Stop battling Pantry Moths – Start beating them!

Moths are winning

Defeating pantry moths feels like a battle between you and the moths, and sometimes other members of the home.  Tom asks for help to catch the moths and  win his battle:

I have been battling pantry moths for two years, in my apartment. They appeared gradually the first year or so, until they were so many that I threw out all the food and washed all the cupboards and benches thoroughly.  All the dry foods, except from a few spices, were from then stored in airtight containers. Then about six months later, one by one, the moths started to appear again. Now after the summer holiday, I came back to tons of caterpillars in the kitchen ceiling and some sporadically throughout the entire apartment. I even found a caterpillar in the night stand! 
The worst part of it is that now that my girlfriend brought some of the items in my apartment to her place. She has discovered 6 moths so far. It is now about one week since she was in my apartment getting stuff. The items in question included some books, a pillow, a blanket, a few decorative masks and a storage basket. She also brought some clothes, but she made sure to wash them right away, before she put them in her closet.
She is kind of freaking out about this. I would go so far to call it a phobia now.
What do you recommend that we do?
Thanks, Tom

Beat Moths using nature


As you discovered getting rid of all the food in the pantry followed by a deep clean is a way to be able to get rid of the current pantry moths.  (see full details in How to get rid of moths )  But as solving a recurring problem goes, cleaning house is very expensive, and just not something you can do everyday.   The reason that some moth infestations are so hard to control is generational,  more specifically, multi-generational.  In other words, the worst month infestations are the result of many generations of the pantry moths ( Plodia Interpunctella ) being produced silently in the dark.  These multiple generations of pantry moths are typically present before they are typically spotted by homeowners.   By this point the breeding cycles are practically weekly and it seems like moths are constantly appearing.   We have found that active monitoring of the moth population helps to catch an infestation early keeping food losses to a minimum.    But if you are caught by surprise, then a full infestation response approach is needed.

So we turn to your question of what do we recommend.  Ultimately you need a combination of aggressive controls during an infestation but paired with a very active moth monitoring program to hep you detect the first hint of a new infestation.

full moth infestation response

The full infestation response is a repeat of the cleaning process, followed by placement of quality moth traps in every space moths have been seen.  For example, if you have individual cabinets where food is stored, you will need one trap per cabinet.  If multiple cabinet doors open into a shared space (ie the inside space of the cabinet is open), then use only 1 trap in that space.   In open rooms, use no more than 1 moth trap every 10 ft, and place in opposite corners if possible.  In open rooms, moth traps are able to catch more moths when positioned higher than 4 feet from the ground.   Although many moth traps recommend replacement at 90 days,  we find that during large scale infestations replacing the lures every 60 days works better.  (the lures loose strength over time)

active moth monitoring program

Think of a moth invasion as a constant potential.  You need to monitor the pantry moths cold war style to head off a potential future invasion.  This is accomplished through use of a ‘sentinel moth trap’ it’s not a brand, its a method.   Choose the source location where your first moth infestation was discovered, and ALWAYS keep a single moth trap in that location just waiting to catch an intruder.  Ideally, set a reminder on your phone to check the trap every 30 days, and change the trap every 90 days… You are able to set a  CleanerToday Quick Reminder that let’s you do this with a click.

Yes, sentinel traps will cost you 4 traps over the course of the year, but they may save your hundreds in lost food.