Pantry or Meal Moth Traps

- Locate infestations with pheromone traps -

Summary: Pheromone traps are very effective for locating some meal moth infestations. Pheromone traps lure male moths to a sticky surface. Traps are used to pinpoint where the infestation is but the best way to eliminate it is to discard all infested food products and treat cracks and crevices with a kitchen-safe botanical insecticide.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Finding meal moth infestations

The Indian meal moth is a common pest in kitchens worldwide. You'll first notice small moths fluttering around the room. This may be an indication of dry food that is infested with larvae (right) somewhere in the kitchen, pantry or other food storage area. Moths lay eggs in grains, cereals, dry fruit, nuts, bird seed and dry pet food. Moth larvae feed on the surface of these materials and often cover it with a fine webbing. Infested foods quickly spoil.

The key to control of these moths is to locate the infestation(s) using pheromone traps (see below). Place one trap in each food storage area where you even suspect that there may be an infestation.

Indian meal moth larva

Indian meal moth larva on dried raisin. Note dark amber colored head capsule (top right).

Pheromone traps consist of a sticky trap surface and a female moth-scented lure that attracts and traps male moths. Traps are used to detect infestations only, not for control. You can also sometimes find infested food products by simply searching shelves and packages for telltale signs like fine webbing, larvae, and debris.

Treating meal moths

Discard all infested food when moth larvae are found -- be ruthless! Thoroughly search shelves and drawers. Even a small amount of spilled pet food, or a biscuit hiding under the counter, can support meal moths and other pantry pests (see Related Articles below). Freeze any packaged food that has not been opened. Freezing for even a few days kills all stages of the moth.

Do not use conventional aerosol insecticides in the kitchen or pantry. These insecticides won't be effective and they can even be hazardous when used indoors. Instead, use kitchen-safe botanical insecticides to treat cracks and crevices after shelves and cabinets have been thoroughly cleaned (see Using Botanical Insecticides Indoors).

Pheromone traps for meal moths

Use pheromone traps to pinpoint the general area of an infestation to a room or cabinet. Traps for pantry moths can be purchased at lawn and garden stores. It may take some time to completely eliminate a large meal moth infestation. Stay with it. As long as you are trapping adult moths keep searching for the infestation(s), it is likely that there are more than just one.

Pheromone traps should last 1-3 months. Place traps in several locations to have a better chance of isolating the infestation. It may be possible to eliminate a small infestation with traps alone by capturing all the male moths and thereby disrupting mating. Keep replacing traps until no more moths are captured.

Related Articles

What are Pantry, Meal and Kitchen Moths?

What are the Other Pantry Infesting Pests?

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