How to Get Rid of Pantry Flies and Worms

a father and son making cakes with a cake mix

Few things are more disgusting than insects getting into your food. After all, no one wants to go into the pantry for a midnight snack and find worms in the cookie jar! Another common scenario involves opening a bag of flour only to discover little larvae crawling around. How appalling! So what can you do about it? That’s what we are here to discuss.

In this guide, we will examine the most common types of insects found in pantry goods. Then, we will tell you how to get rid of them. We'll even go over some frequently asked questions about kitchen pantry flies and worms! Let’s get to it.

What Are Pantry Worms?

Most likely, if you have noticed small worms crawling around in flour, cereal, or other dry goods, you have encountered the Indian Meal Moth. This is one of the most common pantry pests around. These moths infest boxes of cereal, bags of flour, dried grains, seeds, nuts, baking chocolate, cake mixes, dried fruit, birdseed, dog food, tea, and the list goes on. They can even eat herbs and spices!

But wait, you see small little worms. They look nothing like moths. How could this be an Indian Meal Moth infestation? Well, to understand what you are dealing with, you first have to know about the life cycle of these pests. Indian Meal Moths go by many names including Pantry Moths, Pantry Flies,Grain Moths, Flour Moths, and more.

Most of the damage that these insects cause is in the larval stage. At this time, these moths eat through dried food items, spin cocoons, and generally accumulate in your pantry. They can excrete fecal pellets, and leave evidence of webbing behind, not very appetizing! They can even hitch a ride into your house as eggs and hatch in your pantry. As such, identifying your infestation and dealing with it straight away is usually the best course of action.

an open cookie jar with cookies spilling out of it

Where Do Pantry Worms Come From?

In most cases, pantry worms are actually the larvae of the Indian Meal Moth. They can get into your cupboards, shelves, and pantry in many ways. To get rid of them, you will probably have to do some serious cabinet clearing. Still, you shouldn't always blame yourself for an infestation. These insects can be incredibly tricky to get rid of!

Although the original source of your infestation can be tough to determine, it is possible that these bugs snuck in straight from the grocery store, undetected in exposed food packages.

After mating has taken place, the adult female Indian Meal Moth will find a suitable environment in which to lay her eggs. These moths usually measure about 1/2 of an inch long and are gray and brown in color. An adult female Indian Meal Moth can lay as many as 400 eggs at once!

When these eggs hatch, the larvae will feed on the stored food goods around them and grow for several weeks. Then, they spin a cocoon called a pupa. From this pupa, an adult Indian Meal Moth will emerge and the cycle repeats.

Depending on the temperature of the environment, what kind of food sources are available, and various other factors, the life cycle of this species of moth can last anywhere from two to just over 12 months! Some sources report that life cycles may last even longer. This means that eggs can incubate without hatching for a very long time.

Paper bags and other poorly protected packages are particularly susceptible. So, if you start seeing “pantry worms” in your food, there is a good chance that the eggs have been incubating for a while.

Are Larvae, Moths, and Flies in Pantry Goods and Stored Items Harmful to Your Health?

These “pantry moth flies” and larvae aren’t particularly dangerous. Although it can be absolutely disgusting and unnerving to find worm-like larvae in your pantry items, you are unlikely to experience any poor health effects if you accidentally consume them. In fact, there is a story about this very thing happening to a group of Buddhist monks.

The Story of the Monks and the Moths

a Thai Buddha statue

As the anecdote goes, a group of monks in Thailand regularly consumed a particular kind of bread during a self-discipline ritual. They would ingest only this one, particular type of bread (and no other food at all) for up to four months at a time. This plain diet was part of a fasting ritual and was strictly adhered to annually. For decades, the monks suffered no ill health effects from this ritual. Even though they were not eating protein from any other source, they seemed healthy and well-nourished! Many attributed this great health to meditation and mindfulness.

However, one day, the monks began falling ill during their “bread-only” fast. Nothing had changed about their fasting practices, yet the monks were quickly becoming malnourished. An investigation was launched by the monastery. It was soon discovered that the kitchen staff had changed flour suppliers. The new flour supplier had a nicer facility and was producing better quality grain. So why were the monks now getting sick?

Well, it was soon discovered that the old supplier had been providing flour that was heavily infested with Meal Moth larvae. The monks had unwittingly been consuming the insect parts in their bread during their fasts. These insects were providing additional protein and nutrients to the monks for decades!

So, as you can see, you can eat Pantry Moth Larvae without getting sick. Still, it’s an unnerving thought. You probably don’t want to eat moth eggs, larvae, or cocoons in your morning cereal! This leads us to our next topic: how to get rid of pantry flies, Indian Meal Moths, and their larvae.

Controlling and Eliminating Pantry Flies and Larvae

If you have noticed Indian Meal Moths in your pantry, you should take action right away. After all, these little insects can reproduce quickly. In fact, they can produce several generations in a single year! Before long, Indian Meal Moths could conceivably spread to the rest of your pantry and even throughout your home. Here are some tips for eliminating pantry flies and pests.

Eliminate these pests at the source. This means that you need to find out what source likely brought the infestation into your home. If you cannot determine which item is responsible, just start clearing out anything that is heavily infested. Also, find any and all items that show evidence of an infestation. Wrap all infested goods up tightly in plastic bags. Then, throw them away. Preferably, you should get them far from your home. Evidence of infestation may include live larvae, dead larvae, cocoons, webbing, casings, or damage to the corners of packaging.

a Pantry Moth, it’s larvae and pupa in grains

Consider throwing away all of your dry goods. Although this can seem like an unfortunate undertaking, you may want to consider simply tossing out any flour or grain items. After all, it can be hard to tell if there are eggs hidden in grainy substances. You may also want to throw away any food packages in materials that aren’t meant to get wet. These will be things like cake mixes, boxes, and paper bags. Moths can lay eggs in all kinds of creases and crevices.

Paper and cardboard items are prime targets for female moths. While this may be a frustrating process, it's easier to simply buy new dry goods than to battle an infestation for months on end.

Sanitize everything near the source of an infestation thoroughly. Once you have eliminated all of the infested items from your pantry, it is time to start cleaning. You should start cleaning near the source of the infestation first. Make sure to scrub down all surfaces thoroughly with warm, soapy water.

Clean cracks and crevices, and wash all nearby items. Once you have cleaned around the originally infested items and areas, it’s time to start branching out. Throw away any shelf liners that you may have. Any unopened jars should be washed in hot soapy water. You can use toothpicks to check for eggs or hidden larvae in and around all lids and crevices. Wash the inside of your cabinets with soap and water as well. After your first pass, it may be wise to then spray things down with a moth killing spray as included in the MothPrevention Pantry Moth Kit.

Sweep, mop, and vacuum. Don't forget to clean your floors. Sweep everything out thoroughly. Dispose of any refuse from the dustpan far away from your home, as moth larvae and eggs can easily fall to the floor as you clean. Then, mop the area and afterwards allow everything to dry. Then, use the hose of your vacuum cleaner to get under any crevices and in-between cracks. Dispose of your vacuum bin or bag far away from your home as well.

Take preventative measures to keep insects from returning. After you have cleaned everything and thrown your pantry items away, it is time to take preventative measures. Even after you have cleaned and washed your jars and other items in your pantry, you may want to consider sealing them in plastic bags and storing them in your freezer for 72 hours. This will ensure that any surviving eggs or larvae will be killed. Then, you can begin hanging Moth Traps and deterrents.

a close up of a kitchen floor being mopped

Moth Traps are a great way to catch any male adult moths that fly in looking for a place to lay eggs. Our traps are free of chemicals and therefore won’t hurt you, your kids, or your pets. Moth-repellent sachets are also great for pantries. In many instances, these sachets contain mixtures of lavender, mint, thyme, rosemary, and clove. So, they smell great to people. You can make your own natural insect repellent sachets easily at home with these dried herbs.

Avoid using chemical sprays or pesticides. Many pesticides and chemical sprays are not safe to use around food products. As such, Moth Traps, fly traps, insect traps, and repelling sachets are better alternatives to choose from. The good news is that our Pantry Moth Killer Kits contain a natural Killer Spray which is safe to use in kitchen areas.

Insects in the Pantry: FAQs on Kitchen Pantry Flies and Worms

Now, let's go over some questions that are commonly asked about Indian Meal Moths, pantry flies, and other pantry pests.

What are the flies in my pantry?

The flies in your pantry could be Pantry Moths or regular house flies. It depends on where you live and what kind of infestation you have on your hands. Regular house flies can be trapped using fly tape. Pantry Moths should be treated aggressively, as they can lay eggs in your dried goods and cause all kinds of aggravation later on.

How do you stop Pantry Moths? Are there any surefire ways to prevent an infestation?

Pantry Moths can be difficult to stop. The best thing to do is to prevent an infestation from happening in the first place. To do this, only purchase unopened goods in sealed containers. Inspect all containers for infestation signs when you open them. Also, store your dry goods in sealed containers at home. Storing flour in the freezer is another smart move. Finally, hang moth-deterring herbal sachets in your pantry and consider installing cedar shelves.

How long does it take to get rid of Pantry Moths?

Depending on how aggressively you clean, you can get rid of Pantry Moths in a single afternoon. Whether these pests return will depend on how well you have cleaned, whether you have thrown out all infested items, and if you stop the infestation at its source.

Are Pantry Moths harmful?

They are not harmful to humans and pets. Although these moths are very disgusting and have creepy larvae, they can’t do much harm to your body. Even when accidentally consumed, you probably won't have any issues. Still, they are pretty gross!

Where do pantry flies come from?

Pantry flies and moths can sneak into exposed\unsealed goods from the store packaging or fly in from the outside. So, stay vigilant and always inspect bulk dry goods before leaving them in your pantry.

an open bag of flour on a bread board next to fresh bread and a rolling pin

About MothPrevention®

MothPrevention® speak to customers every day about their clothes moth issues - clothes moths are a species that are ever increasing and that can cause significant damage to clothes, carpets and other home textiles.

To date, we’ve helped over 150,000 customers deal with their moth problems. We have developed professional grade solutions including proprietary pheromones, not available from anybody else in the USA, and engineered in Germany to the highest production standards.

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