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Indian Meal Moths & Their Control


                    Photos by Clemson University - USDA Cooperative Extension Slide Series                           

                                   Used with permission, courtesy of                                                   

Background Information

   This is probably the most common pest of food found in the home. The Indian Meal Moth is often confused with the Webbing Clothes Moth, a fabric pest. Indian Meal Moths affect food product and not fabric.  Clothes Moths affect fabric only.  

    This pest in introduced into a building by being brought in with a food product which is already infested. Although manufacturers attempt to deliver food that is virtually pest free, they do not always succeed. 

    Another way that this pest may enter food is from a store that has an infestation of this insect.   The immature stages of this insect may crawl into other food packages thereby introducing Indian Meal Moth into a home or business. 

    A question people frequently ask is what happens if they ingest infested food product.  Since these insects do not contact disease containing surfaces and are thus do not transmit disease, there is no harm done to people or their pets if affected food is ingested.

    Most insects are phototropic, they will fly toward light.  Because Indian Meal Moths are most active at night, people often report finding them in rooms away from the source as they follow the lights that may be turned on in those rooms.



    As a moth, Indian Meal Moths goes through complete metamorphosis including egg, larvae (crawling stage), pupae (cocoon) and adult (flying moth).  Therefore, if the infested food product is discovered and removed, and no other food source exists, the life cycle of the moth may be interrupted.  

    If an infestation exists, sanitation i.e. removal of all infested food product, is key to  managing this pest.  Thus, the first step in managing an Indian Meal Moth problem is inspecting for and then removing infested food product.

    The list of products to check includes milled foods such as flour, pasta, cereals, cornmeal, spices and most commonly, dry pet foods including (especially) bird seed.  Other sources to check include dried fruits, dried flowers, nuts, rodenticide baits, food brought in by mice, rats or squirrels and even decorative wall hangings containing food products such as beans or spices.  Be sure to check areas other than the kitchen or pantry where these items may be stored.  Think about the nuts that have been left out in the living room in case company comes or some food product that you may have left up in the attic and forgotten about.  Also, be sure to move appliances away from the wall to see if any food is hidden behind or underneath.

    A  caller helped to point out how important it is to locate the source of the problem.  She cleaned and searched and searched but could not locate the source and thus continued to have a problem.  Finally, one day, in her continuing effort to find the answer, she searched through a storage area that had a bag containing other shopping bags that she recycled and there, located a significant number of insects.  After remove this source, the problem subsided.

The bottom line: keep looking for an infested food source somewhere - don't give up!

Once the suspect food or foods have been identified and removed, thoroughly vacuum the corners of all cabinet shelves or any area adjacent to the food storage area using the crevice tool attachment to remove any insects living in those areas.  As a precaution, throw out the vacuum bag.  

A Variety of Pest Management Tools

    Once you've isolated and removed the source or sources of the infestation,  a pin stream application of residual insecticide such as the product that we offer, Permacide P-1, may be applied to areas such as the corners of cabinets and other storage areas to help eliminate the larvae (crawling stage) of this pest in those areas.  

    To help control the moths, many of our customers like to use pheromone traps.  These diamond-shaped glue traps are used along  with a pheromone lure which utilizes a male sex attractant. Although sex specific, these may be used to monitor for the adult (moth) to determine if there is an ongoing infestation.  It is possible to use these in place of traditional insecticide treatments, but control will be incomplete since the egg laying female moths may not enter the traps.    

    Room foggers such as Pro Control Plus, may be used to control large numbers of moths, but the insecticide will kill moths that are present at that time rather than those that may hatch out later.  

    Another control product to consider is Gentrol IGR Concentrate, an insect growth regulator (IGR). This product is an aid in controlling Indian Meal Moth infestations.  This product may be applied into cracks or it may be applied as a surface application near affected areas.  

    The active ingredient in Gentrol, hydroprene, affects the larval stage of Indian Meal Moth and insects pests, by stopping the life cycle in the pupal (cocoon) stage.  Affected insects do not hatch out of their pupal cases into flying adults ,thus effectively breaking the insect's life cycle.  This type of treatment will not yield speedy results, but will assist in long term control.  It may be especially helpful when the source of the infestation cannot be isolated. Gentrol may continue to be effective for up to four months so that frequent reapplication is not required.  It may either be diluted in water in a sprayer separately or combined with the Permacide P-1 product that we offer to simplify the application, but once diluted it should be used within 48 hours.  It is possible to dilute smaller amounts of Gentrol IGR separately to stretch out the use of the product over a longer period of time.

    An important advantage of the use of Gentrol is that hydroprene has very low toxicity to mammals.   It may be used even in food processing plants.   It is important to note too,  that exposure to IGRs does not affect people or their pets in any way similar to the affects on insects. 

    The use of pheromone traps along with applications of Gentrol, will enhance a pest management program significantly.

    If you'd like to read a description of the products mentioned above or look at a description of our other products, click here.  The products above include  Permacide P-1, Pheromone Insect Traps Pro Control Plus Insect Fogger and Gentrol IGR.

We're Here to Help

    The Bug Clinic is committed to assisting people with their individual home pest control problems. We don't always make a sale, but we give free, friendly advice. We respect your concerns and will try to offer the least toxic or a non-toxic solution where possible. Feel free to call us toll free at 800-433-1128 or 845-356-2837 or send us a fax at 845-746-9018. Send E-Mail to Your comments are always welcome.

    If you do not receive a reply to an E-Mail, please let us know by resubmitting your letter.  We get a huge amount of unsolicited mail and we may unintentionally overlook your inquiry. 


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