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How to get rid of moths in your kitchen cupboards

Updated on April 28, 2014

Have you ever opened your kitchen cupboard one morning and had moths fly out at you.

Even worse, have you opened your favourite box of cereal or bag of cookie mix and found tiny little grubs wriggling in it?


Although they are household pests, especially when they reproduce in large numbers, these moths are not dangerous to humans and do not carry any diseases or parasites known to harm people.

How to recognize a pantry moth infestation.

Moths of the kitchen cupboards and their larvae are commonly known as “pantry moths”, “flour moths”, " meal moths" or "grain moths". They love to lay eggs in and feast on your dried goods, and then weave cocoons in any crevice they can find before emerging to start the cycle again.

Pantry moths are usually about a centimetre long and grey in colour. You can find these flying around in any room in the house. At first you're likely to notice one or two, but before long they seem to be all over the place.

You will also notice clumps in your flour and cereal that seem to be held together with little pieces of spider's web and empty cocoons on the folds of paper bags and the corners of grocery boxes. The tiny little grubs can be seen wriggling in your food containers or swinging from cupboard doors and oven hoods on thin threads.

The larvae can even burrow their way into unopened boxes and packets of dry foods! If you see boxes missing corners then beware!

It's actually more common for you to have these types of moths in your house if you eat organic foods as the package has the potential to be already contaminated before you bring it home.

How to treat a moth infestation

Decide on a day when you can thoroughly clean ALL of your kitchen, not just the cupboards where the dried good are stored. As I mentioned before the maggots will spin their cocoons in any crevice that they can find.

Throw away all your dried goods that are not stored in air-tight containers. Clean out all the cupboards and drawers using water and vinegar, or soap and water. Make sure that you reach into all the corners. Also wash the outside of any cans and containers, to remove any microscopic larvae.

Clean all the baseboards and crown moldings as well, and behind any movable furniture.

Remember that it's much better not to use chemicals in areas where you store food.

Other ways to treat for pantry moths without harmful chemicals

There are some traps that use natural pheromones to attract the male moth. However, to use these traps you need to know what kind of moth you are dealing with.

Three types of moths are the most common in the pantry:

  1. The Angoumois Grain Moth is the smallest, with grey or yellow-brown colouring. It's back wings, narrow to a point and have long hairs
  2. The Mediterranean Flour Moth is a little larger, and is pale grey and has two black lines on its front wings
  3. The Indian Meal Moth, is the largest and has pale grey wings and a reddish brown coloring on ithe outer front wings

How to keep the moths away

Remove the moths' food supply by ensuring that all your dried goods are stored in sealed containers.

Wipe up any spills of crumbs quickly, so as not to give the moths the opportunity to lay eggs. Empty the tray under the toaster regularly.

Inspect any dried foods you bring into the house as well as you can for moths. If you are still concerned you can put your grain based groceries into the freezer for about 4 days and this will kill any eggs or larva that are inside.

Clean cupboards and shelves regularly, and remember to clean the corners of the ceiling. Ensure that cracks insode cupboards are sealed and that fitted cupboards are as close fitting to the walls as possible.

Remember that one single female moth has the capacity to lay about 400 eggs so keeping their levels right down is important. If there is no available food supply then the female will not lay any eggs. Note that the life cycle speeds up when the weather is warmer, so it's even more important to keep surfaces clean during the summertime. Make sure that you have the screens closed on the windows in the spring and summer so that they don't come calling from neighboring homes either.

Tips from culinary experts

This forum thread has some great information and tips.

Pantry moths can be very pesky to get rid of and often come back year by year, sharing info about what works and what doesn't is always helpful.

Click here to read forum

A natural way to keep the moths at bay is to put sprigs of rosemary or mint into the cupboards (this also works for clothes moths). Although the rosemary smells good to us, it will drive the moths away.

Another method is to use a dried orange pomander into which cloves have been inserted (these are popular at Christmas time and smell really good!). The video to the right shows you how to make one.


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    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 6 years ago

      Thanks for sharing a nonchemical way to get rid of moths. I've never had to deal with them -so far. Glad to hear they are not harmful either. I know some people who had moths eat into their clothes too.

    • Nerak2Karen profile image

      Nerak2Karen 6 years ago from Milwaukee, WI

      I remember opening a bag of flour and a box of rice and having little bugs in it. I didn't know that they were moths. Very interesting. I will bookmark your hub for later use. Thank you for sharing.