Indian Meal or Pantry Moths

Indian Meal or Pantry Moths

You notice a webbed cocoon in the top corners of the ceiling or maybe in the cabinets. Thinking nothing of it, you grab the broom and whisk it away and then you notice several more. Chances are these are this common nuisance pest. Moths are pests when they infest our food and fabrics and storage products.

Call today for help with this pest.
215-253-6019 or 610-624-3196

24hr. Emergency service @ 267-507-IKAG (4584)
*Emergency service rates apply


Pest Library Description

Pantry moths can cause havoc in our locations

Indian meal moth is a small, grayish-brown moth common in many homes. The caterpillar stage feeds on nuts, herbs, coarsely ground grains, and other pantry items. The Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella) is the most common household moth that can reproduce in homes.
All stages of the Indian meal moth may be found in homes. The adult is a small moth, about 3/8 inch long with a wingspan of about 5/8 inch. The overall body color is generally dirty gray but the tip half of the wing is rusty brown or nearly bronze. This wing marking pattern allows Indian meal moth to be easily distinguished from other household moths.

The caterpillar stage is usually cream colored, sometimes with yellowish-green or pinkish shades, and has a dark brown head. Normally they stay associated with foods, but the full grown caterpillars, about 2/3 inch long, may be seen as they wander in search of a place to pupate.

Life History and Habits

Indian meal moths develop in many kinds of stored foods. Coarsely ground grains and cereal products are commonly infested. Dried herbs, dried fruits, and nuts are also highly favored. Pet foods such as dried dog food flaked fish food and bird seed can also become infested. Indian meal moth may also breed in ornamental items made of dried flowers or seeds.

The moths usually fly at dusk and through the night. Females lay tiny eggs (ca. 0.5 mm) on or near potential food items. The newly hatched caterpillars (larvae) seek out foods and begin to develop. As they feed they often produce silk that loosely binds to food fragments. Caterpillars may occur throughout the product within small, loose packages typically found in household pantries. The caterpillars are capable of chewing through plastic bags and thin cardboard.

The rate of development is dependent on factors including temperature and food quality. They then create a loose cocoon covering within which they pupate, subsequently transforming to the adult stage. Cocoons are most often located in cracks or confined spaces, such as the junction between walls and ceiling. The adults emerge, mate and lay eggs. The female may deposit over 200 eggs, laid either directly on food or in crevices adjacent to the stored foods on which they feed.

Indian meal moth larva

Probably three or four generations can be completed annually in a home. Although all stages may be present as generations overlap. For reasons that are unclear, adults are usually observed most commonly from November through February.

Control of Indian Meal Moth

Indian meal moth may also be found in other materials around the home. Dried dog food and bird seed should be checked. Larvae are also known to occur in the stored caches of seeds and nuts that squirrels and other rodents may have around the home. Infected material should be immediately discarded, used up, or somehow treated to disinfect.

Although Indian meal moth can be eliminated, reinfestations are always possible through accidental reintroductions on infested food. Foods in pantries should be stored in containers that are tight-fitting enough to prevent entry by the minute early stage larvae. the containment must be thick enough to prevent it being penetrated by the chewing of late-stage larvae.

There are available pest traps for Indian meal moths that are baited with an attractant known as a sex pheromone. This is the chemical used by the female Indian meal moth to attract males. Such traps are very useful for identification of “hot spots” of infestation. However, their ability to control Indian meal moth is highly doubtful, despite occasional claims to this effect by suppliers. This is because the traps only  a fraction of  males. Mated females are not captured.  They will continue reinfestations.

Our Treatment

The first stage of pest control is to identify all potential sources of infestation in a home.
Infested materials should be discarded, promptly used up, or treated with heat or cold to kill insects. The treatment for this pest is extremely detailed and in most situations requires the customers assistance. Eliminating the male is the easy part. This is a common pest in several convenience stores and restaurants we service. Our practical treatments allow for these locations to remain open for business. While we eliminate with minimal follow-up visits needed.


 Sifting through grain products after purchase is a good preventative method for this type of pest.  If you have used over the counter mouse poisons and baits. A good idea would be to inspect the bait and the area.


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