Having a problem with indian meal moths! The problem is in a lady’s kitichen! This is my first encounter with them. They’re in her cabinets and rest of kitichen! I would really appreciate your advice on how to rid my customer’s pretty bad moth problem. Thank You!! Brandon, TN
Indian Meal Moth problems can require some time and good detective work to eradicate, but if they are in the kitchen that is a great place to start. These moths will feed on just about anything we store in our cupboards, and easily can infest multiple packages of foods. Only the larvae feed, and they will be well hidden inside the closed packages, so this will require either the cooperation of the customer or their complete faith in you as you snoop through their cupboards to investigate. Don’t overlook a single package of food product, for these moths eat dried fruit, nuts, grains, processed foods from grain products, baking goods, pet foods including bird and fish food, spices, peppers, chips, breads, and even whole grains like corn, rice, wheat, etc. Every package needs to be opened, including those that look sealed and impervious to the moths, for the larvae easily chew through paper and cardboard and thin plastic wrapping.
Don’t stop with the first infested box of food, because I have seen infestations that were in a dozen different packages. Any infested food should simply be placed in a plastic garbage bag and thrown away. If the customer expresses a strong desire to save the food it can be frozen or heated in the oven to kill the larvae, but it would be the unusual customer indeed who would be content eating all those dead larvae. As you inspect look for holes in the outer packaging, stains on seams and corners of packages, webbing, and fecal material. Even have the customer dump out the contents into a bowl so you can look deeply into the box’s materials.
If the infestation has been there awhile you also need to look beyond the kitchen. These larvae also contentedly feed on dried flower arrangements and other possible food resources that may be in decorative arrangements on tables or walls in other rooms of the house. Pet foods may be stored in closets or the garage, and even a wreath on the front door could have nuts or grains or acorns included in the materials of the wreath. The IMM larvae also are notorious “wanderers”, and typically leave the package of food they infest, wander up to several rooms away, and spin a coccoon somewhere else to pupate. They like to put the coccoon in corners or crevices, so it could be behind or within furniture, in corners of walls, etc. A strong vacuum will remove these, and you may want to include an application of a residual insecticide along possible travel routes the larvae might take.
So, obviously the key is finding the infested materials and eliminating them, but it can take a long time and a good eye to find where these are. Again, look beyond just the kitchen. I found an infestation in a child’s bedroom closet one time, in a bag of nuts the kids would take to the park to feed the squirrels. I found them in dried flowers on tables in a nice clothing shop. Forgotten pet foods in laundry room closets are perfect for them. As a followup I suggest you buy a few Indian Meal Moth pheromone traps, once you have eliminated all the infested packages, and place these traps in several places in the kitchen. The customer can check these daily to see if any adult moths are trapped, and if one or two are it could simply mean a couple of missed pupae. But if you continue to get moths in the traps then it could indicate some missed infested foods and larvae. The customer also should very, very thorougly vacuum in and around the cupboards to remove all possible spilled materials that could be down in crevices.
Mr. Pest Control