Have you noticed small brown moths flying around your kitchen cabinets or places where you keep food? Those are pantry moths and they won’t stay confined to your pantry. After spending weeks battling an infestation, I have kept my home free of these things for years.
As they say, forewarned is forearmed. So read on for the natural pest control steps I took to rid my home of them. Then roll up your sleeves and get to it, because this takes effort but it’ll work.
What Are Pantry Moths?
Pantry moths, also known as “Indian meal moths,” are small gray, tan, or brown flying nuisances. Besides flying around your house, you may also discover their sticky, silky brown cocoons.
The good news is that pantry moths don’t bite or carry diseases even when they’re breeding or laying eggs in your food. (Yeah, they’re gross that way.)
How Did Pantry Moths Get into My Home?
Most of the time, pantry moths hitch a ride home with us from the grocery store where they’re already inside dry food packaging. Turns out, I brought our pantry moths home in a large bag of rice I bought at the warehouse club.
But dry goods aren’t the only risk: sometimes, they’ll build a cocoon on jars just under the edge of the lid or under loose labels on jars. They can even fly into your home through gaps in window screens or open doors.
Relax, You Don’t Need Pesticide.
I don’t like to use pesticides in my kitchen, or anywhere in my home for that matter. So, when our pantry moth infestation occurred, I wanted to get rid of them naturally. I did that by combining cleaning with playing detective.
I Got Rid of Pantry Moths Naturally
First, I hunted down their hiding spots so I could get rid of any pantry moth eggs and larvae. Then, I took steps to starve the adults by eliminating their food sources.
It may seem like a lot of work, but after that it just takes a few minutes when you get home to prevent future moth infestations in your pantry.
Step 1: Freeze Dry Goods.
Dry goods are a common spot for pantry moths to lay eggs since they can chew through paper and plastic in their search for shelter and food.
Flours, bulk grains, sugar, pet food—they’re all risky spots. If it’s in a box, even if it’s in a plastic bag inside a box, it’s a potential breeding spot for pantry moths.
If you discover pantry moth larvae or eggs in your dry goods, you have a decision to make: Are you comfortable eating them? If so, then freeze the food in its package for 3 days and then transfer it to an air-tight container, moth carcasses and all.
But if the thought of dead pantry moths in your food gives you the ick, throw the food out. Then follow the prevention tips to keep the problem from returning.
Step 2: Clean Your Pantry Thoroughly.
To get rid of pantry moths, you need to clean your pantry. As you work, remember to not only clean the top of shelves but their undersides, any ledger board or bracket they rest on, and the holes for shelf supports.
- Empty your pantry, down to the bare walls.
- Vacuum to get rid of hidden eggs and larva.
- Clean the shelves with equal parts white vinegar and a dash of peppermint oil.
Be sure to empty your vacuum outside and tightly double-bag the mess so any live pantry moths can’t escape. Then, clean your vacuum to be safe.
Step 3: Repackage Dry Goods.
Before you restock your pantry, transfer all of your dry goods to air-tight storage containers. The type of container isn’t important as long as it’s air-tight. Be sure to clean everything using that vinegar and water mixture, so you aren’t restocking your shelves with pantry moth eggs just waiting to hatch.
Step 4: Caulk or Seal Gaps.
Fighting an infestation can feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole. The first time I dealt with pantry moths in my home, they returned in a couple of weeks. It turns out, I’d overlooked the space above my cabinets, and they’d just been hanging out until I let my guard down.
So, if you’ve had a bad infestation, look around your kitchen and nearby rooms for cracks or gaps. Readers have reported finding cocoons and moths in the space behind cupboards and trim.
If you find gaps, seal them. I use paintable latex caulk on trim and cabinetry, and silicone caulk around sinks or surfaces likely to get wet.
Bay leaves are said to help repel pantry moths because their strong scent hides the smell of food. Try keeping an open bowl of fresh or dried bay leaves in your pantry and replace them when you can’t smell them at all.
Step 5: Inspect Nearby Rooms.
Pantry moths will spread throughout your home if given the chance. So, play detective and start inspecting rooms adjacent to your kitchen.
If you find any, vacuum the area top to bottom then wipe everything nearby with equal parts vinegar and hot water. (Just keep in mind you shouldn’t use vinegar on natural stone surfaces or anything that’s not washable.)
I’ve heard of people finding pantry moths in the bedroom and bathroom cabinets. When we had them, I found cocoons where the basement ceiling and wall meet, and along the edge of a door frame, too. So be diligent and look closely—use a flashlight if you need to.
Step 6: Use Pantry Moth Traps to Catch The Rest.
After all that cleaning and inspecting, there’s still a tricky period in their life cycle where overlooked eggs may hatch and turn into small moths flying around your home. So, for the next week or two, be on guard.
It’s not a bad idea to set out a few pheromone moth traps, which combine attractants with a sticky surface to lure and kill them. Old-fashioned fly strips and bug zappers can also work, but they’ll take longer since they don’t have attractants to lure the moths in.
Pantry Moth Prevention
Now, I know this is a lot of work. But once you’ve got the pantry moth infestation under control, you just need to do two things when you come home from the store.
- Freeze new dry goods in their container for 2-3 days then transfer them to airtight storage.
- Wipe the new cans and jars with that vinegar solution before shelving them.
Doing those two things after every grocery trip has kept my home naturally free of pantry moths for years now, and I’m confident it will help you, too.