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Meal Moths Leave Cocoons Behind

By Chris Williams on May 27, 2016.

Lately I’ve been finding these small cocoon things in my kitchen cabinets in the corners of the shelves. When I smash them, they seem to be empty. Any idea what these are? M. N., Sterling, MA

It’s really hard to say without an inspection or seeing one of the “cocoons.” If the cocoon is round, it may be a spider’s egg sac. However, these are usually found suspended in a web and inside cabinets is not a normal site. If it is an actual insect cocoon made up of silken threads and is found indoors, it usually belongs to a moth. Because of the location in your kitchen cabinets, you might have an Indian meal moth infestation.

Indian Meal Moth Larvae Wander Before Pupating

Indian meal moth infestations in homes are often first discovered when the mature larvae leave their food source and wander away looking for a protected place to pupate. The whitish caterpillar larvae (about ½ inch long) are often seen crawling up kitchen walls or across ceilings, hanging by silken threads. They usually spin their silken cocoon at wall/ceiling junctions, in the corners of shelves, behind items on the walls, in the folds of boxes or bag flaps, or even in the food product itself (see Those White Worms Are Indian Meal Moths).

The fact that the cocoons are empty means that the Indian meal moth pupa has completed its development and turned into an adult moth. Have you seen small, ½-inch moths flitting around in your kitchen or flying to lights at night? If so, that probably confirms that the empty cocoons are Indian meal moth pupal cocoons. The adult Indian meal moth has wings that are gray near the base with a broad coppery band across the tips. Emerging adult moths will be looking to lay eggs in other food products.

First, Find the Infested Food Products

The first step when a food infestation is suspected is to track down and discard the infested food products. Since Indian meal moths can feed on a wide range of foods, that may not be easy. A favorite food of the larvae is dry pet food. They also infest cereals, dried fruits, cornmeal, graham and whole wheat flour, powdered milk, nuts, birdseed, fish food, chocolate, spices, and much more.

Infestations usually start in food packages that are the oldest, that are past their “use by” date, that have been damaged, or that have gotten damp or moldy. You may find silken threads on the surface of the infested food or on the packages. For more on how to find Indian meal moths see How to Check Food Products for Insects – Advice From the Pros.

Give Colonial a call. Our professional pest control technicians can confirm if Indian meal moths are the reason for the cocoons. They can help you track down the source of the infestation and can treat your cabinets to protect against future moths. See Preventing Pantry Pests – Advice From the Pros.

Photo Credit : “Plodia interpunctella top 43” by Pudding4brains| Wikimedia Commons.

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