Indian meal moths are considered the most common moths to be found in locations like grocery stores and homes, so you should prepare yourself with some basic knowledge regarding these pests.
Biology of Indian Meal Moths
The wingspan of the Indian meal moth is about 5/8 of an inch and the outer third of this is covered with scales that are reddish-brown. The moths’ hind wings are gray in color. When at the larval stage, the moths appear to be white worms that have brown heads. In terms of meals, Indian meal moths prefer to eat items that people tend to have in their homes, such as grains, dried fruits, seeds, nuts, powdered milk, dehydrated dog food, dried red peppers, candies, chocolates, and graham crackers.
The eggs of this type of moth are ovate, whitish, and small to the point where they are hard to spot without a microscope. The eggs typically get deposited on the surface of grains in groups of 12 to 30 or by themselves. Overall, females typically lay between 100 and 300 eggs. When they are newly hatched, the larvae are also small and hard to see. As the larvae grow, they tend to be pinkish, greenish, or yellowish. Larvae that are fully-grown will be between ½ and 5/8 of an inch long and have a brownish head capsule. The larvae have three thoracic legs that are by the head plus five sets by the abdomen. As they reach adulthood, the larvae spin a web, leaving behind silken threads when they crawl. Adult Indian meal moths will typically fly around at night and they are attracted to lights, just like many other insects. They tend to rest along the walls of grain bins or grain surfaces. The Indian meal moth can reproduce and live in temperatures above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The average life cycle from egg to adulthood will take 40 to 55 days. Theoretically, there could be seven or nine generations in a single year, but this rarely happens due to colder temperatures in the winter.
Why Indian Meal Moths Are Considered Pests
The reputation of Indian meal moths as pests is heavily influenced by the damage they cause to food items, particularly grains. They will eat the grains, reducing the quantity stored and contaminating anything that gets left behind. You do not want to eat grain that these moths have gotten into as they have left silken webs and droppings in the grain. Interestingly enough, most of the damage to grain and other food items is caused by the larval stage of the Indian meal moth, with minimal damage from the adults. Even so, the numbers involved in Indian meal moth reproduction can lead to significant damage and there is the simple matter of contamination. Because of the contamination associated with Indian meal moths, those who find these insects in their pantries will find themselves having to throw out a good share of food, including anything that has been opened and potentially entered.
Methods for Controlling Indian Meal Moths
Professionals will begin their control of Indian meal moths by inspecting the areas where the moths may be present. They will likely pay closer attention to the items that are most appealing to the moths as well as those that you indicate have been in the pantry for the longest time. They will also inspect the ceiling and walls in the area for signs of crawling larvae or adults sitting on the structures. As with controlling other insects, preventing and getting rid of Indian meal moths involves sealing up any holes that are giving the pests access to your home. The adults have to be able to get inside in order for them to lay eggs.
Insecticides may be used to treat Indian meal moths, but this type of control always requires extreme caution. Caution is also part of pesticide application but the care must be increased even more since the affected areas will be close to food. You do not want to accidentally spray something you plan to eat with a pesticide. It is also very important to note that simply applying chemical pesticides to take care of the Indian meal moths will not be enough. You must combine that with the DIY methods outlined below. Otherwise, you will continue creating the conditions that attract these insects, giving you endless problems. Another useful method is to opt for traps. There are a few varieties but the most common have paper or cardboard that is lined with a glue strip that contains pheromones. The insect sex pheromones will attract male moths, so they are trapped then killed. Without males, mating cannot occur, breaking the cycle of moths.
DIY Tips for How to Get Rid of Indian Meal Moths
Ideally, you will not have to get rid of Indian meal moths because you will prevent them from invading in the first place. If you have Indian meal moths, then make sure to take preventative measures after you remove them. To prevent Indian meal moths from returning to your home, practice careful sanitation. This includes storing your food items, including grains, securely in containers. You should also take the time to regularly clean. Additionally, avoid buying food items that are open, damaged, or close to expiring.
When dealing with Indian meal moths, you will need to find the infested food items and get rid of them. Then, clean the surrounding area thoroughly, including with a vacuum cleaner in the crevices and cracks. Use soapy water as well during your cleaning. You can also keep the infestations to a minimum by buying your food items in smaller quantities, especially in the case of those items that you rarely use. Make sure that all of your food is stored securely so Indian meal moths cannot access it. Opt for plastic or glass containers that they cannot get into. Store pet food in airtight containers as well. In addition to storing the food carefully, you must regularly check on it to ensure it remains sealed. If you do not have another good option for a certain food item, consider storing it in the fridge.
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