How To Get Rid of The Indian Meal Moth

Considered by many pest experts to be the most common pest in the United States, the Indian Meal Moth is an invasive species of moth famous for its incredible reproduction rate and talent for destroying pantry foods.

With a ravenous appetite and knack for stealth, it may be difficult to realize you have an Indian Meal Moth infestation until it is already out of control.

So, how do you get rid of an Indian Meal Moth problem and prevent one from reoccurring? Better yet, how do you recognize the early signs of an Indian Meal Moth infestation before it becomes overwhelming?

That’s what we’re here to find out. Join us today as we discuss the Indian Meal Moth, what attracts it, and how to get rid of it once and for all.

What Is An Indian Meal Moth?

Pic 1 indian meal moths front and back
Indian meal moths are some of the most common kitchen pets in the US. 

Also known as a pantry Moth, Indian meal moth, weevil moth, grain moth, or flour moth, the Indian Meal Moth is a small, winged insect that belongs to the Pyralidae family. In its adult stage, the Indian Meal Moth is often confused for the clothes moth, although the two are simple to tell apart when you know what to look for.

The most distinguishing features of an adult Indian meal moth are perhaps its wings, which are duel-colored with gray tops and rusty brown, bronze, or copper bottoms.

Adult moths are quite small, only growing to be around ⅜ of an inch long and having a wingspan of only around ⅝ inches maximum.

Once mature, Indian meal moths only live for around 5 to 7 days. They are nocturnal and can be found flying in abrupt, zigzag patterns at night in kitchens, bathrooms, or other spaces around the home.

So, what makes these moths such infamous and common household pests in the United States?

Their larvae.

A female Indian Meal Moth can lay between 350 to 500 microscopic eggs in pantry foods. Once these eggs hatch, the ravenous larvae get to eating. Though pantry moths and their larvae don’t carry diseases and are generally harmless to people and pets, they can destroy food with their feces and the unique, thick webs they create.

Foods destroyed by pantry moths must often be thrown away and it is usually very difficult to protect foods from pantry moths unless they are sealed in airtight containers.

Indian moth larvae are ½ inch long and a white, tan or pinkish color. They have strong mandibles that allow them to chew through bags of foods and move on to infest other pantry foods throughout your kitchen.

People often find these larvae in infested grain foods or in the backs of cupboards, where they go to pupate.

Like many insect pests, pantry moths go through four life stages including egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. And while adult Indian Meal moths only live as long as seven days, their entire lifecycle from egg to adulthood can take up to several weeks in total.

But how did you get pantry moths in the first place and what can you do to get rid of them and prevent them from returning in the future?

Let’s find out.

What Has Attracted The Indian Meal Moth Your Home?

Pic 2 a bowl of cereal
Common pantry foods like cereal can attract pantry moths. 

Though not native to the United States, Indian meal moths are a very common and highly infuriating pest for anyone with pantry foods. Yes – this means most of us have had experience with pantry moths.

These insects have a diverse appetite for any type of pantry food that isn’t sealed properly, including:

  • Cereal
  • Breads
  • Grains
  • Dried Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Dry pet food
  • Flour
  • Pasta
  • Spices
  • Rice
  • And Even Birdseed

Pantry moths lay their eggs in the above foods so that when the larvae hatch, they have plenty to eat. An infestation in your home can begin in any number of ways. You may have accidentally purchased already infested foods from the supermarket, or adult pantry moths in your home may have laid eggs in pantry foods without you realizing it.

While Indian meal moths are generally highly adaptable, humid environments do help them thrive and can increase reproduction.

The truth is, it may be difficult to avoid an Indian meal moth infestation altogether, but there are some methods you can take to get rid of these insects and prevent them in the future.

But before you take steps to get rid of an Indian meal moth infestation, let’s talk about how to identify one for sure.

How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth – Identifying A Palmetto Bug Problem

Pic 3 a pantry moth larvae
Pantry moth larvae are a common sign of an infestation.

Oftentimes, Indian meal moth infestations seem to pop up out of the blue. This is because their eggs are microscopic and you often won’t notice these insects have infested your food until the eggs hatch and the larvae become active.

However, there are some telltale signs experts recommend you look for that can help you recognize the early stages of an Indian meal moth infestation.

Some common signs of a pantry moth infestation include:

  • Seeing Adult Indian Meal Moths

Often, the first sign of an Indian meal moth infestation in your home is going to be the sighting of adult Indian meal moths. Because these moths can fly far away from where they have laid their eggs, they are often confused for other types of house moths like clothes moths.

Remember, you can tell an Indian meal moth from other types of moths by looking at the unique pattern and coloring on their wings. Although adult Indian meal moths do not feed and are completely harmless, their presence is often an indicator that you should check your pantry foods for evidence of larvae.

  • Finding Larvae Skins

Pantry moth eggs are microscopic, which means you unfortunately won’t know you have foods that are infested until larvae hatch and get to eating. However, one common sign of infested food is finding shed larvae skins in foods, at the bottom of food bags or packaging, or at the back of cupboards or bottom of drawers.

  • Finding Webbing In Foods Or In The Back Of Cabinets

Pantry moth larvae spin a multitude of thick webbing inside the foods they infest. This webbing collects feces and sometimes shed larvae skins. Gross! Many people discover this webbing inside their foods and this is certainly a telltale sign you have pantry moths.

  • Finding Larvae In The Creases Of Pantry Food Containers Or Bags

If you suspect you have Indian meal moths in your home, inspect pantry foods carefully. Pantry moth larvae often hide in the creases and folds of packages.

The below video further discusses other ways you can identify a pantry moth infestation in your home. 

If you find any signs of pantry moth larvae in your food, it’s time to create a treatment plan to get rid of them before they infest more foods and cost you more money in waste.

How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth – Most Popular Methods

Pic 4 an indian meal moth up close
Traps are a common form of pantry moth control but often are only preventatives.

Indian meal moths can be difficult to get rid of unless you’re willing to toss out all infested foods. Sometimes the most effective method of pantry moth eradication is tossing out everything in your pantry, cleaning it thoroughly, and starting over fresh.

Unfortunately, this can wind up costing you hundreds of dollars in wasted food. More unfortunately, there are not many better alternatives to throwing out infested food once you’ve experienced an infestation.

That said, there are some methods you can use to prevent and kill current pantry moths, especially if you have inspected foods and feel you caught the infestation in its infancy.

Some of the most common methods you can use to get rid of Indian meal moths include traps, sprays, home remedies, and even professionals.

Traps

Since Indian meal moth larvae are a problem when they infest pantry foods, many people use pantry moth traps to help prevent infestations at the source.

Pheromone traps are some of the most popular and effective methods of treatment for Indian Meal moth management as they are specifically designed to lure and attract this species of moth without using toxic ingredients or harmful chemicals that are dangerous to people, pets or the environment.

Sprays

Sometimes a more intensive method of treatment that includes sprays or insecticides are needed along with traps for a severe Indian meal moth infestation. In this case, many experts recommend you remove infested foods before using sprays. You can also use insecticides around your home as a barrier to help prevent future adult Indian meal moths from entering your home as well as other common home invading pests.

That said, keep in mind that sprays that include insecticides often use harsh chemicals and toxins that can be dangers for people, pets and the environment so they should always be used with care and caution, especially when being used in areas where food is stored and prepared.

Home Remedies

Like many pests, Indian meal moths are repelled by a number of ingredients you likely already have in your home, kitchen, or pantry. Using home remedies is a safe and effective way to get rid of and prevent Indian meal moths because it does not require the use of harsh chemicals and can even save you money as you are doing your own pest control.

Professionals

Many people turn to professionals if they cannot get rid of an Indian meal moth infestation. Professionals will be needed if the problem continues to reoccur, even when you’ve followed the above other remedies. Furthermore, a recurring infestation of Indian meal moths may also be a sign of a more serious pest problem.

We will discuss more about when it is time to contact a professional for a pantry moth problem further down, but for now let’s talk about how to get rid of an Indian meal moth infestation using traps.

How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth Using Traps

Pic 5 an adult meal moth
Traps typically use pheromones to attract male Indian meal moths.

As we mentioned briefly above, since Indian meal moth larvae tend to infest pantry foods, many people opt to use moth traps that are safe for people and pets. Some of our favorite natural traps and products use natural pheromones to lure and entice adult pantry moths to their doom. Most importantly, these traps are completely safe to use in areas where foods are stored and prepared.

If you aren’t sure which natural traps are best to get rid of pantry moths or which would be right for you and your family, we have listed some of our favorites below for you to consider.

Kensizer Pantry Moth Traps

The sticky trap above is specifically designed to attract adult pantry moths using a synthetic, non-toxic odor that will kill them without harming other insects.

This trap is safe to use around people and pets and is safe to use all around the home. That said, this will only trap adult moths and not prevent already laid eggs from hatching, leading to Indian moth larvae from infesting pantry foods.

Armour Shell IndianMeal Moth Trap

Another pantry moth trap we like that is all natural is by Armour Shell. This trap is designed to hang, which is ideal for those pesky flying adult moths. It uses a pheromone attractant odor that specifically lures adult male Indian meal moths and kills them without harming or enticing other insects.

This can help prevent and reduce chances of an Indian meal moth infestation in the home and can be used in closets, kitchens, bedrooms, and anywhere else you think you’ve seen adult Indian Meal moths flying around.

Able Catch Pantry Moth Trap

Another trap that is specifically designed to catch and kill pantry moths is the above trap by Able Catch. This product uses natural ingredients that are safe and effective, including a pheromone lure that lures adult pantry moths to help stop and prevent future infestations.

This trap is safe to use anywhere in the home and will not harm people, pets or the environment. Best of all, even the packaging is environmentally friendly and biodegradable.

Dr. Killigan’s Premium Pantry Moth Traps

These traps are highly recommended and have some great reviews. They use a common pheromone lure to help attract adult pantry moths and can be used safely anywhere throughout your home to help control and manage an Indian meal moth infestation.

This trap doesn’t use any harsh chemicals, insecticides or toxins and is even designed to be used specifically in kitchens.

Terro Non-Toxic Moth Traps

Last on our list of moth traps for Indian Meal moths is by Terro. This brand is known for making powerful and effective pest control products and insecticides, but their moth traps don’t contain any toxic ingredients and are an effective tool you can use against Indian meal moths.

LIke many of the traps on this list, you can use it all around your home including in kitchen cabinets to help catch adult pantry moths. They also have a unique folded design that protects kiddos and pets from accidentally getting stuck in the sticky glue.

How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth With Sprays

Pic 6 a kitchen
Since pantry moths often infest kitchens, experts suggest using sprays that are safe to use where food is prepared. 

Indian meal moths can infiltrate your homes and infest it quickly, especially considering their eggs are microscopes and female Indian meal moths can lay so many in her short lifetime.

If you find that you are dealing with a very large infestation of these insects, you may need to use other forms of treatment along with traps. These treatments often include the use of insect sprays and some of these sprays contain insecticides.

While insecticides are generally an effective form of pest control and can help eradicate an Indian meal moth infestation in your home, keep in mind that many insecticides contain ingredients that can be toxic to people, pets, and the environment.

For that reason, we recommend using sprays and insecticides that are specifically designed to control pantry moths and that can be used in areas where foods are prepared and stored.

Take a look at some of our favorite sprays we recommend for pantry moth infestations below.

FMC Contact Aerosol

The above aerosol spray includes a wand for spot treating areas where you suspect Indian meal moth activity. It is a spray that kills Indian meal moths and other pests on contact using a common insecticide chemical known as a pyrethrin.

While this insecticide is effective in killing and preventing a number of pests like pantry moths, mosquitoes, gnats, roaches, crickets, spiders, silverfish, and flies, it is also a chemical toxin that can be harmful to people, pets and the environment and should be used carefully.

Hot Shot Kitchen Bug Killer

We have listed the above aerosol insecticide because it is specifically designed to be used inside kitchens, pantries, and drawers where kitchen insects like pantry moths invade. This spray is also helpful in eradicating insects like ants, roaches, and spiders.

It uses botanical insecticides that, while natural, can still be harmful to people and pets if not used as directed, so make sure you read the directions and keep this product out of reach of children.

Wondercide Kitchen Spray

We love Wondercide sprays for any type of in-home pest control option and especially for pest control food protection because it uses all natural ingredients like essential oils to repel and manage pests.

The above spray is specifically designed to protect your kitchen from pests like ants, spiders, fleas, roaches, and pantry moths. It uses cedar oil, peppermint, rosemary oil, or lemongrass oil to help keep your kitchen clean and pest free. Best of all, it is completely safe to use around children, pets, and the environment.

MDXconcenpts Organic Pest Control Spray

Another organic pest control spray that uses essential oils to protect against Indian meal moths is by MDXconcepts. This spray is safe to use in kitchens and near where food is prepared and stored as it uses ingredients like peppermint oil to help kill and control pests.

This product can also protect your home from spiders, ants, roaches, earwigs, stink bugs, silverfish, and even fleas.

Eco Defense Home Pest Control Spray

Last on our list of sprays we recommend for how to get rid of Indian meal moth infestations is Eco Defense Pest Control Spray.

Again, this spray uses safe and natural ingredients that are people and pet friendly, making it ideal for use in kitchens and pantries where food is stored or prepared. This is considered an organic form of pest control that uses non-toxic ingredients that are also safe for the environment.

It is an effective pest spray that kills not only pantry moths, but also fleas, spiders, roaches, earwigs, mites, and silverfish.

Best Home Remedies For How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth

Pic 7 essential oils 2
Essential oils are a common form of home pest control many people use to get rid of pantry moths. 

While indian meal moths can be elusive and tough to get rid of, there are some ways you can fight back against an infestation using ingredients and methods right there at home.

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite home remedies you can use to get rid of and control an indian meal moth infestation.

Essential Oils

Like so many pests, indian meal moths are repelled by a number of essential oils. We love using essential oils as a natural form of pest control because they not only work on a number of pests like spiders, mice, rats, roaches, and ants, but they also work without the use of harsh chemicals, foul odors, or messy cleanups.

Some of the best essential oils you can use to repel pantry moths include peppermint oil, cedarwood oil, and eucalyptus oil.

To make your own essential oil spray to repel pantry moths, you’ll need:

  • 1 Spray Bottle
  • 5 Drops of Peppermint Oil
  • 10 Drops of Cedarwood Oil
  • 15 Drops of Eucalyptus Oil
  • 1 Cup of White Vinegar
  • 1 Cup of Water

Directions:

Mix the above solution in a spray bottle and spray it inside cupboards, pantries, and along kitchen surfaces. This will not only clean and sanitize cupboards and pantries safely, but the smell will repel pests like pantry moths, spiders, mice, ants, roaches, and more.

Freeze Newly Bought Pantry Foods

Since some Indian meal moth infestations begin after purchasing infested food from stores, many experts suggest freezing foods like flour and spices for two weeks before placing them in your pantry. Doing this will help prevent future infestations by killing any potential eggs or larvae that have been laid or hatched in the food.

Seal Foods In Airtight Containers

Of course, one of the most simple methods you can use to protect your food from pantry moth infestations is to seal foods in airtight containers. As we’ll discuss further down, experts suggest investing in hard plastic or glass containers to store pantry food to combat pantry moth infestations from starting or getting out of control.

How To Get Rid Of The Indian Meal Moth – When To Call A Professional

Pic 8 an indian meal moth larvae in food
Reoccuring infestations of pantry moths may require the help of a professional. 

Sometimes no matter how hard you try or the different methods you use to get rid of pantry moths, you won’t be able to quell the problem on your own. If you find you are repeatedly dealing with an Indian meal moth infestation or notice that, even after tossing foods and using traps, repellents and insecticides, it is probably time to contact a professional.

A recurring pantry moth problem could be a sign of a more serious pest problem in your home. If this is the case, a professional pest control expert can help you find the problem and get rid of it at its source.

On average, professional pest control experts cost around $100 to $300 to remedy Indian meal moth infestations depending on your region and the severity of your problem.

Once you have managed to get rid of a pantry moth problem in your home, your next focus should be on prevention.

How To Prevent A Future Indian Meal Moth Problem In Your Home

Pic 9 a spray mottle and spunge
Clean cupboards often to help prevent a pantry moth infestation.

Indian meal moths may be one of the most common house invading pests in the United States, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to prevent them.

Some of the best steps you can take to keep pantry moths from recurring in your home or from infesting other pantry foods include the following:

  • Clean Pantries Often

Implement a routine cleaning regime and keep pantries tidy, organized, and clean. Vacuum and sanitize spilled foods and empty cabinets often to wipe down surface areas. Doing this will help keep adult pantry moths from being attracted to foods they would commonly want to lay their eggs in.

  • Seal Cracks and Crevices Inside Your Food Cabinets 

Pantry moth larvae often climb out of infested foods and hide away in cracks and crevices along your pantry. Sealing up any cracks, crevices, or holes in cabinets, drawers, or pantries where food is stored will help keep adult Indian meal moths from gaining entry to lay their eggs and will help you notice any larvae crawling around outside of food packages.

  • Store Food In Sealed Containers

Experts recommend you store pantry foods in airtight glass or hard plastic containers for two reasons: The first is that it reduces the chances of an adult Indian meal moth from gaining access to said foods to lay eggs. The second reason is that it prevents any larvae that may already be in the food from getting out to contaminate other foods in the pantry, potentially saving you hundreds of dollars.

  • Inspect Your Foods Regularly 

Last on our list of how to prevent Indian meal moth infestations from getting out of control is routine inspection. Be vigilant and keep an eye out for any signs of pantry moths around your home or pantry moth larvae in your food. Look for signs of webs, shed skins, and of course living larvae or adult pantry moths.

If you do find signs of Indian meal moths, begin your treatment plan as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, you may not be able to completely prevent an Indian meal moth infestation from occurring in your home. Remember, you can pick up infested pantry foods anywhere, including the grocery store.

Still, so long as you are vigilant, practice preventive measures and keep your foods sealed in airtight containers that Indian meal moth larvae are unable to chew through, you should be able to keep infestations isolated and protect other foods.

We hope this article has been helpful and you now know how to manage an Indian meal moth infestation should one occur in your home.

Best of luck!

Indian Meal Moth