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Information & Advice About Pantry Moths

Pest Control Products UK Food (Pantry) Moth Control Advice

Species: (Family Pyralidae)
Indian Meal Moths Plodia interpunctella (Dried Fruit Moth)
Warehouse Moths Ephestia elatella (Cacao Moth, Tobacco Moth)
Tropical Warehouse Moths Ephestia cautella (Dried Currant Moth)
Mediterranean Flour Moths Ephestia kuehniella (Mill Moth/Flour Moth)

Pantry moths can be found in a variety of stored products. These species are largely associated with goods of vegetable origin, to which they may be adapted with varying degrees of specificity.

Indian Meal Moth (pictured): The most common pantry moths in the UK, the Indian Meal Moth is a cosmopolitan species originating in South America, that will survive all year ‘round in warm conditions. Food moths will attack dried fruit, cereals, oil seeds and shelled nuts. The larval webbing of food moths may occasionally reach problem proportions.

Wingspan is 10-15mm. The inner third of the upper forewing is a pale yellowish buff; the remainder of the wing is bronze-coloured.

Females produce up to 500 greyish-white eggs, which hatch in 1-18 days depending on conditions. The larvae of food moths migrate over the foodstuff, covering it with silk as they move. Fully-grown larvae are 12mm long. Food and environmental conditions have a strong influence on the larval phase, so that development may take 13-288 days. When mature the larvae of food moths leave the foodstuff and spin thick white cocoons, in which the 7mm long pupae develop. After a pupation period of 12-43 days, the adults emerge, although this species may spend winter as larvae in a silken cocoon.

Warehouse Moth: 12 mm wingspan; upper forewing: well-defined, rather sinuate outer band on grey-buff background. These food moths are widely distributed throughout temperate regions, it is rarely imported except on products from other temperate areas. Food moths are a major pest of warehouses and retail premises, this species will infest cereals, fruit, shelled nuts, cocoa beans, fish, spices and tobacco. Infestations are especially serious where wheat and flour are stored in bulk.

Tropical Warehouse Moth: 12-18mm wingspan; upper forewing: dull grey-brown; straight, dark inner band has broad, pale band along inner edge; outer band is obscure. A tropical or subtropical species frequently found on imported cargoes. These food moths are a particular problem in dried fruit and nuts, although this moth will attack cereals, oil seeds and chocolate products. 

Mediterranean Flour Moth: 20-25mm wingspan; upper forewing: oblique, irregular inner band spotted or streaked. No pale band along inner edge as with Tropical Warehouse Moth. Originating in Central America but now cosmopolitan. These food moths are a particular problem in provender mills, bakeries and occasionally even in catering premises, one generation is usually produced but in warm conditions adults will be present throughout the year when there may be 4-6 generations

Pantry moth biology

Pantry moths have two pairs of well-developed membranous wings, with few cross veins; clothed with broad scales; generally suctorial mouthparts; metamorphosis proceeds from egg through larval, pupal and adult stages; larvae frequently have eight pairs of limbs.

Control of Pantry Moths:

Treatment and Control: Method and timing of control measures against moths depends upon the species involved. The larvae of food moths are frequently difficult to reach because they are concealed in foodstuffs or the fabric of buildings and may be obvious only when they migrate.

Hygiene and management: This is important to avoid conditions suitable for the development of moth infestation. Cracks and crevices, which might serve as harbourages for food moths should be kept to a minimum.

Spillages should be removed promptly, and infested goods dealt with immediately. Uncontaminated products should not be stored in the vicinity of infested materials to avoid the spread of food moths.

Monitor traps: Monitor Traps with pheromone attractants are recommended for these species of food moths. The traps should be placed in storage areas or near products at risk throughout the year, and are an excellent means of monitoring infestations. For small, domestic infestations, these traps may be effective as control measures against food moths, as they remove adult males from the breeding cycle.

To use monitor traps to tackle food moths remove the protective paper and place the sticky pad, which includes an integral pheromone attractant, in the lower tray of the trap. One trap should be sufficient to monitor a single confined space such as a larder or cupboard. Where larger areas need to be monitored, a minimum of one trap per 10m2 should be used. AF traps may be reused with replacement sticky pads, which should be replaced every six weeks.

Insecticide sprays: In order to obtain the best results, insecticidal control measures should be integrated with good hygiene practices when tackling food moths.

Fortefog aerosol is a natural and organically derived pyrethrum-based flying insect spray, which is classified as safe for use in food preparation areas and therefore ideal for use against food pests. Oa2ki is an organic trigger spray product, which is also highly effective against both flying and crawling insects such as food moths but contains no toxic chemicals at all.

Smoke generators: Fortefog P Mini Fumers are an excellent domestic DIY fumigation method against a wide range of flying and crawling insects like food moths, which is based on natural pyrethrum. They offer a very useful alternative for treating enclosed areas such as loft voids, large cupboards and small rooms. Foodstuffs should be removed from the area to be treated before use, and surfaces should be thoroughly cleaned before foodstuffs are replaced.