How to get rid of pantry moths in our home?

Asked August 30, 2017, 9:10 PM EDT

Hello, we've had an infestation of what seem to be "pantry moths" in our home since July We put up multiple pheromone sticky traps, & bug-bombed the house twice using "moth" specific sprays, to no avail. Short of tossing all our food and sanitizing the entire house -- not practical -- are there any other options? I'll attach a photo I took of a dead moth for i.d. The moths are approx. 6-7 mm long. We destroyed all egg casings we could find, but the moths are still appearing singly mostly after dark throughout the house. Also, what is a good phone number to call there? THANK YOU. - Bruce Marcot

Washington County Oregon

7 Responses

Thank you for your question about your pantry invaders. Your picture and description appear to be that of an Indian meal moth. You may not have used a 'bug bomb' that is specific enough for these moths, or used a pheromone trap with the wrong scent. Here is a link to an Extension article about them. The best 'cure,' though, is to keep all of the foods they are attracted to either sealed or frozen, as described in this article.

I'm uncertain which phone number you're referring to, since answers on Ask an Expert can come from all over the state (and country!), but the phone for the Washington County Extension office is (503) 821-1150.

Hope this is helpful for you. Good luck!

Hello Kristina, just a quick THANKS for your rapid and very helpful reply, including the links to further information. Just what we needed. We really appreciate your help. Very best.

Thank you, Bruce. Another MG says it's a clothing moth. I would like to research, but am dealing with a dying dog tonight. I need to leave it to you to decide. Best to you, as well!

Clothing moths fl at dusk or during the evening. Depending upon the kind, they are either tan or gray with black spots, as in your image. This boils down to the tedious work of locating the "food" -- often stored fabrics, woolens are common victims -- then thoroughly cleaning the storage place and the affected fabrics.

See this for management information: "Clothing Moths"

In the event you may also have pantry moths at sometime in your life, realize that the management will be similar -- locate the food, then clean out the storage area. See "Pantry Pests"

Hi Jean, many thanks for the additional reply. What are diagnostic characteristics of clothing moths compared with pantry moths (esp. Indian meal moths)? (I'm a Research Wildlife Biologist and have worked with invertebrates.) I presume it's important to know which species I have, to then know what kind of pheromone trap or other bug bomb to get, if those are even worth (further) pursuing. We have 6 pantry moth sticky pheromone traps through the house, and each is catching a number of moths, but the flying moths are still appearing. Again, thanks very much! - Bruce

Jean, I rather jumped the gun in my reply. Thanks for the links to the articles, as they DO describe anatomical characteristics, including the "tufts" on the head of the clothes moth, which my photo seems to indicate.

What seems to be a continuing infestation are just new emergences. And, as you know, the traps catch the males which, in turn, eventually stops reproduction. So, you’ll need to continue trapping until new traps remain essentially clean.

But please stop using bug bombs. They don’t affect eggs or pupa. You need to be the agent for that. You know, it’s the old search-and-destroy strategy. If you didn’t bring infested fabrics with you, then you’ll need to find them. Since you have traps throughout the house, you might be able to locate a high-density area which may help target your search.

If the traps are for pantry pests, are you trapping Indian meal moths? Or something else?

You might upload an image of one of your catches. Or you could take a trap to the Washington County Master Gardeners in the Extension Service office, 1815 NW 169th Place, Beaverton 97006; or call 503-821-1150, extension 2. Hours weekdays 9 to 11:45 and 1 to 4; closed holidays.