They're "secretive" and hard to spot but moths are frequent pantry inhabitants, especially during the warmer months.
Indian meal moths are the most common type of moth found to be lurking in your cupboard.
"They're very secretive as adult moths and you don't see them flying around very much at all," Ted Edwards, honorary fellow with CSIRO's Australian National Insect Collection, told ABC Radio Canberra.
Despite their stealth nature, signs they have moved into your space include webbing which can be found on packets or on the surface of food. Additionally, keep an eye out for maggot-like larvae (also known as weevils) in your flour, rice or muesli.
What is the pantry moth life cycle?
Adult pantry moths are 8 to 10mm in length, while its mature larvae are usually about 17mm long.
According to the AEPMA, the life cycle of the Indian meal moth may take 30 to 300 days.
“Female moths lay between 60 and 400 eggs on a food surface, which are ordinarily smaller than 0.5mm and not sticky. The eggs hatch in 2 to 14 days. The larval stage lasts from 2 to 41 weeks, depending on the temperature.
"The larvae are able to penetrate even well sealed packaging… After 5 to 6 moults, larvae will climb to wall/ceiling intersections where only a small proportion of them will pupate immediately, the rest entering a resting phase (diapause), which allows the extended emergence period.”
Where do pantry moths come from?
Worryingly, Dr Edwards says a lot of the time moths make their way into homes from the supermarket.
"These moths lay minute eggs in tiny cracks and holes in the plastic packing," Dr Edwards said.
How to get rid of pantry moths naturally
Fortunately, getting rid of pantry moths isn’t difficult. Best of all, you don’t need to use harsh chemicals.
Wondering how to get rid of pantry moths forever? Here are several tried and true home remedies for pantry moths.
1. Essential oils for pantry moths
What you’ll need:
Eucalyptus, peppermint and cedarwood essential oils
To make a repellent, mix equal parts water and vinegar in your spray bottle. Add about 15 drops of eucalyptus, 5 drops of peppermint and 10 of cedarwood essential oil.
Simply spray the solution on surfaces and wipe down with a cloth.
If you have found yourself victim to pantry moths, depose of all of the affected food and wipe out all the shelves, making sure to clean any holes in the shelving.
"If you're concerned about a package that's come in from the supermarket or a package that you've got in the pantry, freeze it for a couple of weeks to kill the larvae and eggs," says Dr Edwards.
3. Airtight containers
As a further preventative measure, transfer all dry foods into airtight containers, preferably with screw-top lids.
4. Pantry moth traps
According to AEPMA, non-toxic traps prevent the development of adult moths and precipitate their destruction.
“One type of trap is a triangular box with a lure inside and sticky walls. These traps are generally known as pheromone traps. In this case male moths are attracted inside by the female pheromone (the lure) and then get stuck against the sticky walls inside of the box.”
Are pantry moths harmful?
It may not sound appetising, but don’t panic if you accidentally eat weevils. Pantry months are harmless and are not known to spread disease, parasites or pathogens.
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