Moths are insects which are most known for their fluffy appearing wings. The wings are actually covered with scales and if moths are handled, these scales will come off like dust. Moths are members of the order Lepidoptera which also includes butterflies.
Many members of this order have sucking mouthparts but some have undeveloped mouthparts. If the species does not have developed mouthparts, the adults do not feed.
The moths have life cycles of complete metamorphosis meaning that the eggs hatch into larvae, the larvae pupate, and the adults then emerge to start the life cycle over. Life cycle time varies with conditions and species but generally the adult stage is short.
Some stored product pests are moths. These include the Indianmeal moth, the Angoumois moth, the cocoa moth, and others. The Indianmeal moth is interesting in that it is one of the most common stored product or pantry pests found in food facilities and homes. The moth larvae usually feed on grains or grain based products such as dry dog food. When the larvae are ready to pupate, they move away from the food source to pupate or rest and prepare to emerge as adults. Upon emerging, these moths breed and lay eggs but do not feed.
Some moths will infest clothing and will make holes in fabric to the frustration of the owner. In the case of the two most common clothing moths, the Casemaking clothes moth and the Webbing clothes moth, the larvae do the damage. They then make a case to pupate or web depending on the species. Upon emerging, the adults will breed and start the cycle again.
Moths are particularly susceptible to traps which will reveal if there is an infestation. Commonly, the chemical to attract males is placed on a sticky trap and if moths are caught, then the professional can determine species and best control methods. By them themselves, pheromone traps will usually not control a population.
Find the source of the problem. If you find a package of infested foods don’t stop looking. I once found Indian Meal Moths in 12 different boxes of foods in a cupboard in someone’s home. They move from package to package if things sit there long enough.
Throw it away. Even though most insect larvae are not harmful to eat, unless you are the adventurous sort it probably is easiest to just bag up the package and toss it in the garbage.
Clean up. Very thoroughly vacuum all the cupboards to remove food scraps that are laying around and attracting bugs. I took a look in the cupboard at my house, where we set our toaster, and found a pile of bread crumbs under the toaster as well as a huge accumulation of crumbs in the bottom tray of the toaster itself. Cleaning also removes any wandering beetles, moth larvae, or possibly moth pupae that are outside the infested packages.
Sometimes, a follow-up application of insecticide will be very useful, but I’d suggest you allow the professionals to do this. Licensed pest management companies use products that you may not be able to buy on retail shelves, and these products are more appropriate for use around your food. They have no odor, so vapors, and are very low in toxicity to people and pets. Their benefit is to intercept any final insect adults or larvae that have escaped your search and destroy cleaning mission, and kill them before they have the opportunity to start a new invasion.
Even if you contract with a licensed company for the control of food pests in your home, they probably will ask you to take the first three steps before they get there, and rather than pay them by the hour for looking through the packages for you it probably is best to do it yourself. For preventing future problems with food invading bugs, keep these steps in mind:
- Store susceptible foods in sealed, impermeable containers – thin plastic can be chewed through by the beetles
- Store foods in dry locations, and the cooler the better
- Stock turnover – use things up – don’t let packages sit for months or years without using them
- Inspect – on a regular basis remove the boxes, or bags of noodles, and check them for signs of insects. This helps discover a problem in the early stages.
- Cleaning – don’t allow accumulations of spilled foods in cupboards, under the refrigerator, in the garage, or anywhere else you store human or pet foods
- Check when you buy foods – grocery stores are not immune, and commonly have infested packages too that you can bring home. Most susceptible may be “health” foods that have avoided insect control processes in manufacturing, or “bulk” foods that are not routinely emptied