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need help with pantry moths

is there a way to get rid of them with out using toxic chemicals?

we found the infestation a few nights ago. there were about gazillion moths in the pantry that seemed to have literally appeared overnight.

we systematically, took everything out and threw away all open items and all bulk items. The next day there were more moths.

so this time i threw away more stuff and took out the shelves and wiped down the sides, nooks, etc. vacuumed the insides. The next day they were back again.

this time i wiped down all the packaging for cocoons (i'm really grossed out while having to type out this part) and killed more moths.

So far i found a moth here and there but i'm afraid this isn't the end. has anyone else experienced this and have any advice? i'm so over it!! Thanks.

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  1. i'd wipe the cabinet down with pure vinegar.

    i had the problem a while back -- right before i got married, when my mother in law had just met me for the first time and was staying at my house!

    (the larvae must've come in on the bulk rice my niece had bought to make rice packets for tossing after the reception).

    what a nightmare, and so embarassing to be clearing out all the dry goods from that cabinet and tossing whole packages of food while my new MIL watched on. "Yeah, welcome to the family."

    for the future, buy carefully from reputable places, and CHECK all bags -- including pre-packaged -- of grains, legumes, you name it. bugs are bugs, and they like to get in everywhere they can. but that doesn't mean you have to welcome them into your home

    ps, throw away the vacuum bag, too!

    1. I had some in one of those cardboard cylinders of oatmeal awhile back - it wasn't opened - still had the plastic seal under the lid, but Oh My when I pulled that seal up - it was pretty horrifying. So unopened dry goods are suspect as well, in my experience.

      1. Safer's makes a pantry moth trap, basically a triangular box lined with stickum, and a pheromone bait. They've worked well for me.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Meann

          This product works very well. Most natural foods stores use this in their grain storage areas.

          Since I have been using the trap and storing items prone to outbreaks in sealed containers I haven't had problems.

          1. re: meatn3

            crossing my fingers but i think i'm at the tail end of the infestation. I think i'll take your advice and go get this today. want to trap the last remaining few before they lay more eggs. i'm so grossed out and i usually have a stomach for bugs. just not this time.

          2. re: Meann

            If that's the one that's sold by King Arthur Flour, it helped me rid myself of an infestation. We threw away every opened and unopened package that might be attractive to moths, and cleaned the inside of the pantry closet with Fantastic. Then I bought Click-Clack containers and religiously put all floury goods in them, throwing out the packaging. Keep no packaging, or if you do, put the packages in the freezer for a couple of days. I now have a freezer in the garage, and I store all potentially attractive to flour moth goods in there. I haven't seen one in a couple of years now, but I have one of those traps on stand by in case I do. They are hideous, nasty things...

            1. re: Meann

              They worked well for us, too, and the moths glommed onto the board long after the lure was supposed to have worn out. Gardens Alive has them, so do a lot of other places.

              They do work if you have some patience, or you can spray the hell out of your cabinets and poison your guests and family for weeks to come. :-)

            2. Hopefully you've eliminated the source of the infestation. Don't give the last few moths a place to lay their eggs and you should be fine.

              But as others have noted, don't trust a sealed package to keep the nasty little critters out of your flour / pasta / rice / etc. I use rigid airtight containers for all those things. And a couple of days in the freezer will not only keep the moths away from things you can't seal firmly, it will kill any eggs and keep them from hatching.

              13 Replies
              1. re: alanbarnes

                i'm on my way tomorrow to buy a big container for my 10lb rice bag. not putting anything new in it until they're really gone. so far it's looking good. the eggs are gross!

                1. re: alanbarnes

                  I do the freezer thing, too--learned it when I was doing a lot of volunteering at the co-op. I put my bulk grains, etc. in the freezer for 2 days, take them out for a day, and refreeze again for another 2 days. My understanding is that the freezing expands the water in the cells of the critters and kills them. The second freezer go-round is basically insurance.

                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    this morning found 3 moths in the pantry. culprit: brand new cocoa. how did that sucker get in there? they're like houdini. i'm just grossed out thinking that i probably ate one of their eggs. mmm..mmm. blah!

                    1. re: trolley

                      Don't sweat the eggs. They're little and don't have much flavor. It's when a dozen larvae float to the top of the pasta water that you've gotta watch out for the heebie-jeebies.

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        eeeewwwww. Years ago, my mom (God rest her soul) made a PA Dutch concoction for my daughter called Rivel Soup. It's a turkey or chicken soup (usually made with leftovers), and has thin dumplings floating in it -- kinda like spaetzle. You guessed it, there was more floating in that soup than the rivels. To this day, 30 year old daughter still squinches all up when I mention Rivel Soup. again: EEEWWWWW.

                        1. re: PattiCakes

                          Does "rivel" rhyme with "weevil"?

                          Sorry, couldn't resist...

                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            I can no longer eat Special K after see weevils in my bowl after the milk was added and one spoon got to my mouth before I noticed the little buggers. EEEWWWW squared.

                          2. re: alanbarnes

                            What alanbarnes said. Also, a fine sieve can quickly zip the larvae off the top of your boiling pasta if you're so inclined. They will float to the top and you can dispose of them from there.

                            OP- it sounds lilke you have a bad infestation. I'd be surprised that a brand new box of cocoa was the culprit (not that it isn't the case).

                            Where do you do most of your shopping? You may want to check out that source.

                            1. re: EWSflash

                              i shop for bulk at whole foods only. i buy grains at trader joe's as well. in fact i only shop at those two places. no it wasn't the cocoa but found critters in there. i'm so mad. i'm still finding them!

                              1. re: EWSflash

                                >>"a fine sieve can quickly zip the larvae off the top of your boiling pasta if you're so inclined"<<

                                Been there, done that, didn't tell the kids...

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  AB: you are evil (rhymes with "weevil").

                                  1. re: alanbarnes

                                    Yar, best not do that to the young ones. My son (age 21) was the one that was cooking the pasta, and called me in to tell him what was going on there. I explained the sieve thing to him, and he's fairly squeamish about food contaminants, but God bless him, he watched me sieve the damn things out and did eat the pasta.
                                    I love that boy.

                                2. re: alanbarnes

                                  >>"Don't sweat the eggs. They're little and don't have much flavor."<<

                                  spoken like a true chowhound even when describing pantry moth eggs. hysterical!

                          3. Pack up everything you own and put it for a month in a storage container in -20C weather and I guarantee, you will get rid of your infestation. That's how i got rid of mine.

                            On a more practical note, when you examine your dry foods and throw out everything that's infested and freeze everything that's not to kill eggs, don't forget to check dried flowers and potpourri. The weevil will lay eggs in those too.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hala

                              oh dried flowers and potpourri are bad for allergies, too. big dust collectors, which, of course, dust mites love. i mean, who dusts the potpourri? ;-).

                            2. I am an unfortunate expert on pantry moths, thanks to a gift of dried chiles brought back from Mexico by a friend. You'll hate my suggestions, but here's what worked for us:
                              First, THROW OUT every bit of grain, chocolate, chiles, bouillon powder, ramen, pasta, cereal, and dried fruit you have. Yeah, it's practically an insurance claim, but you have to do this if you want to guarantee they don't come back. Even if the box is sealed (the little buggers could get into Fort Knox), throw it out.

                              Second, if you store your bulk goods in reusable containers, wash them thoroughly, removing gaskets, etc. in hot water, then let them dry for several days.

                              Take every last thing out of your pantry and wash with white vinegar. Let dry. Wipe down all your cans and jars with white vinegar.

                              Buy several packages of the triangular SAFER pantry pest traps (they come 2 to a box). You will need to use these for the rest of your life, but they really work. I'm serious.

                              When you buy anything containing chiles, chocolate, or grains or dried fruit for the next few weeks, store them in the freezer until the infestation is gone. Count the moths in your traps every day, and when you don't see any new ones being added, it is safe to put your stuff back in the pantry.

                              Replace your traps every 3 months, even if they are empty. This will keep any larvae you bring in on bulk goods from reinfesting your pantry.

                              13 Replies
                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Oh, but this IS a war! When you're as ticked off as I was about having to throw out expensive chocolate, pounds of garbanzo, spelt, rye, oat and wheat flours, organic dried fruits, sweet rice you had a hard time finding, and countless cereals, well then you attack those nasty buggers with an Uzi, not a BB gun.

                                  1. re: Isoldamay

                                    Wow- I'm thinking of investing in a new Vacuum packer, as the old one is 20 years old and doesn't seal that well any more. That would have a dual advantage of ealing out AND in the vermin. Unless you have a mouse in your pantry (I did), then all bets are off. They can eat through that plastic. And crap on what falls out.

                                2. re: Isoldamay

                                  Throw out coffee and tea also. I also found moths layed eggs between several small foil pans. I hadn't even considered looking in the stack, but there they were.

                                  I used Safer traps and bay leaves, and that seemed to reduce the population. I had to take the shelf liner off and decided to repaint (you could just wash with white vinegar) and I put new liner in there. Check everything. Even closed bags and boxes can be infested. I put everything in a zip loc, which hopefully helps keep unopened things good. I have even purchased extra large zip locs for this purpose to put around larger items that haven't been opened. I now keep flour in a plastic container INSIDE a large zip loc. But I have been moth free for two years. No moths in the trap that I occasionally replace in there.

                                  1. re: RGC1982

                                    aha! thank you for the tea advice. they were cocooning on the tea bag packets!

                                    1. re: trolley

                                      When you consider how tenacious bugs and vermin can be, it's amazing that we generally have plenty in the way of food stuff!

                                      1. re: meatn3

                                        My late father was convinced that eventually insects will rule the world and conquer humans.

                                        1. re: sandylc

                                          No doubt! Squirrels could be contenders too if they could work together better...

                                          1. re: meatn3

                                            HAHA! yes, squirrels don't know how to work together very well do they? :)

                                          2. re: sandylc

                                            I am not that sure we are unconquered. They probably allow us to live as a food source.

                                      2. re: RGC1982

                                        OMG, Tea?!?!? I have so much tea in the house. I can't believe I have to toss everything. I just found something gross - a can of Spaghetti-o's where they ate through the side of the can, and it was empty. Yeah, it was hidden in a back corner of the pantry. Has anyone had problems with moths eating CANS? I'm totally freaked out.

                                        And I keep everything in ziplocs. Now I hear they eat through them. I'm just going to have to move. There's no way I'll be able to get rid of them. My upstairs neighbor brought them in and had her friend the exterminator spray her apartment so everything moved downstairs. God, I need to get my own place.

                                        1. re: gagi1

                                          gagi1, i hate to break this to you but you must throw everything out. yes, everything. the only thing i kept were big plastic tubs that i kept bulk oatmeal and AP flour in. i washed them throughly. i had those drawers that pulled out. i also had to take out the shelves and wipe down the shelves and in the nooks of the drawer tracks. they were cocooning (gross!) in there too. mine didn't get in the cans but were cocooning in the rims of the cans. gross!

                                          it was SO difficult to throw everything out but that's what you'll end up doing. you will get rid of them but it takes a lot of patience and the guts to say good bye to the contents of your pantry :( i'm so sorry!

                                          1. re: gagi1

                                            Do not forget to throw out any dried flowers or pot pourri that you might have.

                                            Moving will not get rid of the problem. They will move with you. Exterminator is a good idea but only after you throw out everything that could be infected.

                                      3. If you have pets, make sure that you store the pet food in airtight containers, preferrably somewhere far away from the pantry. I had recurring problems with moths for around 3 months, a few years ago, and a professor I met told me that the moths often come in pet food, and move into human food products if they are stored near the pet food.

                                        I found the moths had been able to eat their way into unopened boxes and cellophane bags, so I carefully inspected each bag of pasta, rice, lentils, etc, and threw out any older bags I hadn't used in a while. Sometimes, cocoons or larvae were visible in the bags of rice and pasta.

                                        I wiped any unopened bags of pasta/etc that looked ok with a damp cloth, and stored each of those bag in a clear, airtight hard plastic or glass container, so there'd be no chance of moths I missed getting into newly purchased goods.

                                        I'm much more careful when I buy rice/beans etc now, and inspect bags for cocoons and larvae before I buy them, and I haven't had any problems in the last few years. I also seal any pasta packs, or transfer the foods into clear airtight containers. If I see moths in a store that's selling rice/beans/etc., I don't bother buying anything from the store.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: prima

                                          yes, to add to prima they get in to plastic ziploc bags. they get into everything. my moths came from one of those giant bags of rice. as heartbreaking as it is you will most likely toss everything. i tried keeping unopened packages of pasta but eventually got so grossed out that i ended up throwing them out. after the tea bags i just couldn't take it anymore. and wipe down everything you choose to keep with a wet cloth. i also used a cleaning spray. it's pretty non-toxic kind from trader joes. in hindsight i was glad i had to do this. i tossed a bunch of old food and started new. it was a good way of de-cluttering.

                                        2. Gardens Alive has THE best solution. Pheromone lures on striped (visual attractant) glue boards.
                                          90% of the time they have a coupon code....currently they have a gift certificate on catalog
                                          first $25.00 FREE, no minimums no must buy over XX amount., gifty right up front. You will however pay S&H .
                                          Anyway the traps work so well 3 catering/baking places I mentioned them to, purchased them and then called ME to thank me for turning them on to Gardens Alive. BTW they are called Indian cupboard moths, and have a web, a caterpillar type stage and adults that fly around. The trap interrupts life cycle no Females get pregnant, no more babies to grow up and continue reproducing.
                                          P.S. Cupboard moths like paper napkins and paper towels, too, and if you buy a lot when it is on sale, check the plastic very carefully. New additions seal in a big clear garbage bag.

                                          MOTHRA is dead.

                                          1. Safer Brand Pantry Pest Traps work great (and the Clothes Moth traps work, too, for wool moths). Can be found and bought online.

                                            1. I had them and it totally sucks... took me a couple months to figure out what they were- I thought I had termites. I have a tiny doggy so didn't want to use chemicals. I found a natural product called Aunt Norma's Pantry moth spray and it really really worked! You have to order it online but safe yourself the headache and get it (and buy a pantry moth trap too) b/'c the combo got rid of my moth problem and I haven't seen them since. I htought it would be a lot harder b/c I read all the posts, but the pantry moth spray works like a charm! BTW you still have to do the other stuff (clean out the pantry etc. or they'll keep hatching). I also stick my newly purchased grains in the freezer before I put them in the cupboards.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: greenfishflyer

                                                These things are HORRIBLE! We had them and tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. First we wiped down the cabinets with Vinegar, then we used pantry moth traps. Didn't really do the trick. We looked on here and tried your suggestion of using Aunt Normas Pantry Moth Spray.
                                                IT WORKED! IT WORKED! IT WORKED! The spray they have as seemingly kept them from coming back for about three or four months now. So glad we looked on here and THANK YOU for recommending it! I highly would suggest anyone who has this seriously GROSS, ANNOYING problem to try this product. Thanks again!