How To Get Rid of Pantry Moths (2022 Edition)

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Nothing is more disgusting than opening your pantry to find infested food. Whether pantry moths chewed through your food packaging on their way to eating the food products themselves, or if they found easy access to loose sweets, candies, and dried fruits in your pantry, pantry critters are a significant problem. 

If you don’t want your food items destroyed by pantry moths, read on to learn more about how to get rid of and prevent pantry moths, along with tips on how to set up your food storage. 

This guide covers the following topics: 

  • How To Get Rid of Pantry Moths
  • How To Prevent Pantry Moths
  • What Pantry Moths Look Like
  • What Causes a Pantry Moth Infestation
Reviewed By:
Ed Spicer

Ed has been working in the pest control industry for years helping 1,000's of homeowners navigate the world of insect and rodent management. He manages Pest Strategies now helping homeowners around the world!

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Table Of Contents

    How To Get Rid of Pantry Moths 

    If you’ve found pantry moths in your home, here are our top tips on how to get rid of pantry moths quickly and effectively: 

    • Start by throwing out any infested products. We know this is a difficult step, but once your flour or dry foods have been infiltrated, there isn’t anything you can do to save the food. You’ll need to toss them. Otherwise, the larvae will continue to hatch and spread the infestation in your pantry. 
    • Take all infested products to an outside dumpster. Do not place infested products in your kitchen trash, basement, or trash can. Make sure you take it to a separate dumpster so you’re not continuing to bring the larvae back into your home. 
    • Scrub your cupboards and pantry shelves. Once you’ve removed infested products, clear your cupboards, food storage areas, and pantry shelves, then vacuum the surfaces to pick up all specks of food, eggs, cocoons, and webs. After vacuuming these surfaces, scrub the surfaces down, especially the undersides of your shelves, where webs and cocoons are often present. While cleaning, you may want to use a flashlight to examine your shelves closely. 
    • Cover pet food and birdseed. Pantry moths will also go after animal foods, such as pet food and birdseed. If you store this in your house, remove it from your pantry and place it in a sealed, air-tight container. We recommend putting birdseed and pet food in your garage or laundry room so that it’s safely away from human foods that pantry moths may infest in your pantry. 
    • Purchase pantry or meal moth pheromone traps. You can purchase pheromone traps from Amazon or your local home supply or garden store. Pheromone traps work by attracting male moths to the trap. The trap is sticky and will hold the male moth to the trap until they die. Without the male moths, female moths cannot reproduce and lay eggs in your home, which will lead them to leave your home in search of a mate. Please note that these traps take time to kill the moth because they rely on the moth starving to death, so some find these unpleasant to use since the moth will flutter on the trap until it dies. 
    • Throw out shelf liners. Pantry moths frequently lay eggs underneath peeling or cracked shelf liners. If you already have an infestation, immediately remove all paper-based shelf liners that may be protecting moth larvae and eggs in your pantry. If possible, choose not to use shelf liners or replace them regularly if you must use them. 
    • Add bay leaves to stored food containers. Bay leaves are a natural repellent to pantry moths, so by adding them to your stored grains, flour, seeds, and more, you can repel pantry moths from eating these foods. Alternatively, you can use a couple of drops of bay leaf essential oil mixed in with a cleaner to scrub your pantry. The smell will repel pantry moths and other household pests. 
    • Thoroughly clean your pantry. If you find pantry moths, wash down your surfaces with hot, soapy water. Then make a DIY 50-50 solution of white vinegar and hot water. This solution will kill off any remaining pantry moth eggs. You can use a cotton swab or toothbrush to get into small cracks or crevices in your pantry and kitchen to make sure you kill any moth eggs or cocoons. 
    • Clean out your vacuum. If you use your vacuum to clean up pantry moth eggs, immediately empty the vacuum trash bag and put it inside of a second trash bag, then remove it from your home entirely. Clean your vacuum thoroughly with hot water and vinegar to ensure you don’t have any remaining eggs.
    • Purchase a bug zapper. Bug zappers use a bright light to draw pantry moths to them. Then, the pantry moths are zapped with an electrical current, which kills them. The bug zapper will quickly kill pantry moths, along with other annoying pests, like flies, mosquitoes, and gnats. 

    *Please note that you should never use mothballs or insecticides near food or areas that you prepare food. Despite the name “mothballs,” mothballs will probably not be your optimal choice in treating pantry moths because of their propensity for being close to food.

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    How to Prevent Pantry Moths 

    If you’re looking to prevent future infestations, here are our top tips for keeping pantry moths out of your home: 

    • Regularly remove and replace shelf liners. Pantry moths are attracted to cracks and crevices in pantry shelving because they make for great hiding places for moths and their eggs. To prevent this, replace torn or cracked shelf liners to make sure you keep your pantry less pest-friendly. 
    • Avoid purchasing food from bulk food containers. Many grocery stores, such as Sprouts or Whole Foods, sell loose nuts, candies, or grains in bulk food containers. This allows consumers to measure how much food they want to purchase, which is a great feature. However, it also provides pantry moths with an excellent place to breed. Skip purchasing food from bulk food containers to avoid the headache of accidentally bringing home pantry moth larvae with your snacks. 
    • Store food in air-tight containers. Pantry moth larvae can chew through plastic and paper. If you purchase foods in these containers, consider switching them into air-tight containers. At a minimum, we recommend checking that these containers do not have chewing marks or openings where larvae could have entered. Using sealed glass or metal containers can help prevent moth eggs from being laid in your food and keep it safe from larvae feeding on it. 
    • Keep wreaths outside. Many people enjoy fruit and seed wreaths. If you’re someone who wants these decorations, make sure you keep the wreaths outside to prevent pantry moths from entering your home. If possible, purchase a wreath made from evergreen, twigs, or other non-edible materials. 
    • Rethink your cookie jar. Everyone loves a cookie jar. However, this is a prime location for pantry moths to live. If you must have a cookie jar, find a sealed cookie jar or try placing a few bay leaves in your cookie jar to repel pantry moths. 
    • Fill in cracks and crevices. After you’ve cleaned your pantry, fill any gaps or crevices where pantry moths may make their home. Use a sealant or caulking product to fill in these holes to prevent pests from making these places their homes. We also recommend checking behind appliances or electric outlet covers, which are other popular pantry moth locations. 
    • Regularly go through your food. Don’t keep expired foods in your home. In addition, it’s important that none of the food in your pantry remains undisturbed because pantry moths love to lay eggs in areas that are left alone but provide plenty of food for their larvae. Regularly go through your food to prevent food from expiring or staying in the same place. 

    Pantry moths are not known to carry disease, making them less of a health hazard than many other types of pests.

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    What Do Pantry Moths Look Like? 

    Pantry moths, also known as Indian meal moths, are common household pests found throughout the United States. Pantry moths are opportunistic pests that lay eggs on stored dry foods and grains, typically in our pantry shelves, cupboards, or kitchens. Adult females can lay hundreds of eggs on top of food sources in a small area. When the eggs hatch, the larvae then chew through packaging and consume the food within it, which is why pantries are an ideal location for pantry moths. Once in your pantry, pantry moths weave silky webs on food packaging or near food sources. Otherwise, they are most comfortable settling into your cozy, dry pantry and don’t “build” homes as other pests do. 

    Pantry moths are usually a gray or brown color and tend to be around a half-inch long.  After mating, the female pantry moth will immediately look for a safe environment for laying eggs. Pantry moth eggs are grayish-white, making them hard to spot in flour, cereal, or any other dry goods. Once born, the larvae will feed on food products for a couple of weeks before they spin a cocoon and emerge as a full-fledged adult moth with large wings. You may suddenly see brown moths flying around your home, which can be an indication that a group of pantry moth larvae have emerged from their cocoons and are now looking for suitable environments to lay their eggs. Most pantry moths live between one to 10 months, depending on various factors, such as access to food and temperature. 

    Signs of a pantry moth infestation: 

    • Silky webs on food packaging or near dry foods
    • Chewing marks through food packaging
    • Finding cereals or flour clumped together
    • A strange smell coming from your dry foods or pantry
    • Dusty looking webs in cracks and crevices around your cupboards, kitchens, walls, and even near electric switch panels
    • Brown moths flying around your home 
    • Infested food

    Pantry moths are not known to carry disease, making them less of a health hazard than many other types of pests. However, eating infested food is enough to make most people’s stomachs turn, and the costs of throwing out infested food and cleaning your pantry can be extensive. This leads us into our next section on what causes a pantry moth infestation. Knowing the causes of a pantry moth infestation can help you prevent an infestation in your home. 

    What Causes a Pantry Moth Infestation?  

    The primary cause of a pantry moth infestation is easy access to food. However, pantry moth infestations are rarely due to a lack of cleanliness or housekeeping. Often, food is already infested then brought into the house, which allows the infestation to spread when adult females lay many moth eggs and expand the moth problem in your home. 

    Pantry moths eat a huge variety of food, including: 

    • Cereals, grains, flour
    • Pet food
    • Dried fruit
    • Spices
    • Birdseed
    • Chocolates, candies, sweets
    • Nuts
    • Beans

    Causes of a pantry moth infestation: 

    • Easy access to their favorite foods
    • Pantry moths already being inside of dry food’s packaging
    • Cocoons already existing in cans or jars
    • Pantry moths enter your home through gaps in your window or door screens
    • Open food containers that make excellent places for female pantry moths to lay their eggs
    • Undisturbed foods (If you have food that sits undisturbed on your shelf for long stints of time, pantry moths will flock to this food because it allows them to breed unnoticed and undisturbed. Regularly move your foods around to prevent this.) 

    Unfortunately, pantry moths breed rapidly, leading to many larvae, which destroy a large amount of food before breeding and repeating the cycle again. 

    Final Thoughts 

    Pantry moths are annoying, destructive pests that infest our food and quickly breed if left untreated. Nobody wants to waste food or risk eating pantry moth larvae by accident. If you have a pantry moth problem, don’t hesitate to take immediate action by laying out pantry moth traps or cleaning your pantry with bleach or a vinegar solution to kill pantry moths. If you continue to have a problem, we recommend reaching out to your local pest control provider for professional help in ending the vicious pantry moth life cycle

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