Pantry Moths in Pasta

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
I put my pasta in a new container to store in my pantry and still found moths. What did I do wrong and how can I prevent pantry moths in the first place?
Bugged in Buckhead

Heather says

Unfortunately, pantry moths are a part of life. We can take a lot of preventative steps to ensure that the moths do not infest all of our dry goods, but the one thing we can’t control is where the moths come from. Pantry moths get into dry goods while they are in storage waiting to be shipped elsewhere or sometimes even at the processing plant itself (although storage is the more likely of the two).

I put my pasta in a new container to store in my pantry and still found moths. What did I do wrong and how can I prevent pantry moths in the first place?

It’s important to remember that the term pantry moths is a generic name for a few different insects. The important thing to remember is that having the pests show up in your pantry is not a reflection on you or your housekeeping.

Yes, you did the right thing putting the pasta in a sealed container, the problem was that the pantry moths went into the container with your pasta. The eggs of both the Indian Meal Moth and flour beetles—two common pantry pests—are tiny and sticky which means they’ll be covered with whatever food they were laid in and very easy to miss.

The good news is the sealed contain you put the pasta in did its job. The infestation was limited to the one box of pasta. You didn’t lose all of the grain products in your pantry, and this is a very, good thing. While you should check the other items in your pantry, the good news is you probably aren’t going to have to do a full-scale pantry moth/meal moth extermination. To be sure the pantry moths are limited to the pasta, grab a stepladder and flashlight. Look in the uppermost interior corners of your pantry for moths or pupating larvae. The larva is very small and will typically be wedged in the corner.

While it is almost impossible to never bring pantry pests into your home, there are a few things you can do to reduce the chance and prevent pantry moths. When you pick up a grain product at the store always inspect the package, if there are any rips or tears, where food can get out, pantry moths or flour beetles can get in. If you have the room, you can also store grain products in the freezer for a few days before placing them in the sealed containers in the pantry. The freezer will kill some of the more delicate species, but only slow down the hardier varieties. Finally, if you have a choice, try to buy your grain products and cereals from stores with a reasonable turnover.

Just remember that even doing all of these things, you still have the chance of running into these pests on occasion. They are a fact of life.

For those who aren’t already storing their grains, cereals, and pasta in sealed containers, in a pinch, gallon size zippered bags work, but they need to be doubled up, or a tiny tear can allow pantry moths in or out. I like these Rubbermaid Modular Containers for the pantry.

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Hungry for pasta? Try these two recipes: Pasta Salad and Easy Greek Pasta Salad – or maybe you need to make new noodles from scratch!

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3 thoughts on “Pantry Moths in Pasta”

  1. Long, long ago (25 years) in an apartment far, far away (Canton, Ohio) we got a cockroach infestation. I reported it to the management and they called an exterminator and told me I had to empty my entire kitchen for the spraying.

    I was appalled and ashamed, until the exterminator told me that the little buggers most likely rode into our lives inside a case of the Diet Coke he saw in the pantry. They probably parked themselves there during storage in a warehouse, somewhere along its path to our apartment. It wasn’t a reflection of our housekeeping skills at all. When they never came back after the one-time extermination, I finally believed what he said.

    • We’re taught or absorb culturally that bugs mean poverty, disease, and filth. It’s hard to not encounter a pest in your home and not feel something personal about it.
      Around here we have a few different kinds of roaches, one of them is very large and colloquially known as a Palmetto Bug. If you have a home that isn’t brand new, hermetically sealed construction in this area, you will see them from time to time no matter how meticulous you are.
      Shaking it off can be a little easier said than done. I don’t even want to talk about the fixer-upper. Even knowing I had nothing to do with the original state of the house, it still felt very personal. Meh

      • I moved from Houston to the Eastern shore of MD two years ago. When I first moved, I didn’t have a place to live and was squatting at my parents so all of my belongings went into storage. 8 months later I bought a house and had my stuff shipped up here. As the very large burly men were unloading the truck, a palmetto bug ran out from behind a box. I’m not sure where it had been hanging out but I can guarantee it hitched a ride from Texas. There was a lot of yelling and then the foreman came running into the house, grabbed my father and I, and brought us outside talking about the ‘biggest bug he’d ever seen’. My dad and I looked at each other, said oh yeah it’s probably a palmetto bug hitching a ride from Houston and continued unpacking. It was pretty funny watching those grown guys freak out though. It is a proven fact that you cannot live in the South and be afraid of bugs.


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