How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths

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I really never thought I would write a post about how to get rid of pantry moths. I had never heard of pantry moths, sometimes called meal moths, grain moths, or Indian moths until a few years ago. I was at a friend’s house and she mentioned, “I am so sick of these tiny moths in my kitchen!”

They didn’t look like typical moths, like the ones you see flying around outside light bulbs on your back patio. Well, of course, I had to look really closely at the moths. I’m updating this post from a few years ago because I hope it helps a family or two. With the new year, many of us are cleaning and organizing so we’re ready to face the new year with confidence. Keeping areas in the kitchen and other food storage spaces clean and organized is a great way to start.

I’m not sure why I decided to research this issue, but I always like learning new things. The thing that’s different about these moths is the fact they are only about 1/2 an inch in length. I have only seen larger moths like the ones you see outside by the lightbulbs. I had my iPhone with me and my friend and I both decided to look up why these tiny moths could possibly be hanging out there. Lo and behold, they are called pantry moths.

Pantry moths look like many other varieties, but they are smaller than most. If you think you have one of those pantry moth infestations, we’re here to help you eradicate the little pests. Carolyn recommends these: Dr. Killigan’s Premium Pantry Moth Traps 

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Moths

How to Get Rid of Pantry Moths

Pantry moths aren’t something that anyone really wants to see. Frankly, adult moths and their pantry moth larvae are kind of ugly, and I surely don’t want them hanging around my house. I want to share some tips for getting rid of them. And again, pantry moths aren’t harmful to humans, but they can do a lot of damage to the human and pet foods in your pantry. Who wants that?

Invest in Airtight Containers

I store all my dry foods and other staple foodstuffs in mason jars or hard commercial plastic food containers like these: Rubbermaid Containers with Lids.  They are air-tight and I store all sorts of things in them. I still buy some OXO containers, but these Rubbermaid ones are my favorite. You need to have airtight containers to keep these moths out of your potential food sources the moths love to eat. Hopefully, you can grab some of these containers to help keep insects like these pantry moths out of your food storage stash.

Inspect Your Pantry

It’s one thing to have pantry moths and then to buy containers to keep them from spreading, but you really need to find the source of the infestation. Take the time to inspect your pantry and clean it out, particularly if you see moths or the webs they make. It’ll be worth it when you can get rid of the moths for good. You may not know this, but moths love pasta, flour, cereal, the food you give your pets, and baking mixes.

You’ll have to go through any food that is not sealed to see if they’re inside the package. It may truly amaze you what pantry moths can find and then climb into. While you’re inspecting your pantry, look for larvae and the cocoons they make before becoming adult male moths or female moths. If found, you’ll want to get rid of that portion of food. I didn’t realize it, but moths are called a pupa when they are in the cocoon stage.

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You’ll want to kill the pantry moths whether they are in the adult pantry moth stage, still in the cocoon, at the young larvae stage, or even while still an egg. The adult female pantry moth can lay up to 400 pantry moth eggs in your dry food products, so an infestation can be pretty devastating.

It may very well be the case that the dry food product you purchased actually contained moths in various stages. Always purchase your dry food products from well-known and trusted brands and packages. If you have any questions, open up the package and inspect the product before you put it to use. If you’ve already opened some packages, pay special attention to those if they haven’t been placed in airtight containers with a firm seal.

Freeze Your Grains

Over the years, I’ve found that freezing my grains is a really good idea. Obviously, moths can’t get into the freezer, so this is a really good idea for storing any kind of grain item. You do want to make sure you clean out your pantry and get rid of any infested products. It’s best to just store the newly purchased items in the freezer. You can store any flour, baking products, or nuts in the freezer to help keep moths and other pests out. It will also lengthen the storage time before those items go rancid.

Monitor Your Pantry

Once you get rid of the moths in your pantry, you need to keep monitoring the situation. Check back fairly often so you can see if any pantry moths are there. Prevention is key, but you also need to make sure you’re doing your due diligence and making sure there is nothing in your pantry like ants or roaches.

How Do Pantry Moths Come Into My House?

Pantry moths will come into your house via a package of flour, rice, beans, cracker or cereal, chips, or most any food item from the supermarket. They have teeny tiny, almost invisible eggs that are in food packages and hatch larvae that turn into moths after the cocoon stage.

You may see these tiny black/brown beetles that are very tiny bugs in cornmeal, birdseed, flour, cereal, etc. You may see these cream-colored worm-like critters climbing on your walls. The first thing you need to do is look for the oldest packages of food or spices you have. Yep, they love all the unopened packages as well. Oh, and those partially closed spice containers are a dream come true for these critters.

Places To Look For Pantry Moths:

  1. Unopened packages, check the cereal boxes, and the unopened bags, and check the creases of the bags inside all boxes
  2. Cracks in your cupboards
  3. Spice containers
  4. Breadcrumbs, even if unopened
  5. Boxes with baggies-they love to hide
  6. Check dried flowers
  7. Check under lids, they can hide anywhere
  8. Cupboard hinges
  9. Vacuum all floor moldings, empty the bag, and take the dust bag out to the trash. If your vacuum is a bagless variety, be sure to wash out the dust compartment with your cleaning solution a couple of times.
  10. They hide in the cupboard pinholes, it’s a perfect place to lay eggs.
  11. Use a pantry moth trap like this one: Pro-Pest Pantry Moth Traps. The female emits a similar pheromone substance as these traps when she is ready to mate. The male panty moths will follow the scent to the traps. The male critters will flock to the sticky mat looking for the female pantry moths. This should hopefully stop the pantry moth life cycle.
  12. Some people think if they put their food in the freezer it will kill the pantry moths in the larvae stage. In the cocoon, they can actually go into a dormant stage sometimes and wake up when back in the warmer temperatures and comfort of a cupboard. You’re much better off placing them in the freezer before you open them, thus keeping the moths out until you’re ready to put them in the air-tight containers or immediately use them. A week in the freezer usually does the trick.
  13. Pet treats, dog food, and bird seed are a delicacy to these pests.
  14. Children’s macaroni artwork is tasty, throw out the artwork after it’s been on display for a few days.
  15. You may need to remove all cupboard liners and shelf paper. They hide underneath the liners if not firmly put in place. Vacuum everywhere, just in case.
  16. Nuts need to be put in airtight containers, mason jars, or tight-sealing containers. Unless they are covered with seasonings, you may want to wash them first.
  17. Chocolate, as in chocolate chips, can be a favorite for them just like for us. They also need to go into airtight containers.
  18. I never buy a damaged box of food at the store because they may have some eggs hiding inside.
  19. Jello gelatin boxes can also hide the eggs. I put the whole box in an airtight container as soon as I get them home from the store.
  20. They have been known to chew through baggies, that’s why I love hard plastic airtight containers for my stored food.
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How Do I Clean The Pantry Moth Hiding Places?

I helped my friend by totally taking EVERYTHING out of the cupboards. We inspected for webs, larvae, eggs, cocoons, and adult moths with wings. We both washed down the top and underneath the shelves in each cabinet. Yep, they hide in crevices and corners.

Things you will need:

  • Bleach/Clorox Spray or undiluted vinegar
  • Garbage bags
  • Vacuum
  • Paper towels to dispose of the webs, beetles, larvae, and moths
  • Hot soapy water with rags you can throw out
  1. Wash all cupboards with hot soapy water. I went one step further, I brought out the BIG guns (bleach mixture): Clorox Spray. You can also use undiluted vinegar. I picked up my cleaning solutions at the local supermarket. We sprayed, wiped, and sprayed again all the cupboards, baseboards, countertops, and window seals. We sprayed the hinges on the cupboards and the edges of the shelf liners as well. Any liner that looked frayed, buckled, or less than tightly affixed, we pulled out and replaced. Oh, how they love to hide. We wiped down everything we thought a moth family might use to hide. She has not seen ANY pantry moths for months since we did our deep clean. Hopefully, we got the infestation under control and eradicated.

Can pantry moths be harmful to humans or pets?

There isn’t any record of pantry moths biting or otherwise harming humans or our pets. They can cause some baking goods to sour during a severe infestation, but they won’t contaminate the food or cause diseases as we see with houseflies.

Won’t the pantry moths just go away, particularly when it gets cold outside?

If you leave the moths to do their thing, the infestation will only get worse, no matter what the temperature outside is. So, inspect your food right after the purchase, look for signs of the moths as you open and use the dry food products, carefully discard any products with moths, and do the cleanup as discussed above.

Final Word

I hope you’re able to use these tips to help you learn how to get rid of pantry moths in your kitchen and/or pantry. If you suspect that you have pantry moths, these tips should help you get rid of them. I’d love to know if you have any tips to add to this list. May God Bless this world, Linda.

Food Storage by Linda

Copyright images: Pantry Moth AdobeStock_313049054 by Tomasz, Pantry Moth AdobeStock_384685546 by Jorge, Pantry Moth AdobeStock_68670040 By Peter Jurik

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  1. Gee, I’m not sure I understand the cleaning process; maybe you should come to my house & show me. Haha I used to own an herb shop & I carried a homemade dog treat biscuit made by a friend. They were packaged in little muslin bags (attempting the all-natural look). After a few weeks I started experiencing the little critters you mention & traced them back to the dog biscuits. We had to close down for 2 days to clean!

    1. Hi Linda, oh my gosh, you had to close down your herb shop for two days! I would love the natural look you are talking about but not the pantry moths! We all are here to help each other through this stuff, right? Thanks for the tip on the dog biscuits! Linda

  2. Thank you so much for researching this pest problem! My daughters family is living in my house in Arizona. The pantry is infested with these moths and it has been driving her crazy. They are remodeling a house to move into, besides all her responsibilities of raising her family. We will tackle this soon, loaded with your tips. Love that you share your great ideas on food storage!

    1. Hi Carla, thank you so much for commenting today! I guess this pantry moth problem is a real problem everywhere! Once you find the source of food they are feeding on you can get rid of them quicker. We found a box of crackers we thought were the culprit. Man, I scrubbed and scrubbed everywhere in that kitchen. It looks fabulous and no more moths! Blessings to you and your daughter. When in doubt throw it out. Linda

    2. I just discovered today that I have these. I’m so disgusted. I am not physically capable of taking care of the problem. I have workers that come in daily. I guess they never saw it.

      1. Hi Glenda, Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this. Please look for bread crumb containers, and possibly cereal bags. Please them in your outside garbage. They may be the culprit. Ask one of your workers to use bleach to clean the hinges and shelves. I sure hope someone can help you. Linda

      1. I got these about 4 years ago. I noticed them in the popcorn ceiling of my house (in Florida). They were making cocoons. What a mess to get rid of them with popcorn bits falling all over as I scraped out larvae. I traced them to the pantry, which I don’t open much because I don’t cook much. But I store a lot of food. Had to dump out all the dry foods and wash down the pantry with vinegar. Even the undersides of my cannister lids had webs. It was a month-long battle.

        1. Hi Angela, oh those pesky little pantry moths, they like to hide everywhere! That’s the worst part having to toss the food we have stored because they invaded the packages and boxes. I’m glad you got rid of them! Linda

  3. Hi, I have sworn by clean cupboards and fresh bay leaves on every shelf. Every drawer too. Change them every 6 months WHEN you wash the whole cupboard down. I transfer all my food items from their supermarket packaging to Tupperware or glass jars.
    Yes, the horror of the dog food. Goes from the triple lined bags into tupperware storage. And I make my own dog treats. Used to buy those, jar them and watch the bugs fly around in the jars.
    So yes, they are gross. Read the section about the mice. I so scrub fiercely the 1 time mice got in the house. Heard a talk on radio today, if you see/catch one, you might just have 7. They bring friends when they arrive to visit.

    1. Joyce, you make me laugh, yes those mice bring friends when they arrive to visit! Those pesky pantry moths do not care how clean our cupboards are, they come in boxes from the store to visit! I wrote this post because I had never heard of them until NOW! Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I love it! Happy Sunday! Hugs! Linda

  4. Thanks for the tips on where to look for them and how take care of the problem if they start in the house. This makes me worried about eating moths. I will be paying much better attention now after reading this!

    1. Hi Meagan, I think we are all aware NOW about pantry moths and we are ALL looking a little closer at our food! I had never heard of them until last year!! Thanks for stopping by! Linda

  5. Thank you for the advice! As of this time we have 1 mouse. It doesn’t like peanut butter or the humane traps so I’ve been praying it’ll leave. haha

    Any suggestions on what to put in there NOTHING else that I’ve tried works and I’ve wasted $$ time and effort!

    Thanks for the moth info. I”ll file that one.

    1. Hi L, we catch mice every day in our yard. We use traps with peanut butter. I’m not sure our traps are humane but it keeps them out of my house. I bought the traps called:The Better Mouse Trap by the Intruder. I bought them on Amazon. Fingers crossed you get rid of them 🙂 Linda

  6. Hey L I had the same problem with what I thought was a mouse in the house. It also wouldn’t eat peanut butter. It got into a bag of potatos under the sink, so I baited the trap with a piece of potato and removed the potato bag. Bingo! What I caught wasn’t a mouse but a mole that had come in the house for whatever reason. Problem solved.
    J W

    1. Hi Jimmie, I think we all have some kind of critters to deal with at times! My husband puts peanut butter on the mouse traps outside and somehow the peanut butter disappears! LOL! I can’t imagine finding a mole under the sink! Yikes! We have to use the bait those little critters like to eat, good job finding that mole! Linda

  7. Your mouse story has me cracking up, because frankly it’s the truth. It doesn’t matter how clean your home is, sometimes pests are so stubborn that they will find a way in! Thank you for sharing the tips.

    1. Hi Rachel, I’m so glad my mouse story had you cracking up! I have to laugh or I would go crazy! I live in Southern Utah and we catch about 3-5 of those pesky mice every week, thankfully outside. LOL! Have a great day! Linda

  8. My last bout of these came from a bag of birdseed we couldn’t sell at the feed store. My boss horrified me one day when I held up a bag of sunflower seeds with webs inside and asked if we were throwing it out — he took it from me and shook it all up and scrubbed the seeds around so the webs detached and were hidden in the seed. He put it back on the shelf. Probably had already taped over a large mouse hole in same bag. I left that job as soon as I could. Moth larva can chew through plastic, so even if something looks sealed, and you don’t see moths or worms, don’t be fooled. Look in the top corners for webs or what seems to be static holding a lot of tiny particles of food (actually its the webs, just too thin to see sometimes). Then gently turn the bag upside down, examining the bottom corners for the same thing. Sometimes you just have to dump the food out into another container and look closely at the bag. Also, they especially like to hide in the extra bag material that creases or folds on the outside bottom, top or sides of the bag — plastic and even more on brown paper type bags. I think their favorite food is anything made from corn. I really am stunned you had not encountered these until recently.

    1. Hi Penquin, Your comment is the best! Your boss taped over a large mouse hole, oh my gosh! You what’s crazy I had never seen or heard of pantry moths until I helped this neighbor. I must tell you one thing, I live in Southern Utah and everything I have that is edible is in airtight containers. The crazy thing when I was helping my friend, I opened a box of cereal and lo and behold I could see little webs inside the bags.They got in those unopened bags at the store I guess. What’s crazy I then started hearing more people had them. Now when I see little moths flying in homes…..I think they have pantry moths. Crazy little critters! Linda

      1. I read Penguin’s post and I am familiar with those webs. I used to buy large bags of bird food from a feed store and I used to store it in big jars and I also used to feed them whole peanuts, so I kept those in jars too.
        I used to find little bugs and that fuzzy stuff inside the metal screw on lids all the time. Now I buy the 10 lb bags at my closest Walmart and I have no problems. I dump the seeds into a large container with a lid (Looks like a trash can) or I just scoop from the bag and then roll it up tight.

        In regards to bugs in general, an exterminator told me that it’s common for people to introduce bugs when they buy food. They often infiltrate the packaging, lay their eggs under the edges of labels or folds of bags and boxes, and then after you get home they show up. Often times the grocery stores are where they originate. And careless (dirty) stores are bad places to shop at.

        1. Oh, Frank, those pantry moths are crazy!! Yes, we do indeed bring them home in food items! I’m glad to hear you figured out how to keep from getting them. Thank you, Linda

  9. I work at an Extension Service and every year someone brings in a sample of the moth wanting to know how to control them. I’ve known of homes where the infestation is so bad that they had to tear out the drywall down to the studs. Anyone can bring them home so no shame in asking for help right away before real damage is done. I love all the comments about bay leaves. The one time I brought them home in dog food I used a trap that was effective. Good topic to bring up, Linda. Thanks.

    1. Hi, Debbie, oh my gosh, tearing out the drywall!! Yikes!! I have heard dog food is the most common. Not sure about that, but it makes sense. You are right anyone can bring them home, that’s why I wrote about it, I started hearing more and more people were asking about how to get rid of them. Thank you for commenting, Debbie! Linda

  10. We had lots and lots of them in a former home. Tried the traps but didn’t do much. The most effective was using our small hand held vacuum and having fun sucking them up in the air…..great fun! We got rid of them… the way, they also get into fabric where you might find their cocoons. So before we packed to move, I washed every item I could….never found any more in the next 2 homes we lived in.

  11. I had these moths for an entire year. I tossed the food in boxes in the pantry cabinets and thought the ones flying around would just starve to death. Thankfully they fly so slowly that I was able to reach out and grab some. But they didnt starve out. I never thought to look on the bottom of cans and the larvae were under there. So a 2nd cleaning of the pantry. Then they got into the popcorn ceiling in the bedroom adjacent to the kitchen and laid their larvae. I used an ant and roach killer spray for them but had to manually pick out the dead larvae on a vaulted ceiling. What a year-long nightmare.

    1. Oh my gosh, Angela, the popcorn ceiling, yikes!! I’m so sorry you had a year-long nightmare. They truly are a real nuisance! Thanks for sharing, we all learn from each other!! Linda

  12. I’ve used bay leaves for decades. I put them in my flour canisters, on the shelves or wherever the buggers might find food. I need to put some in my pantry because I hadn’t thought about all the pasta and flour I store in there. So far, however, so good. Prevention is key!

  13. Thanks for the tips. We’ve been ordering air & water tight containers. We’ve found them in all the places you’ve said. And more. LOL I will be cleaning the cabinets and everything else, as I’m starting my fall cleaning, and de-junking. I’ll be getting rid of quite a bit of dishes, as in glasses and such as that, that we never use. It’s just taking up space that could be used for useful stuff. I do have some cut glass that I will be keeping. Sentimental items. I’ll pass them down to my children. This will be a good time to get rid of things, while I’m cleaning. I don’t have that much upper cabinets, but lots of under the counter spaces. I’ll get started in the morning.

    So glad I already have everything I need!

    1. Hi Deborah, bring on the bleach! You can get through this, I have been decluttering like crazy! Yes, I watched the Tidying Up show several times! I love it! Linda

  14. I have had problems over a several year period with pantry moths. By far the best solution has been Dr. Killigan’s pantry moth traps containing pheromones which are sold on Amazon and Walmart. They are listed as “Best Seller” with over 28,000 responses. I buy them in the large pack of about 20. They really trap many and are non-toxic. I also keep several electric fly swatters around different areas in my home. The pantry moths seem to come out more in the evening. I have learned to swat them from underneath as they seem to feel the movement from the side. The various methods of protecting against them by inspecting supplies and protecting products are also part of my method.

  15. Hey Linda,

    I’ve never had pantry moths, but man have I ever had weevils. Jane and I just went through our pantry getting rid of infested products and cleaning all the shelves as you suggested. Big job, but worth it. I started repackaging all my dry goods into mason jars last year and had most of that done. It has helped immeasurably. Most of our infestation came from an old box of Cheerios and two old boxes of Kraft mac and cheese–all of which had got buried behind newer products. Now all my remaining, uninfested mac and cheese is in mason jars with O2 absorbers and so is any open box of cereal.

    Just goes to show how even experienced Preppers can lose food to carelessness–in my case not rotating my stuff often enough.

    1. Hi Ray, this is so funny, well not funny because you had to toss some food. Well, yesterday, I was getting ready to take pictures of different food storage items. And what do I see “something” in the lentil bag I just bought? I could see holes in the sides of the bag, get this, I hadn’t even taken it out of the Walmart bag. I was so mad, I try not to buy anything at Walmart like pasta, lentils, grains, flour, etc. I just bought it yesterday! Urghh! I tried returning something once at Walmart that was food and they refused to accept it because of the pandemic. So I threw it out, it wasn’t worth the cost of gas to drive it back to the store. So Frustrating. Back the Kraft Mac and cheese and the Cheerios, we have all ad that happen, but we learn quickly what not to do. Life is good! Linda

  16. Wow, I haven’t heard of or seen the moths since we lived in a rental 40 years ago! Learned then to do bay leaves! We just dealt with mice! Lost 10 lbs of organic Azure unbleached flour in mylar among other things. Except for eating through a plastic peanut butter jar, they won’t eat the peanut butter! We have 3 different traps: sticky traps, mouse repellent and bait. Caught 2 over a month ago. With small grands around, I have to have the doors with child safety knobs which I can’t open either, LOL!

    1. HI Marilynne, oh the mice, the pantry moths, those darn critters love to play hide and seek with us. I didn’t realize mice can eat through plastic peanut butter jars, yikes! Oh those child safety knobs, oh my gosh, they are so hard to open for adults! LOL! Linda

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