Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Tale of the Dastardly Mealy Moth

In trying to retain the pantry full of food products that you are acquiring to fill your pantry; one of the hardest things to do is to keep ahead of the bugs. Yes they are there. And no, bay leaves will not do one thing to deter them or get rid of them. In one of the last articles in which I discussed buckets and containers I promised I would tell you the Tale of the Dastardly Mealy Moth. Its goal is to be able to eat the food in your cupboard or pantry before you do. It is very family oriented and brings numerous family members and friends to join in the feasting. It also quickly multiplies and replenishes in friendly environments.

I’m sure that some of you have been in “someone else’s home” the day the flock of moths decided to come into full view to the total embarrassment of the home owner (You? In italics and parenthesis), while several of you are standing around in the kitchen.

Or one day as you have nonchalantly opened a cupboard door, to retrieve a cake mix; you have to explain the “science project’ that your son is working on to your best friend who is now standing behind you.. You know “that project.” It’s about how moths like to eat boxes of cereal in the dark.

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. They’re very persistent and can destroy a lot of food if allowed to remain unchecked.

What you don’t know what a mealy moth looks like? They are the little beige-brown moth that flits everywhere in the grocery stores, grain outlets and friendly neighborhood kitchens and pantries. Or sometimes the larvae builds webs in your jars, cans or buckets of oats, rice and all variety of grains and foods.

You probably brought the first batch of mealy moths home from the grocery store. They hide in the folds and cracks of bags, creases in boxes of cereals or in the “stuff” that is in those bags and boxes. Sometimes they will even come in through the open door – even though they are uninvited.

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.

If you find an abundance of them, 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 sprayed 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.

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 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!


Josi said...

I have had a recurring problem that has recently re-manifested. Grrr. I was so embarrassed the first time I found them, but I feel a little better now that you've laid it out in such a 'normal' way. Last time I hired someone to come in and spray etc, I appreciate the advice that will save me some $$ this time around. Thanks.

Barbara Salsbury said...

thanks for dropping by. I'm glad a little advice form soneone who has been there would help! boy do I know about bugs in food :-)


Penny said...

I have found success with a product called Kitchen Pantry - a triangular shaped box with a gel in it. The stragglers after I had cleaned everything were attracted
and got stuck in the gel. I have not had the problem again.


Barbara Salsbury said...

great input. we will certainly let people know - unless they want house pets ... heh heh

Cindi said...

Re: Penny
Where did you find the Kitchen Pantry product that worked so well for you? I just cleaned out my pantry a month ago to get rid of these little buggers, and I saw another one fly today! I can't believe it...I thought I had taken care of the problem, but NO!
Barbara...thanks for all the wonderful information on this subject!

Barbara Salsbury said...

Thanks! Are you sure the last one that showed up doesn't want to be a pet? :}

Cindi said...

LOL! The Hubby and I just downsized and built a new home now that the kids are all grown and out on their own. One of my sons kept the cat, so we are officially "pet free"...or so I thought!!! I think maybe the little flying critters (that I already cleaned out of the pantry) made the move with us. (NOT fair!) you know if these moths only live around food? I saw some flying upstairs in my sewing room, too, and I don't know if they can live on fabric (I have MANY BOXES of it)or if maybe the ones I saw flew up from the kitchen. I just know that I don't like them one bit! I have yet discovered another species that I wish hadn't been on the Ark with Noah!

Barbara Salsbury said...

I don't think we get to blame Noah on this one. Grocery stores maybe. On the other hand maybe you have the extra friendly kind :)

Usually these moths just eat foods. But they do traveland fly, so that is probably what happened. Unless you've hidden chocolate in the fabric room.