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Meal Moth Control

Updated on February 21, 2012

Their scientific name is Indian Meal Moth but you may see them called Grain Moth, Flour Moth or Meal Moth.

You pay too much for your groceries to have pests take over and ruin your food. I’m going to help you keep them out to begin with and also tell you how to get rid of them if you already have an infestation.

It took me a while to realize what I had and how they got in. When you find them in your staples they appear to be little white worm looking creatures with webbing. Yes, it is disgusting.

The only thing you can do if they have made their home in your food is to throw it out. There are eggs and larvae you can’t even see so trying to save any of it is useless.

What to do if you find them in your food

Throw away every food item with infestation and clean the cupboards out with a disinfectant solution. You will find residue and even larvae in the dark corners of your storage area; make sure you clean all these areas thoroughly.

Clean all areas including behind appliances. When moths fly into your home they lay eggs near a source of food so it’s important to get all areas to remove any eggs. After the eggs hatch the larvae, which are caterpillar looking bugs will eat through containers to get to a food source where they weave a spider web looking mess.

They love old boxes or bags of food you’ve forgotten in the back of your cupboard where they can feed and grow undisturbed.

How to keep them out of your cupboards

First we must understand the nature of the beast and what kind of habitat they prefer.

What do they eat?

They eat dry foods like cereals, cake mixes, pasta, dried fruit, nuts, cornmeal, flour, crackers, dry pet food, bird seed and spices. I've even read they will eat dried flowers.

How do they get in?

Some fly in through your front door when you are coming and going. These are small moths that are a gray or brownish color depending on where you live. They appear harmless but can ruin hundreds of dollars of food in a matter of days.

Some come in your food you brought home from the grocery store. It’s not always the market’s fault sometimes they get a bad shipment from a supplier. Infestation can happen anywhere.

They don’t like low places

Unlike Garth Brooks, these bugs dislike low places. It may be due to predators in the wild that eat their young, I’m not sure I just know that storing your staples down low are safer from infestation. Consider putting your pans and canned goods on the higher shelves and your bagged and boxed foods on the lower ones.


This tree has natural oils in it that deters pests. Cedar has a nice aroma and unless you are allergic won’t harm you or your groceries.

Put some cedar chips in a clean old stocking and place on the shelf. This also works in your closets to keep their cousins, the Wool Moth or Webbing Clothes Moth, away.


Do not use mothballs around food. This is a poison and the aroma can permeate into your pantry giving a horrible taste and smell as well as being hazardous, you don’t want that.

Glass or plastic airtight containers

I don’t like to use insecticides around my food so finding ways to keep them out is much better in my opinion.

Baking ingredients, cereal or any other edible items should be taken out of the original cardboard or bag packaging and put in sealed canisters. This will keep moths as well as other insects from getting in. They love cardboard and bags, they can eat right through these without any problem and will then lay eggs that later make a terrible mess in your food.

Any food should immediately be put in an airtight container or the freezer upon entering the house.


If you have one, these are wonderful for keeping groceries safe from pests of any kind as well as lengthening the shelf life. Extra pasta, baking supplies or chips will keep much longer without worry of infestation.


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    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sheila, glad you haven't had any meal moths they are terrible.

    • sheilanewton profile image

      sheilanewton 5 years ago from North Shields, UK

      Ugh - horrible creatures. I have been lucky up until now. Never had to deal with this meal moth or any other nasty creatures in my food. Interesting hub - voted up.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Vespawoolf, good to hear you won the battle of the meal moths.

      Bless your heart, Guin, I feel your pain. I've had to do the same thing and it's a big job.

    • Lady Guinevere profile image

      Debra Allen 5 years ago from West By God

      Thank you for pointing me to this. Yes, they must have already been in the container or rice when I bought it. Ok so I know what I will be doing tomorrow all day! I just cleaned up my kitchen, but I guess I will have to do it like Spring Cleaning--early.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 5 years ago from Peru, South America

      Just to let you know, I won the battle against the moths! I had an infestation and after reading your article, I threw out most everything in my pantry and started all over. I had some things stored in cardboard boxes and I threw the boxes away, too! Now we've been moth-free for a whole month. hurray!

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      Weissdom, if your food is already infested when you purchase it you can't get the bugs out and you shouldn't eat the food anyway. These remedies are to keep them out of clean unaffected food. I've used these methods for years and have no problem with moths.

    • Weissdorn profile image

      Weissdorn 5 years ago from Germany

      Cedar did not work. Glass & plastic containers do not work if your grain products are invested at the grocery store. I had sesame seeds in a very small jar, and the eggs still hatched into larvae. They ate and ate, and finally suffocated, but not before they turned the sesame seed into crud. Freezing works. But you have to have your freezer set to about 0°F. If you have it about 5-10°F the eggs will hybernate and hatch anyway. Newsprint helps a little lining your cupboards with fresh newspaper print (the kind that makes your eyes water) helps for a while. It also helps if you look at the expiration date on the food. If the food expires in November 2013, then buy it. It means the grain product was manufactured in November 2011 and there are less chances of getting meal moth eggs in your food if the grain product was produced in winter, because meal worms lay their eggs in June/July/August. Also if you see ANY meal moths flying around the store, don't buy any grain products in this store.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 5 years ago from Oklahoma

      That's probably it, Glenn, they were living off the oxygen left in the container. I've had good luck with plastics like Tupperware and Rubbermaid and they usually can't get in but if they are in before you seal it the damage is done.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Pamela, I have to assume that the eggs were already in there. It was sealed tight. And they weren't anywhere else. I am sure after a longer period the colony would have died after oxygen would have been used up. My timing of when I moved the contents to the Tupperware and when I went back to open it was just right.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Glen, I'm surprised they could live in Tupperware since it seals out the air. If I keep food sealed in plastic containers I don't get any moths in them. I wonder if your lid wasn't sealed properly. They can take over very quickly.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 6 years ago from Long Island, NY

      You wrote about this very well and I voted up. I know what you are talking about and how important it is to understand the problem and to follow your advice about how to avoid them, because I had a first-hand experience with Indian Meal Moths.

      Last year I had forgotten about a box of Bran that I had left in the top shelf of my kitchen cabinet. It must have been a few months old by the time I discovered it.

      Being that I don't like to waste food, I opened the box and poured the contents into to Tupperware container for safe-keeping. That was dumb of me. I should have just thrown it out because I ended up leaving the sealed Tupperware in the cabinet for who know how long.

      Months later I again discovered that I had forgotten about it and decided to use it. When I opened the lid, out crawled little insects just like what you described.

      I quickly closed the Tupperware and threw it out. I also was able to kill the few that escaped so I never had an infestation. I was lucky.

      But I later asked an exterminator friend of mine about the incident, and he told me "sounds like you had Indian Meal Moths."

      He went on to explain that they infest many grain type foods in the warehouse and lay their eggs before being shipped to the supermarkets. He explained that usually we eat the stuff before the eggs hatch, eggs and all. Yuk!

      Since I kept my Bran for such a long time, they had the opportunity to incubate and hatch. Not to mention that they had their own little habitat in the sealed Tupperware container.

    • Pamela N Red profile image

      Pamela N Red 6 years ago from Oklahoma

      Gypsy, that's what I do too. I live out in a rural area and we have all manner of critters including mice so we keep all of our food in containers.

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 6 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      An infestation can cause chaos and they multiply at an alarming rate. The only solution we found was to keep ALL dry goods in sealed metal or plastic containers. Good advice in your hub, thank you.