Can Food Moths Come From Bird Seed?

By Chris Williams on November 21, 2014.

Are Indianmeal moths associated with parakeets? The worms are crawling up the wall near the parakeet cage. Is it the seed for the parakeet or the parakeet feces that keeps these maggot-looking things hanging around? How does the infestation start? From a bad package being brought into the house or a moth flying in from outside and laying eggs? Any help would be appreciated! – Joe

food moths bird seedFirst, you need to be sure that it’s Indianmeal moths that you’re dealing with. A pest control company can make that identification for you. You mention that they are “maggot-looking,” but I would call the moth larvae more caterpillar-looking. They’re white and small but they do have a noticeable brown head and short caterpillar legs. You can see a photo of Indianmeal moth larvae at the blog, White Worms Crawling Up the Walls! Fly larvae (maggots), on the other hand, are headless and legless (see What Do Fly Maggots Look Like?).

Sure, Indianmeal moths are often associated with pet food like bird seed, fish food, and especially dry cat and dog food. They’re more likely to be breeding in the large bag of bird seed rather than in the cage itself. Do you store your bird seed near the cage? Once the larvae mature, they usually leave their food source and wander away to spin a cocoon and pupate. This is when they are often seen crawling up walls.

How Do the Moths Get Into the Birdseed?

As far as where the moths come from, they don’t fly in from outside. Infestations usually start when an already-infested food product is carried into your home. Once the food is placed on the shelf, emerging moths will lay eggs into other food products in your kitchen or pantry. Indianmeal moth larvae feed on a wide variety of foods and spices so almost anything can end up infested, given enough time. If you do indeed have Indianmeal moths, they could have been in the bird seed when you bought it or the bag could have been infested after you brought it home if you already had Indianmeal moths elsewhere in your home.

How to Check for Indianmeal Moths

The first thing to check is your bag of birdseed. If you can, dump it out into another container. If there are moths in the bag, you would find larvae, and maybe adult moths, near the bottom of the bag. The larvae spin silken webbing in their food, so look for that as well. If the seed is infested, I would just dispose of the whole thing in a sealed plastic bag. You can also kill the larvae by placing the seed in a deep freeze (not a refrigerator freezer) for several days but the seed may have lost nutrients from the insects feeding.

If you find moths in the birdseed, you should still check other items on your kitchen shelves for Indianmeal moths. If you don’t find the moths in the birdseed, then you need to do an even more thorough and labor-intensive inspection to find the source of the infestation (see How to Check Food Products for Insects – Advice From the Pros). Or, you can make it easy on yourself and contact an exterminator for a professional inspection and treatment.


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