Pantry Moths – Life Cycle

About Pantry Moths

Once you see one pantry moth flying around your kitchen it’s time to focus on getting rid of all the pantry moths you haven’t seen yet. Why? One flying adult pantry moth means the odds of a full pantry moth infestation are much higher. Typically moth larvae will already have been laid, and the pantry moth worms are ending their feeding stage and preparing to look for a mate to complete the pantry moth life cycle. Stay with us as we explore pantry moths origins, how to identify pantry moths, the pantry moth life cycle, and why the pantry moth is considered such a pantry pest. We’ll finish with some ideas for pantry moth control, how to get rid of moths naturally, including pantry moth traps.

Bird Seed Moths Caught
So what do we know about Pantry Moths? Part 1 of this article about pantry moths will focus on the pantry pest – About Pantry Moths. You can read part 2 – to learn how to get rid of moths naturally.

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It’s not uncommon to see a moth and ask yourself: “What kind of moth do I have?”. We will explore the answer and look at the moth – the Pantry Pest itself: Pantry moth identification, including some basic scientific entomology information, how the pantry moth life cycle progresses and varieties of pantry moths that you might encounter.So let’s get started as we explore all about types of pantry moths

Types of Moths From a Scientific Point of View

Pantry Moths are a shorthand for any moths found in the kitchen feeding on grains. Specifically, pantry moths are either indian meal moths or mediterranean flour moths. For the pure entomologist:

Indian Meal Moth Identification / Scientific classification is: Animalia Kingdom, Arthropoda Phylum, Insecta Class, Lepidoptera Order,Pyralidae Family, Phycitinae Subfamily, Plodia Genus, Plodia Interpunctella Species – Luckily, we can just use the shorthand – Indian Meal Moth or P. interpunctella.

Scientific Classification for mediterranean flour moth identification is: Animalia Kingdom, Arthropoda Phylum, Insecta Class, Lepidoptera Order, Pyraloidea Superfamily, Pyralidae Family, Phycitinae Subfamily, Phycitini Tribe, Ephestia Genus, Kuehniella Species. Again, for short hand, indian meal moth, mediterranean moth or just pantry moth.

From here on out when we refer to Pantry Moths we mean either the indian meal moth or the mediterranean flour moth. The picture at the top of the article shows both moths caught by in the same pantry moth trap. That means that one infestation has both moth species.

Fast Life Cycle Pantry Moths

Entomologically, like most members of the insect class the pantry moths follow a life cycle of Eggs, Larvae, Pupa and adult hood. Typically, we first are alerted to the presence of pantry moths when we spot an adult haplessly flying by. But you can be certain their are more in the wings…

The full pantry moth life cycle can be completed in as little as 30 days or as long as 300 days depending on the conditions, food availability and temperatures. The warmer the temperature the faster the cycle completes.

Pantry Moths Life Cycle – Egg Stage

How to identify a pantry moth egg? Moth eggs are white gray color and are quite small, measuring only 1 to 2 hundreths of an inch. A female moth who has mated is capable of laying 400 eggs. The female moth will deposit eggs directly on the food source that will be used by the larvae. This requires the female moth to be able to find a food source; no food source, no larvae.

Pantry Moth eggs will hatch in about 7 days.

Pantry Moths Life Cycle – Larvae Stage

The Pantry moth larvae stage is the feeding stage. A pantry moth egg produces a caterpillar worm-like moth larvae that may be a 1/2 inch long and contains about 5 pair of legs. Many times larvae will be mistaken for weevil grubs, but Pantry Moth Larvae have an off white color, but at this point, color really depends on the food source, and can be light green, pale pink or brown. Once the larave have gone through 5 stages of development larval feeding ends, and the moth larvae move seeking a location to pupate. By this time casings, fras and waste litter the top 2 inches of the food source rendering the food unusable.

Pantry Moth Larvae will develop in 42 to 56 days.

Pantry Moths Life Cycle – Pupa Stage

Pupae pantry moths can be found either lying in the open or many times in spun webbing cocooon. Oft times the pantry moth larvae will go somewhere other than the food source to pupate, typically seeking the crevices of pantry shelves, or the seams of doorways. In some cases, the larvae will spin the cocoon directly in the food source which is why stored foods may have a matted web when cleaning. Sometimes, the pupae will be in a nearby closet around clothing causing the pantry moth to be confused with a clothing moth.

Moth pupae are no more than 1/3 of an inch long and may be as small as 1/4 inch.

Pantry Moth Pupa Stage will last 15 to 20 days.

Pantry Moths Life Cycle – Adult Stage

When you find a pantry moth flying around it is an adult. Having left the Larval and pupa stage, the adult pantry moth has finished feeding and has only 1 mission: To Create More Moths! Those moths will fly all over the house, typically at night, drawn to light and looking for a mate. The female moth will be releasing a pheromone or scent to help the male moth locate her so that she can lay her eggs. Adult moths will only live 1 or 2 weeks because they don’t feed as adults. But with the ability to lay 400 eggs at a time, there always appear to be many adults to bug you.

An adult moth is roughly half an inch, and is 5/8 of an inch with wings extended. Depending on the type of pantry moth (see pantry moths photo above) the coloring can differ. An indian meal moth has a redish tint on the rear area while the top of the moth appears mottled buff grey. A Flour moth is alternately grey and buff white with no hint of color. Both can be seen in the pantry moth photo pictured at the top of the page.

Pantry Moth Adult Stage will last 7 to 13 days.

By any other name, still Pantry moths

As we mentioned at the start, the term pantry moths is really just one of many ways that consumers refer to these pantry pests (Flour Moths and Indian Meal Moths). In this section we try to explore all of the aliases used by our little brown pantry pests.

  • Mediterranean Flour Moth
    This is the short moth name for E. kuehniella species.
  • Grain Moth
    Because patry moths are often found in grains the grain moth name sticks. Sometimes this can be said as a rice moth, cereal moth, oatmeal moth, or corn moth.
  • Miller moth
    Just a little different from the Grain moths, the miller moth is an older term refering to milled grains, and more typically rough milled grains like wheat moths, barley moth, bean moth or oatmeal moth. Most times this is a flour moth.
  • Pantry Moth
    Where these moths are found also becomes the shorthand for their name. So Kitchen moths, cupboard moths, cake moths, bird seed moths, garage moths are not uncommonly heard.
  • Seed moth
    Not only are grains infested, but also bird seed such as black oil sunflow, nyjer seed, millet and even parrot seeds can be infested by bird seed moths, but they are still just our friends the pantry moths.
  • Food moths
    This extends to pantry moths found in areas other than food preparation, such as the garage where dog food, cat food, wild bird seeds or even guinea pig pellets might be stored. Again, regardless of what food the moth is snacking on, you can bet it is a flour or indianmeal moth.

Why is the pantry moth a pantry pest?

When a pantry moth arrives in your kitchen and starts through the pantry moth life cycle, you quickly have hundreds of pantry moth larvae feeding on whatever they can find. Believe us, pantry moth larvae worms can find the most meager scraps of food on the floor of the pantry, or they will work their way into old boxes of corn meal, oatmeal even match boxes. Pantry moth webbing has been found everywhere from the edge of canned goods, to the underside of a screw on lid to peanut butter. If the food stuff is toward the back of the cupboard, the odds of infestation are higher, because it is dark and relatively undisturbed. But as time goes by, the pantry moths need more food and work their way forward.

Tired of an old box of cheerios? Corn starch you haven’t touched in years? Don’t worry, pantry moths love it!! They get everywhere, and cleaning up from an infestation takes time, and patience. But who wants to share their cereal with bugs? Pantry Moths are the classic pantry pest because they are just plain annoying. Once you have them, you’ll want to get rid of pantry moths as soon as you can because they really are a PEST.

Getting rid of Pantry Moths

Read Pantry Moths Life Cycle and tips to Get Rid of Pantry Moths (part 2) to cover Pantry Moth Infestations and tips to control pantry moths.