Kitchen impossible: Search and destroy meal moths

Intrastate Pest Control, 295-6565

 Q:  How do I get rid of those annoying bugs flying around my pantry? Where do they come from, anyway?

A: Those are called Indian meal moths, and they're the most common insect you're likely to find in your kitchen. These are not seasonal insects– you can find them any time of year.

Typically, what happens is a homeowner goes to the grocery store and buys a dry good that has been sitting on the shelf for a while. He uses half of it, rolls down the top of the bag, and puts it on the shelf in his cabinet.

After a while, the product gets old, and the eggs– which, despite being treated along the production chain, were in the product when he bought it– hatch, and the cycle begins.

(While this means that we're probably eating many products containing Indian meal moth eggs, it's a situation that's existed for thousands of years with no obvious ill effects. It's harmless to ingest the insects at any stage of their growth cycle.)

Fortunately, this is a problem that's easy to solve. We normally recommend that homeowners go through all of their dry goods to locate the source. "Dry goods" means everything you'd normally think of as harboring the moths– flour, grains, nuts, cereal. Look at things you might not think of at first, like ice cream cones, or even the pepper shaker. Sometimes people swear they've searched everywhere, only within a few days to see another one flit by. That means they haven't found the source. Then we suggest checking the bird seed and dog biscuits.

The bottom line is people should look everywhere– at all dry goods– and throw away any where they find the tiny larvae. Filmy webbing is also a clue. The insects move from product to product as larvae. The flying creature is the adult.

The homeowner's inspection is more important than anything an exterminator can do, and if they discard everything that might be contaminated and get in the habit of keeping grains in glass containers with lids, they should be fine. The bugs can bore through plastic bags and wax paper, but they can't penetrate a sealed glass container.

As a last resort, homeowners can clean out the pantry or storage cabinet completely and apply an over-the-counter pesticide, being careful to read the label thoroughly first. Everything edible has to go before spraying.

In desperate situations, they can call their local pest control company for advice.

Greg Wells