Dealing with Mealy Moths: Are they a Pest or a Guest in Your Pantry?
In my part of the world it’s late summer, it’s hot and that means bugs. But to make you feel better, when I’m talking about a preparedness pantry, it could be winter and that could still mean bugs. Whatever your summer weather right now take advantage of the following information and be prepared because the bugs will be planning to visit you also.
One of the questions I’m asked the most is how to get rid of mealy moths. At one time or another, they invade almost everyone’s cupboards. You know you have seen them; perhaps you just haven’t recognized them for the villain that they really are. They are small, beige and can be discovered in singular form, bunches, flocks or hoards. They’re very persistent and can destroy a lot of food if allowed to remain unchecked. It can be embarrassing when someone who is not a very close friend comes to visit and there are so many flying around that you can’t miss them. It’s happened more often than some of us will admit. That’s when you become extremely nonchalant and exclaim over the fact that your son’s baby butterflies have gotten out – again!
Or one day, you may nonchalantly open a cupboard door to retrieve a cake mix, when you have to explain the “science project” that your son is working on to your best friend who is standing behind you. You know “that project.” It’s about how moths like to eat boxes of cereal in the dark.
You probably brought the first batch of mealy moths home from the grocery store. In order to get rid of them, you have to find out where they have “made their home”. What, you don’t know what a mealy moth looks like? They are the little beige-brown moth that flits everywhere in the grocery stores, grain outlets and friendly neighborhood kitchens and pantries. Or sometimes the larvae builds webs in your jars, cans or buckets of oats, rice and all variety of grains and foods. Pay attention to the cupboards where you see large numbers of the moths, or in fact any number of moths! As you look inside the cupboards or pantry, most likely you will see bunches of the moths clustered on the undersides of shelves or on the ceiling. The young are in the form of larvae, which will crawl from one box or package to another. One of the miserable things about the larvae is that they will actually crawl into jars of grain or cereal by crawling up the threads of glass at the top where the lid screws on. They can chew through plastic as well as cardboard. (Yes they can. I have a plastic storage container with holes in that have been chewed from the inside out. Now who but Barbara would have such a container?)
When the “little beasts” are discovered, you will need to go through the items in your pantry box by box, or package by package. They hide in the folds and cracks of bags and boxes. Sometimes they will even come in the door – even though they are uninvited. If larvae are in the product it will “bunch together” with webs and fine threads. There may be webs across the top of the product as well. There will be a “grainy dust” on the sides and bottom of the package, as well as throughout the product.
When you find packages full of the moth or larvae, please don’t just toss them into the wastebasket in the kitchen. The moths are attracted by light and will get out of the wastebasket and then infiltrate any other food containers or cupboards that they can get into. When an infestation is really bad, fill garbage bags with the boxes and packages of infested food. Take them outside and spray bug spray directly into the garbage bag . . . BEFORE putting the bag into the main trash outside.
Once you find the source of the culprits and clean out the cupboards, you might want to consider clearing the shelves and spraying the cupboards and cracks with a good bug spray. Yes, it can be a big job, but the surviving larvae may (most likely will) get into the cracks, grow and develop into moths, and you will eventually have to repeat the same process all over again.
WARNING! What if you should decide it’s too much work, you really don’t have time or you actually only saw a few so what will that hurt? I suppose there are two points of view that can be taken. One, if you leave them they will multiply and after all that could be considered high quality protein. Or, two, if you leave them they will multiply and you probably wouldn’t want to have food to eat anyway.
In order to control them, you will need to use a commercial product. After you have cleaned out infested packages and shelves, go to a store that has a good pest control section, where mouse traps, etc., are. There you should find a pest strip for flying insects. Mealy moth is one of the first insects listed in their “target” listing. I believe the product is made by Dow and comes in a bright yellow package. It is a waxy cake form, approximately 2″x4″ and is hung up with a hook. Simply hang several of them in your pantry and cupboards. They work quite well, though it will take more than one for a pantry or kitchen.
The bad news is that you can bring more home from the stores or they can come in from the neighbors, more than once; as in often. Another option is to adopt them and tell your friends that you are growing a new crop of house pets that require no special pet foods. Especially since you will be sharing yours!
PS. Did you notice this article did not mention weevil? I will discuss them and their adorable fuzzy children in an upcoming article. Did you know I have a renowned experiment on how to grow your own weevil community? Yes, I know, only Barbara would do that ?