Indian meal moths can infest a wide variety of available food sources, including but not limited to cereals, dried fruits, seeds, crackers, nuts, dog food, powdered milk, chocolate, candies, etc. rendering them unfit for future use. The larvae are voracious eaters. The damage incurred by these pests is due to contact, fecal debris, or webbing. Indian meal moths are a prolific pest, and they pose a threat to food stores worldwide.
The Indian meal moth was named by an American Entomologist in the 19th Century, who noted it feeding on cornmeal, known as an Indian meal. Despite its name, the ancestry of these moths is still uncertain, though it is suspected to be of Old World origin. Presently, they are the most common food-infesting pest globally, and specimens have been observed on nearly every continent.
Adults have a wingspan of about 5/8-3/4 inch (16-20 mm). Up to one-half of the forewings are covered with bronze or copper-colored scales. The head and thorax of the moth appear gray with a brown/ coppery posterior. The mature larva is normally 1/2 inch in length and typically sport a dirty white coloration. However, their colors can vary from brown, green, or even pink depending on their food sources.
Indian meal moths frequent a wide variety of stored goods and are particularly fond of dried fruit. Females lay their eggs on any viable commodity; however, they do show some preference towards products that already contain webbing from past infestations or towards foods in which the adults themselves developed as larva. These larvae tend to be surface feeders and generally produce a considerable amount of webbing throughout the infested part of the material in which they harbor. Although coarser grades of flour such as cornmeal, whole wheat, and graham flour are optimal. Evidence of breeding in shelled and ear corn has been noted. Adults typically live for about six days and are attracted to light. Outdoor reservoirs of these moths can be found near food and feed facilities and may account for occasional re-infestation.
A life cycle (egg to egg) can take anywhere from 25 to 305 days to be completed. A single female can lay up to 400 eggs after mating and can begin oviposition in as little as 24 hours after emergence. The laying of eggs typically takes place at night when the risk of predation is low. Eggs are laid singly or in small clusters and are generally deposited near or directly on the larval food source. Larvae hatch within 2 to 14 days and will disperse upon emergence, establishing themselves inside a food source within a few hours. The larval stage can last from 13-288 days depending on temperature and food availability. When a larva is sufficiently developed to pupate, it will leave its food source in search of a suitable anchoring site; typically, crevices or wall/ceiling junctions. Upon emergence, adult females will move to a surface above a viable food source to release pheromones and attract mates. Mating typically occurs around dusk and takes place on walls, pallets, or similar structures.
Are Indian Meal Moths hazardous to humans?
Although there is little evidence that Indian meal moths spread disease. The damage to food products caused by an infestation is unsightly and can be quite costly.
How do I know I have an Indian Meal Moth Infestation?
Adults are a common sign of an infestation. Flying adults often appear to be fluttering instead of maintaining a direct line of flight. They are attracted to light and may move to distant rooms in the house away from the infestation. Additionally webbing and pupal casings found in the corners of ceilings, along the walls of cupboards and closets or on the underside of shelving is a strong indication that an infestation is present.
What causes an Indian Meal Moth infestation?
For the most part, pantry pest infestations (including Indian meal moths) occur when packages that are already infested are brought into the home from the grocery store. In search of food, these pests find their way into cereals, dried fruit, pasta, and other viable products.
How can I prevent an infestation of Indian Meal Moth?
Dried food products should be inspected thoroughly for signs of Indian meal moth activity. Discard infested foods in outdoor trash bins. Clean infested cupboards thoroughly with a vacuum, wiping down surfaces with soap, and water. Food/feed products should be removed from their original packaging and stored in sealed containers.
How do I remove an Indian Meal Moth infestation?
Identification, elimination and exclusion are key elements in controlling Indian meal moth populations. If a population is discovered, all infested food should be discarded or treated. Any susceptible food source should be placed in sealed containers. Dog food and birdseed are often overlooked as infestation sources however they are of the most common ways Indian meal moths enter a home. These items should also be kept in sealed containers and original packaging should be discarded. All dry food products brought home from the grocery store should be examined for the tell-tale "white worms" and webbing. Failure to do so could result in the infestation spreading to other food products stored in the home.
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