Pantry pests include many crawling insects but some can fly. In general, the beetles and weevils are easy to control. But there are flying pantry pests and these can present more of a challenge when trying to eliminate a problem because they can cover vast areas of the home. The more common flying pantry pests include Tropical Ware House Moths, Indian Meal Moths, and Mediterranean Flour Moths.
INFESTED WITH INDIAN MEAL MOTHS?
In most cases, meal moths were brought to your home with some type of stored food product. Examples would include flour, dog food, biscuits, pasta, cereal, dried beans, bread, spices, cookies, and other standard pantry items. Another common household item which can lead to an infestation is bird seed.
Here is a common meal moth close to an average sized finger so you can gain perspective of their size:
MEAL MOTHS LOVE BIRD SEED
The packaging standard for bird seed is much less stringent compared to human food. In fact, its actually quite normal for birds to routinely eat larval stages of most any insect including meal moths. For this reason bird seed will routinely contain contaminants such as insect eggs, pupae and active stages like larvae and adults.
Many times these insects go unnoticed when you buy product at the store but once brought home, developing larva will quickly migrate out and into your cabinet. Before you realize anything has happened, you’ll have a pantry pest infestation.
WHERE DO MEAL MOTHS LIVE?
Due to the wide range of meal moths we commonly find active in homes, it is important to realize that populations can easily survive outside the pantry. Be sure to include all areas of the home when trying to identify the main nest site.
If you are seeing small moths hovering around your pantry, dog feeding station, pet food storage bin or birdseed storage bin, you probably have some developing stages other than the active adults.
Meal moths do not fly well and will like to land in the area where they know to be home. They are easy to kill but you will notice they keep coming and they create quite a mess when smashed for such a small pest.
MEAL MOTH LIFE CYCLE
Ultimately you will need to break the life cycle of your meal moths to eliminate the problem for good. This means doing some cleanup and treating.
The live cycle of meal moths is like any insect; egg, larva, pupa and lastly adult.
When the egg hatches, the larvae will feed. After getting its full (which usually takes 2-4 weeks), it will then spin a cocoon where it will undergo metamorphosis. After its fully developed, it will hatch and emerge as the flying adult. The adult has nothing but reproduction on its mind and females will lay eggs quickly following fertilization.
Adult females will look for other places to lay eggs. Expect these locations to be close to where the original infestation began but it can end up on the other side of the home. Although the duration of time will vary for different species to complete their respective live cycles, the process for controlling meal moths is the same regardless of which species you have active.
GET RID OF MEAL MOTH INFESTED FOOD
To stop the cycle of meal moths, you will need to identify the infested food product which started the problem. Once found, throw it or anything else you suspect as being infested away. If you are unsure about an item, place it in a clear plastic bag where you will be able to inspect it every day or two to watch for emerging pests. Keep these “questionable” items stored for at least 4 weeks. If nothing emerges by then, consider it safe to save.
Now if you find insects accumulating in the bag within a month, you know the foodstuff is contaminated and needs to be discarded.
HOW TO TREAT THE MEAL MOTH INFESTED AREAS
Once the cabinets and pantry have been cleaned out and lay bare, you may treat before placing anything back. Meal moth eggs and pupae will no doubt be hidden in these areas and though vacuuming will remove some, its not possible to get them all. And since it only takes 2-3 missed meal moths to enable a new infestation, its best to treat the areas and be done with them for good.
The best way to treat these areas is to do what we call “crack and crevice” spraying. Basically this is best done with an aerosol; its when the chemical being applied is placed specifically into cracks, voids and gaps where the target pest is most likely to be nesting. This type of application should be done with a “tube” or “straw” injector which will enable you to get the product exactly where it needs to be.
WHERE DO MEAL MOTHS HIDE?
With meal moths, the larva will feed for several days and then seek a place to spin their cocoon and pupate. Although this can happen where they are feeding in boxed food, it will also occur where they migrate to throughout the kitchen. In fact its very common to find them in the cracks between shelves, behind baseboard molding, in door frames and then out around sinks, garbage bins, stoves, refrigerators and even under dishwashers. To be safe, you need to treat all these areas at least once.
By treating all these areas, if migrating larva move over the treatment, they will die. This helps by breaking the cycle and is key. Since no chemical can kill eggs or pupa, it is very likely that some will still exist following the cleanup so be sure to treat thoroughly at least once. The good news is larvae are quite weak and susceptible to chemical. But you need to use the right one.
And the right one for meal moths is called FS MP. It comes with a special straw injector tube which makes for an easy application. FS MP uses an oil based carrier which can penetrate pupae and eggs so you’re able to get faster results as long as you treat all cracks and crevices where they might be hiding.
AVOID CLEANING WITH WATER OR OTHER HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS
It is important to understand that cleaning cabinets and pantries with water, bleach or some other household detergent WILL NOT provide control. In fact the cleaning agents quickly break down and the remaining moisture is exactly what developing larvae and pupae need so the net result of cleaning is in general a way to make the problem worse.
In the end, failure to do the crack and crevice treatment with FS MP will allow the problem to persist and feel like its “never ending”. We’ve seen this happen with many customers where they believed their cleaning would solve the issue. In the end, the meal moths came back every few months with a “surge” of adults. This will in turn lead to more eggs, etc.
And even though these homeowners threw everything out, nothing really changed. The few eggs and cocoons which were hidden are always going to be enough to let these persistent pests repopulate. So to avoid this from happening, use the residual FS MP Aerosol and you will save yourself a lot of aggravation and extra work.
HOW TO TREAT A LARGE HOUSE FOR MEAL MOTHS?
Now for homes or commercial establishments which are large, using an aerosol can be both time consuming and costly. So for these scenarios, you should still use the FS MP for crack and crevices.
But for the extensive baseboards, carpets and other flat areas where larvae or eggs might be crawling and hiding, apply BITHOR. This odorless concentrate is mixed with water and applied to the areas where the target pest is nesting as well as where the might end up going for egg laying. Mix 1 ounce per gallon of water and apply the mixed product over 1,000 sq/ft of area.
Bithor combines two actives, one that will kill adults on contact and the second which will last 1-2 months acting on young that hatch.
To make the proper treatment, you’ll need a good PUMP SPRAYER. Our design comes with the right fan tips needed to insure uniform coverage when spraying large areas. In the end, this method of application is far more effective for large areas and will prove to be easier for getting every area properly protected. This is especially true if you are treating a warehouse, stockroom or a house with large rooms.
MEAL MOTH TRAPS
Lastly, if you’ve been using MEAL MOTH TRAPS, throw them away. These traps are filled with super strong pheromones and can lure male adults into your home through chimney flues and attics. All too often the use of these traps are creating a sense there is a problem when in fact there are no moths inside; the traps are simply calling them in from afar.
The following “short video” (less than 60 seconds long) will summarize why using these traps is not recommended for any home owner.
As the video details, using these can make matters worse far more often compared to when they might help. That said, if you’re a commercial entity that needs to monitor a warehouse or other storage facility, these traps use a lower power of pheromone so less likely to pull in moths from outside.
For this reason, male moths are vulnerable and cannot resist the smell of our traps. They’ll readily enter the trap and get stuck on the glue inside and die. Expect to catch a lot of moths and expect to replace them every 90 days or sooner if they fill up.
FEMALE MEAL MOTH TRAPS
For a never ending problem, you may need to install MEAL MOTH SUPPRESSOR TRAPS. This latest design of meal moth trap uses both male and female pheromones. The trap itself is larger and designed with colorations that females find to be especially attractive. These traps are packed 5 traps to a set. The set includes male lures and special female “wicks” which contain the scent females interpret to mean as a good place to lay eggs.
In badly infested structures, these traps will be needed if you wish to break the moth cycle once and for all. Where problems are more moderate to mild, the use of our standard meal moth traps should suffice since they’ll collect the males.
Regardless of the severity of the problem, the use of traps is very important when dealing with meal moths. Only by catching and killing adult moths can you be sure that you are actively stopping the act of reproduction and egg laying.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET RID OF MEAL MOTHS?
Once you initiate the proper meal moth control program outlined above, you should not expect instant results. Since nothing can kill the pupal stage of this pest, it will take some time for the population to “run out”.
A structure properly treated with FS MP and Bithor will eventually break the cycle of this pest. Moth traps installed will intercept adults before they are able to mate and lay new eggs. Theoretically, this means the only part left of the population will be the pupae. And since these hard shelled cocoon’s will not hatch and emerge till they are ready, it could be another 4-8 weeks for all of them to hatch.
During this time its entirely possible to see some flying around. But if you treated right and keep an adequate amount of traps installed, these adults will have no place to go where they can “do their thing”. Eventually the population will run out of pupa and when that happens, you won’t see any more new activity.
STILL SEE ADULT MOTHS AFTER 2 MONTHS?
If you still see adult moths after 2 months of treating and removing the main food source or if you’re not able to locate the food source yet you keep finding moths flying around, it could be that your home is serving as a “moth magnet”. This commonly happens following an infestation can take 1-2 years to end.
Meal moths have a tremendous range and can detect pheromones for miles. So any home which had activity will continue to attract moths from outside the home. Since meal moths live outside during the spring, summer and fall, they’ll follow this scent to your home and once they arrive, find a way inside. The common routes of entry include the fireplace, heating/air exhaust pipes, attic spaces and crawl spaces. Of course they can enter through the front door, garage doors and windows too.
So if you have moth traps out 2 months after the initial treatments and continue to see nothing but adults, its a sure sign that adults are foraging inside.
To stop this behavior, you first need to remove all known moth traps from inside the home. Place them in a plastic garbage bag and seal them up before placing them in the garbage.
Next, install AEROSOL MACHINES fitted with CLEAR ZONE refills. These machines will release a small amount of pyrethrin which in turn will kill any flying insect in the home like moths, mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies and more.
Each machine can cover up to 400 sq/ft and they should be placed in any room which has had adult moths active. Common rooms to use these machines would include the kitchen, pantry, living room, garage, attic or great room.
Each machine should be filled with a can of CLEAR ZONE aerosol which will last 1 month. It can be used safely in the home, around the clock, and won’t pose a hazard to people or pets. The small release of pyrethrin will kill off all adults and in turn, assure that none are able to mate and lay eggs.
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