University of Illinois Extension
Bruce Spangeberg

These articles are written to apply to the northeastern corner of Illinois. Problems and timing may not apply outside of this area.

Stateline Yard & Garden

Little Moths Flying All Over the House?

December 21, 2000

Small moths fluttering around the home are unwelcome visitors anytime of the year. They are often noticed in early winter, as the house is closed up and holiday baking materials and birdseed often are on hand. These insects are Indianmeal moths, often carried into the home with cereal and grain products.

Indianmeal moths frequently are brought in with birdseed used for wild birds, and then spread to the rest of the home. Rice, oatmeal, cornmeal, pasta, cake mixes, granola, walnuts, pecans, and dates are among other food products infested by these insects. Dry dog food can be another potential source.

Once in the home, Indianmeal moths may be noticed as either a very small moth or small whitish "worms" crawling up the wall or across the ceiling. Adult moths are only about 3/8 inch long with a 1/2-inch wingspan and are brownish-gray, with a two-tone appearance to their wings. Adults do not feed, but lay eggs in or near dried food. From these eggs emerge small whitish larva (caterpillars) with dark heads. Larva spin silken webs over the surface of the infested food source; keep this in mind when inspecting products that have been in storage.

When full-grown, larva migrate out of the food source and often across walls and ceilings, making cocoons in cracks and crevices, emerging a few days later as adult moths. The complete life cycle from egg to adult moth takes one to two months.

Proper food storage and sanitation is the best way to deal with this pest. Thoroughly inspect all open and unopened dried food packages from cabinets, discarding any showing signs of insects. Next, vacuum shelves and cracks/crevices in cabinets and storage areas. Dispose of vacuumed material.

Placing stored food into insect-proof containers, such as glass jars and plastic canisters with airtight seals, is a key to managing this insect and similar pests. Avoid purchasing crushed or damaged packages of cereal or grain products. As a general practice, dried food products to be stored more than six weeks should be transferred into insect-proof containers, whether open or not. Store birdseed in airtight containers or in the garage.

Even after going through all of these procedures, you may still see more moths around. But as long as they cannot get back into food sources, the problem should be solved.


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