Pest control experts explain how to get rid of pantry moths – and how to keep them away

Pantry moths can be a frustrating and stubborn pest to deal with. As their name suggests, these small tan or gray moths love to infest pantries, cupboards, and other places where dried foods are stored. While they don’t directly harm people, a pantry moth infestation can contaminate food with their webbing and larval droppings. The good news is that there are steps you can take to get rid of pantry moths and prevent future infestations. Pest control professionals are experts at eradicating household pests like pantry moths. Here they share insider tips on identifying, removing, and keeping pantry moths out of your kitchen for good.

How to Identify a Pantry Moth Infestation

The first step in getting rid of pantry moths is confirming you actually have them. Pantry moths can easily be mistaken for other common kitchen moths such as Indian meal moths or Mediterranean flour moths. Here are some telltale signs your pantry has been invaded by pantry moths:

  • Webbing on food packages – Pantry moth larvae spin silky webbing on and between food packages. Look closely for thin cobwebby filaments.
  • Pinhole damage to packaging – Larvae chew tiny entry holes into paper, cardboard, and even plastic packaging to access food inside.
  • Clumps of grain-like larval droppings – Look for small yellowish grains sprinkled around infested foods. They look similar to pollen.
  • Spotting moths flying about – The adult moths are small (1/2 inch long) with bronze, tan, gray, or black wings. They avoid light and quickly flutter away when disturbed.
  • Finding larvae in food – Mature pantry moth larvae are off-white or tan worms up to 1/2 inch long. They often burrow deep into infested items.

Carefully inspect all susceptible pantry items like flour, cereals, baking mixes, grains, nuts, dried fruits, pet food, bird seed, and more. Zero in on any packages showing signs of infestation. Identifying exactly which foods the moths are inhabiting is key to getting control of them.

How Pantry Moths Infest Foods

Pantry moths can only reproduce on foods containing protein and carbohydrates. To survive and breed, the larvae need to feed on grains, flour, cereals, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, pet food, and bird seed. They cannot reproduce on foods that are pure sugar, oil, salt, dried spices, or alcohol.

Adult female moths lay 40-50 tiny eggs directly on or near suitable food sources. The eggs hatch in 4-10 days into larvae (caterpillars). The larvae immediately start chewing into food packages to feed. They build silken tubes and webs as they eat. Over the next 4-10 weeks the larvae molt and grow to maturity. Then they pupate by spinning a silken cocoon which hardens to protect the pupa inside. Adult moths emerge about 1 week later and the cycle repeats. At room temperature, pantry moths can produce 5-6 generations per year.

Professional Pantry Moth Control Steps

Pantry moth infestations can persist undetected for months while their numbers grow exponentially. Attempting do-it-yourself control with home remedies is often ineffective. Professional pest control experts have the tools, knowledge, and experience to fully eradicate pantry moths. They follow a systematic process:

1. Inspection and Identification

Thoroughly examining your pantry storage areas is the first step. The pest controller searches for signs of infestation and identifies all impacted items. Proper ID of the moth species is important, as treatment methods can vary. The expert may use pheromone traps as part of the inspection process.

2. Removal of Infested Items

Once identified, all infested food packages must be removed and discarded. This eliminates the moths’ food source and breeding sites. Inspections continue in surrounding areas to ensure no food reservoirs are missed. For heavy infestations, emptying and cleaning pantries may be necessary.

3. Vacuuming and Cleaning

Vacuuming floor crevices, shelves, and corners removes moth larvae, eggs, and pupal casings. Cracks and crevices are scrubbed clean of food debris where moths hide and breed. Thorough cleaning removes the contamination attracting and supporting moth populations.

4. Application of Residual Treatments

Applying targeted chemical treatments creates a residual barrier lethal to larvae and eggs. Different active ingredients like deltamethrin, cyfluthrin, or bifenthrin are used depending on the site. Professionals know which products are most effective and EPA approved for pantry moth control.

5. Release of Nematodes

Releasing beneficial insect parasitic nematodes can provide biological control of pantry moth larvae. The microscopic roundworms attack and kill larvae but are harmless to people and pets. Nematode application usually boosts and extends treatment effectiveness.

6. Installation of Pheromone Traps

Installing pheromone lure traps captures adult male moths and disrupts the mating cycle. Traps placed in closets, pantries, and cabinets provide ongoing monitoring and control. They trap moths early to prevent another heavy infestation.

7. Customer Education

Pest professionals offer tips and information to clients on prevention measures to keep pantry moths out long-term. Things like proper food storage, sanitation, and homeproofing are discussed. Continued client participation is key to ensuring the moths do not return.

Top 5 DIY Pantry Moth Treatments

While professional extermination is best for established infestations, there are some DIY control options for light pantry moth problems:

1. Discard Infested Items – Inspect pantry items and throw out all opened food packages showing any signs of moth webbing, larvae, or damage. This removes their food source.

2. Use Pheromone Traps – Traps containing pheromones draw in male moths to capture them. Use several traps per area and replace lures monthly.

3. Apply Diatomaceous Earth – Sprinkle food-grade DE powder in crevices and on shelves. The microscopic sharp edges kill crawling larvae.

4. Freeze Small Items – Putting small infested items in the freezer for 4-7 days can kill moth eggs and larvae.

5. Use Herbal Repellents – Place sachets of dried lavender, mint, rosemary or cedar in cupboards and pantries to deter moths.

Be aware that home remedies alone often fail to provide full control. Monitor areas carefully and if moths persist, seek professional treatment. Combining DIY and pro methods works best for pantry moth elimination.

How to Prevent Future Pantry Moth Infestations

Prevention is the key to keeping pantry moths out long-term after completing control treatments. Pest professionals recommend these proactive measures to moth-proof your kitchen:

● Inspect All Newly Brought Items

Carefully check packaging on any new dried foods, grains, flours, nuts, cereals, and pet foods before putting them into your cupboards. Look for any signs of pantry moth webbing, larvae, or damage. Do not store items that are possibly infested.

● Buy Only What You Need in Smaller Quantities

Purchase pantry food items in smaller amounts that will be completely used up quickly. Larger packages stored for long periods are more prone to pantry moth problems. Avoid bulk sized items.

● Use Air-Tight Glass, Metal, or Plastic Containers

Transfer dried foods like flour, oats, pasta, grains, nuts, and rice from original packaging into very tight sealing glass, metal, or plastic containers after inspection. This denies moths access.

● Use Up Opened Items Quickly

After opening any pantry food packages, decant the contents into air-tight containers and use up within 1-2 weeks.well before moths can infest them. Then replace with new unopened packages.

● Keep Storage Areas Clean and Dry

Regularly vacuum, clean behind and under cupboards, and wipe up any spilled grains or flours where moths can breed. Eliminate moisture and condensation with dehumidifiers or improved ventilation.

● Rotate Stock

First In, First Out

Use a FIFO (first in, first out) rotation system when stocking pantry shelves. Place newly purchased foods behind older packages to ensure opened items get used first before they expire or become infested.

● Spot Inspect Monthly

Do periodic inspections of pantry and shelves looking for any sign of pantry moths. Catching an infestation just starting is much easier to control. Place pheromone traps for monitoring.

● Take Prompt Action if Moths are Spotted

If any moths are seen, take immediate action before they multiply and spread. Discard suspect foods, clean the area thoroughly, set out traps, and monitor. Getting a jump on infestations before they grow minimizes work.

Diligent prevention measures will help keep pantries free of pantry moths long after professional pest control treatment. But be ready to call the pros back if moths do slip through so they don’t get out of hand again. Consistent cooperation between residents and pest experts provides the best chance for long-term elimination of stubborn pantry moth problems.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pantry Moths

Pantry moths can be very perplexing and concerning when they start ravaging your dried goods. Here professionals answer some of the most common questions people have about dealing with these invasive pests:

What foods do pantry moths infest?

Pantry moths only reproduce and thrive on starchy or proteinaceous items like grains, cereal, pasta, rice, flour, nuts, birdseed, spices, chocolate, and dried fruits. They cannot breed on non-food items, alcohol, candy or produce.

Do pantry moths bite or sting humans?

No, pantry moths do not bite, sting, or transmit any diseases. The only harm they do is contaminating or ruining infested food items with their webbing and droppings. They are considered a nuisance pest only.

Can just one female moth start an infestation?

Yes, it only takes one pregnant female moth slipping into your pantry to start an infestation. She can lay 40-50 eggs that hatch into ravenous larvae in as little as 4 days. Populations multiply rapidly if uncontrolled.

How do pantry moths get into my cupboards?

Pantry moths can fly in from outdoors or come in on infested food packages from the store. They squeeze through tiny gaps in packaging, screens, doors and windows. Checking products before purchase and storage denies them entry.

How do I know which foods the moths are infesting?

Look for telltale thin webbing and tiny pinholes on packaging. Then watch closely to see the actual larval worms or moths emerging from particular items which are their food sources. Isolating infested items is key.

Will using mothballs or cedar repel pantry moths?

No, mothballs (naphthalene) or cedar oil provide little if any control indoors against pantry moths. The concentrations are too low in enclosed areas. Thorough cleaning and discarding infested items is required.

Can I just put infested foods in the freezer to kill moths?

Freezing small amounts for 72 hours can kill some eggs and larvae. But freezing does not kill pupae cases or adult moths that can then re-infest the food once it’s thawed and unsealed. So freezing alone won’t end an infestation.

What is the best pantry moth trap?

Traps containing pheromones that specifically attract male pantry moths are best. The scent draws them in where they become stuck on glue boards or captured in containers. Using several traps provides ongoing control and monitoring.

How can I prevent future pantry moth problems?

Inspect any new dried foods before storage. Keep areas clean. Transfer items to insect-proof containers. Use foods quickly. Do not store large bulk packages long term. Inspect regularly and treat any signs early before moths multiply.

Pantry moths can send your kitchen into chaos but armed with the right information, you can take back control. Being vigilant to identify and treat infestations at the first signs is key to keeping these nuisance moths from ruining your dried goods.


Pantry moths can go from nuisance to full-blown nightmare if their populations are allowed to explode unchecked in your kitchen. But with the insider tricks and professional-grade control methods shared here, you can confidently evict these pests. By combining thorough sanitation and containment along with targeted treatments, infestations can be knocked down. Keeping moths out for good relies on staying diligent with strict preventative measures. With the helpful guidance of pest control pros, homeowners can protect their pantries and restore order after a moth invasion. Staying aware and proactive provides the best chances for defending your dried goods from destructive pantry moth problems now and into the future.