Features and Characteristics
The Indian Meal Moth is not very large for a moth, measuring at 8 to 10 millimeters in length when fully grown, their wingspans getting up to 16 to 20 millimeters in width. They have brown heads, and their wings are generally a reddish-brown color, with a copper band. They may also appear bronze or dark grey in color.
The rest of their bodies are a brownish-red color, but you’ll mainly notice their wings, as they’re the largest and most colorful part. As far as the larvae of the Indian Meal Moth, they are always white and are generally too small to notice with the naked eye. These larvae will have brownish heads and will develop through 5 to 7 larval stages of growth.
Larvae will get up to 12-14 millimeters long when fully matured and carry themselves on three sets of legs near the head, with five sets of prolegs extending from the abdomen.
They have many similarities in the life cycle with clothes moths but these ones will generally go after plant-based foods, including vegetables, grains, or other foods like these. As such, they’ll be most drawn to kitchens with readily accessible plant foods left out for them but their diet often include dried food, if not tightly sealed as well.
In extreme cases where other food sources are scarce, they may also cannibalize healthy larvae. They tend to only eat larvae that are not closely genetically related to them but will sometimes eat their own siblings in the absence of infested food.
How did they come in
Because Indian Meal Moths are so small, they can easily find entrance into your home through a number of ways. Any tiny gap in a window or siding can let one in, but they’ll most commonly gain entrance through open doors. As much as opening and closing a door is enough to let one in.
Once inside your home, they will search for any open food source available to them. These food sources are usually plant-based, such as vegetables or fruits left out on the counter, or grains like open boxes of cereal or oats.
They may also infest pet food that has been left open, laying their eggs in and around the food so that they can hatch and feed right away. You can tell if you’ve got an infestation of these moths if you find webbing inside food containers or on the food itself. If you see it, then moth control should take place as soon as possible.
Other food sources they may infest include cereal, bread, pasta, rice, flour, spices, dried fruits, or nuts. In some cases, there have been reports of infestations in crushed red pepper, chocolate, cocoa beans, coffee beans, cookies, or other seeds.
Why Do You See Them Around Your Home and Are They Dangerous?
The reason the Indian Meal Moth wants inside your home is simply that they want your food. All the food items we listed above are easy targets for the moths unless they’re properly stored in sealed containers. Moths have been known to be able to chew through some cardboard boxes or plastic bags to get access to food, so storing food properly is essential to preventing infestation if that is a concern where you live.
Indian Meal Moths are not inherently dangerous to humans. Even if you were to not notice their eggs in your food, you would technically be perfectly fine and healthy after eating it. They can however be harmful to your food stores, and if left to multiply over time, may quickly deplete your stored grains, vegetables, and fruits.
As soon as you notice signs of moth eggs or larvae in or around your food, you should throw out all contaminated food sources. This is not necessarily for your health, but to keep the moths from spreading and multiplying even more.
Indian Meal Moths are notoriously difficult to get rid of. Once hatched, larvae can easily crawl up walls, across ceilings and floors, or through tiny spaces to spin cocoons out of sight. You may think you got rid of the infestation only to find that the larvae have spun cocoons in your laundry room, for example, and then return to your kitchen to lay eggs again.
Many times, the moths may hide in clothing as a safe place to pupate and lay eggs. This is often difficult to notice, allowing them time to reproduce further. However, there are several things you can try to get rid of them once you find them.
You can try scrubbing infested areas with soapy water or vinegar. Because they are sensitive to temperature, they will die if frozen or heated up. Here at AccuRat Pest Solutions Ltd., we specialize in heat treatments against various pest insects, incl. moth larvae and bed bugs.
If those measures aren’t working, there are also specialized traps designed especially to kill Indian Meal Moths, called pheromone traps. These traps will release a pheromone to lure the moths inside, where they get trapped by sticky walls and die from starvation.
And if all else fails, you should contact a moth pest control service with the proper equipment and training to handle large-scale moth infestations like these. With their specialized tools, they’ll be able to get rid of moth infestation quickly and effectively without harming you or your home.
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