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Pest Highlight: Indianmeal Moth


By Ralph H. Maestre BCE

When it comes to Stored Product Pests, the Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella (Hubner)) is among one of the most food damaging insects around. The larvae spins silken threads as they feed and crawl, thus webbing food particles together, cause the damage. Besides infesting all cereal food products and whole grains, larvae also feed on a wide variety of products such as dried fruits, powdered milk, cornmeal, flour, raisins, prunes, nuts, chocolate, candies, health food and seeds, bird seed, dog and cat food, fish food, graham crackers, dried red peppers, pastas, etc.

Sometimes the Indian Meal Moth (IMM) is mistaken as clothes moths; homeowners first notice small moths flying around kitchens and pantries in the home. These moths fly mostly at night and are attracted to lights and may appear in the living room near or in front of television sets. Magic Pest Management LLC usually get a call from clients when the larvae or "white worms with black heads" crawl up walls and form cocoons where the wall meets the ceiling. Other times, a few larvae may be found in a food package along with unsightly webbing, cast skins, and frass (fecal pellets). Packages of whole wheat, oatmeal, graham flour, and corn meal are often infested. Most complaints in New York, The Bronx, Queens, and Nassau County occur during the months of July and August, but often appear in the spring as the weather warms above 55°. Some adult moths do fly into the home during summer months through open doors or windows, but most "hitchhike" inside in packaged goods and groceries. Not only homes, but restaurants, grocery stores, warehouses, pet stores, seed companies, mills etc., become infested.


Adult moths are about 3/8-inch (8 to 10mm) long when at rest and have a wingspread of about 1/2 to 3/4 inch (18 to 20mm). When viewed from above with the wings folded over the back, the outer 2/3 of the wing appears reddish-brown or bronze colored "at the wing tips" while the inner 2/3 of the wing "at the basal portion" is light gray to ochre-yellow.

Life Cycle and Habits

The female moth lay between 60 and 300 eggs, Eggs hatch in 2 to 14 days with larvae or "tiny whitish caterpillars" dispersing within a few hours. Larvae move to foodstuffs, and feed in or near a tunnel-like case of frass and silk which they web together. Some food becomes matted with silken webbing. The larval stage is the feeding or "pest stage," and may range from 2 to 41 weeks, depending on the temperature. When ready to pupate, mature larvae leave their tubes and spin a silken cocoon. They often migrate or "wander" a considerable distance from their food source before finding the pupation site, often in cracks and crevices. The life cycle may range from the shortest period of four weeks to the longest of 300 days.

Control Measures

The first control measure is prevention. When buying groceries, make sure they are not old. If you have no choice, then buy very little of it and store it in a tamper resistant container such as Tupperware or heavy-duty freezer Ziploc bags. This way if it does come into the house contaminated, then it stays within the original container.

Let say you do get an infestation, then be prepared to empty out your pantry and kitchen cabinets for treatment. Call a reputable pest control company such as Magic Pest Management LLC to give you an estimate and schedule the service. The service may consist of liquid applications, insect growth regulators (IGRs), aerosols, dusts, and pheromone traps. A follow-up service several weeks later will be beneficial to evaluate the plan of action taken. Be ready to leave the home for a couple of hours if needed. Most jobs don't have to be that intense, but be prepared. If you or the inspector locates the infested item(s), then the infestation can be resolved quickly.

Sometimes finding the source of the infestation may be frustrating. An old rodent or bird infestation may lead to concealed materials in a wall void that no one knows about. This usual occurs in homes that the infestation reoccurred in the spring and summer, and then disappears during the fall and winter, only to return the next spring. Magic's personnel have removed infested dog food or birdseed from wall voids after an exhausting monitoring program pinpoints the suspected wall.

Pheromone traps are great tools in monitoring existing infestations. They only are meant to trap males, since they are designed as a sex pheromone traps. Live Indian Meal Moths reveal a current problem. Large numbers in one location helps pinpoint the source. There is a downside that too many traps may draw insects from outside the home. The pheromone inside the traps only last four months, then the pheromone would have to be replaced.

So if you have a past or current problem with Indian Meal Moths call Magic Pest Management LLC today for a free estimate.