How to Get Rid of Mealy Moths

Dear Home Ec 101,

My fiance and I recently moved into our first home together, but it soon became apparent that we weren’t the only occupants. The previous owner apparently had a mealy-moth infestation, and she oh-so-thoghtfully left it for us. They’re everywhere. I kill at least 5-10 daily and each day it seems like there’s more! I freeze all my grains and flours and sugars for at least 24 hours when I buy them, all my food is stored in airtight containers, I’ve cleaned the cabinets and the drawers and everyplace I can reach yet they’ve migrated from the kitchen (where we first found them multiplying) to everywhere in the house. They crawl on the TV screen, and I’m worred that they’re going to start eating my clothes and rugs and furniture fabrics.

I’ve bought some sticky traps, but they don’t seem to be working well anymore.

Is there anyway to get rid of these horrible little bugs?

Signed,
Creepy Crawlin’

Heather says:

Mealy moths are a miserable infestation to deal with.

First some good news, mealy moths only eat grains, your fabrics are safe. Just double check to be sure you ONLY have mealy moths in your home.

You are on the right track with sticky traps, but you may have gone overboard. Sticky traps for mealy moths have pheromones which act as an attractant for the moths. Because of this attractive scent it is very important to only use one trap per room. If you have more than one, you’ll confuse the moths and they will circle around thinking they’re about to get lucky, but never finding their potential honey. Maybe play a little Barry White to set the mood?

Do you have pets? If you have any kind of pet food in the house, it’s very possible that this is their new food source. Either store the food in an airtight container or keep it outside of the house.

Mealy moths or grain moths are especially obnoxious to get rid of because the larval stage likes to hide in the cracks of your cabinets. You need to completely unload the cabinets, remove the shelves and clean thoroughly. Get a stepladder and a flashlight because they especially like the underside of shelves. Use the flashlight and look up inside your cabinets and make sure you wipe down the ceiling of the cabinets and all of those internal corners. In the past when we had a minor infestation, I brought out the vacuum cleaner and thoroughly vacuumed the inside of all of my cabinets before wiping them down with a strong all-purpose cleaner. You know me, normally I take the enviro-friendly route, but in this case the environment is being a pain in my butt and I pull out the big guns and go ahead and use an insecticide. *GASP* Heather said use poison? Yeah, I did. You’re not rubbing it all over your food and consuming that, you’re solving a major problem and will discontinue the use as soon as you’ve fixed it.

Finally you’ll need to wipe down the walls close to where it meets the ceiling. I don’t know why, but the larvae just love to hang out there and pupate. Awesome.

So here’s the TL / DR version of getting rid of pantry moths:

  1. Remove all infested grain products from the house.
  2. COMPLETELY clean out all cabinets, inside and out, top and bottom.
  3. Store all grain products in air tight containers, preferably after the 72 hour freezing.
  4. Use only 1 pheromone trap at a time.
  5. In severe cases use an insecticide with a crevice tool to get areas you cannot clean.

Repeat the procedure on a weekly or every other week basis until moths are no longer showing up in the trap.

Good luck and I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this mess.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. We had this…when we had pet rats, someone “helpfully” gave us a big bag of rat chow…and these damned moths. it took two years to clear it. We did all the things, over and over, and eventually we won. One thing we bought was a Bugzooka. It was just about the primary means of defense for a long time.

    • HeatherSolos says:

       @stark23x they are truly evil. The only good thing about them is if you do squash one, they are very dry / powdery.

  2. It took me a couple of years to finally get rid of an infestation. Once I’d reduced the problem I put a moth trap in each of the two cupboards where I keep grain products to take care of the last few larvae which kept hatching for a while despite my taking everything out, throwing out all old grain products and scrubbing down the cupboards.

  3. ChristineYoung says:

    I despise these little invaders… Hopefully the pheromone traps will work to get rid of the boogers left flying around. Ick!

  4. Happened to me. Cleaned the cabinets with all purpose cleaner and put bay leaf in all flours, meals, and powdered items. Also tucked whole bay leaves onto shelves. Haven’t seen a bug since.