Monday, October 6, 2008

Mealy Moths - House Pests ? OR House Pets?

In my part of the world it’s fall, it’s still hot on some days and that means bugs. But to make you feel better, for this column and talking about a preparedness pantry, it could be winter and that could still mean bugs. If you are not having a hot fall right now take advantage of the following information and be prepared because the bugs will love to visit you in any weather. In the fall they come inside. Isn't that a delightful thought?

One of the questions I'm asked the most is how to get rid of mealy moths. At one time or another, they invade almost everyone's cupboards. You know you have seen them, perhaps you just haven’t recognized them for the villain that they really are. They are small, beige and can be discovered in singular form, bunches, flocks or hoards. They're very persistent and can destroy a lot of food if allowed to remain unchecked. (It can be embarrassing when someone who is not a very close friend comes to visit and there are so many flying around that you can’t miss them. It’s happened more often than some of us will admit. That’s when you become extremely nonchalant and exclaim over the fact that your son’s baby butterflies have gotten out - again!)

You probably brought the first batch of mealy moths home from the grocery store. In order to get rid of them, you have to find out where they have "made their home". Pay attention to the cupboards where you see large numbers of the moths. As you look inside the cupboards or pantry, most likely you will see bunches of the moths clustered on the undersides of shelves or on the ceiling. The young are in the form of larvae, which will crawl from one box or package to another. One of the miserable things about the about the larvae is that they will actually crawl into jars of grain or cereal by crawling up the threads of glass at the top where the lid screws on. They can chew through plastic as well as cardboard. Such charming creatures!

You will need to go through the items in your pantry box by box. If larvae are in the product it will "bunch together" with webs and fine threads. There will be a "grainy dust" on the sides and bottom of the package, as well as throughout the product.

When you find packages full of the moth or larvae, please don't chuck them into the wastebasket in the kitchen. The moths are attracted by light, get out of the waste-basket and infiltrate any other food containers or cupboards that they can get into. When an infestation is really bad, fill garbage bags with the boxes and packages of infested food. Take them outside and spray bug spray directly into the garbage bag.. BEFORE putting the bag into the main trash outside.

Once you find the source of the culprits and clean out the cupboards, you may consider clearing the shelves and spraying the cupboards and cracks with a good bug spray. Yes, it can be a big job, but the surviving larvae get into the cracks, grow and develop into moths, and you will eventually have to repeat the same cycle all over again. Oh Joy!

WARNING! Should you decide it’s too much work, you really don’t have time or you actually only saw a few so what will that hurt? I suppose there are two points of view that can be taken, one, if you leave them they will multiply, and after all that could be considered high quality protein. Or, two, if you leave them they will multiply and you probably wouldn’t want to have food to eat anyway.

In order to control them, you will need to use a commercial product. After you have cleaned out infested packages and shelves, go to a store that has a good pest control section, where mouse traps, etc., are. There is a pest strip for flying insects. Mealy moth is one of the first insects listed in their "target" listing. I believe the product is made by Dow and comes in a bright yellow package. It is a waxy cake form, approximately 2"x4" and is hung up with a hook. Simply hang several of them in your pantry and cupboards. They work quite well, though it will take more than one for a pantry or kitchen.

The bad news is that you can bring more home from the stores or they can come in from the neighbors. Another option is to adopt them and tell your friends that you are growing a new crop of house pets that require no special pet foods. Especially since you will be sharing yours! What do you mean you've never considered homestorage for your bugs?

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