Some extra protein? How to Identify and Get Rid of This Common Pantry Pest

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service specialist Wizzy Brown discovers the world of insects, from acrobatic ants to walking sticks. Are you worried about something? Let us know and we will forward your question.

Indian moth identification

Brown says the Indian moth is one of the most common pantry pests.

“Most people will see the adult stages of the Indian flour butterfly,” Brown says. “They’re probably a quarter to a half an inch long – that’s when they’re triangular with the wings folded over their body. And if you look at them, they’re brown and they have copper wingtips.”

While you will most likely see adults, they are not exactly the ones you need to worry about. Brown says the larvae are the damaging stage.

“They can be any color from creamy white to pale green and—I’ve even seen ones that look pink,” says Brown.

On the subject: How to prevent pests from entering the pantry while you are on vacation

What do they eat

An Indian moth membrane inside a sack of sunflower seeds.

Mike Boone (CC BY-SA 2.5)

In the wild, they will feed on plants. In your home, they are happy with whatever food they can find.

“And it can be processed foods or whole foods,” Brown says. “So anything like seeds, dried fruit, dog food is a big deal.”

Brown says bird food is also a common target, but the list goes on.

“So, grain products, flour, cornmeal are also part of the spices,” Brown says. “So, you know, a lot of people think, ‘Well, that’s a chili pepper, they won’t get in there.’ Well, yes, they will.”

How to get rid of them

Brown says that to get rid of pantry moths, you need to go through “absolutely everything.” When you find something infected, you have a choice: get rid of it or save it.

Brown says these options include:

Put the contaminated item in the freezer for 4-7 days. (Brown says she’s wrong on the longer side, just to be careful).

Place the contaminated item in the oven at the lowest temperature and leave it there for about 30 minutes.

Either way, she says, “you can either use a product with insects in it – it’s just extra protein – or you can sift it somehow if you want.”

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