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Indian Meal Moth: Q & A

By Chris Williams on November 22, 2010.

Q. A couple of times I’ve seen whitish worms crawling on my kitchen walls near the ceiling. They’re about a half inch long. Are these fly maggots?

A.  No, fly maggots are legless and can’t crawl up a wall. Sounds like you may be dealing with the Indian meal moth, one of the most common pests in stored food products. Once the moth larvae (caterpillars) have completed development, they leave their food and wander, looking for a place to spin a cocoon and pupate. That’s when you’re most likely to see them. The small copper and beige moth that later emerges from the cocoon flies mostly at dusk and rests during the day in dark areas. The female moth lays her eggs on or in food products that are suitable for the hatching larvae.

The moth larvae feed on a wide variety of food products, anything from cereal to flour, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, bird seed, spices, and many more. One of the most common products to be infested is dry pet food. Indian meal moth larvae feeding in a box or bag are easy to overlook at first. Eventually, the food may be covered with shed larval skins and webbing spun by the larvae.

Indian-meal-mothFoods may be already infested with the moth larvae or eggs when you bring them home from the market, or they may become infested on your shelf if you already have Indian meal moths in your home. The foods most likely to be contaminated by Indian meal moths are those that have been on the shelf the longest, or packages that have been damaged, overlooked, or stored in dark areas. Even unopened bags or packages can be infested.

The first step in handling an Indian meal moth infestation is to find and remove the food source (or sources) of the feeding larvae. This isn’t as easy as it sounds since they can feed on such a wide range of foods and are hidden inside packages. In fact, the source of the infestation is often not even in the kitchen, but may be in a garage or other area where pet food is stored.

Call Colonial. Our professional pest control technicians can confirm if it is Indian meal moths that are causing your problem, and we can track down their source. Our follow-up treatment will ensure that your kitchen and your family’s food remains pest-free. Pest elimination is our goal!

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