abrikozen en vijgen niet open deed vooraleer ik ze opat. Is dit schadelijk maw : krijg ik zo wormen in mijn darmen. Bedankt voor een antwoord. (Can I have wurms in my guts when I have eaten them in dried fruits?)
Ask the Exterminator
19 Sep 2011, 10:50
Your digestive fluids will kill any "worms" you may have swallowed.
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.
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