How to Get Rid of Mealy Moths

Elle Hanson

Mealy moths invade kitchen cupboards and feast on dry foods, such as cereal, crackers and bread. An infestation usually occurs when you purchase a food product that has unhatched larvae in it. The larvae look like small worms, while the adults are brownish-silver moths.

Mealy moths and their larvae take up residence in dried food products, such as cereal.

Although they are notoriously difficult to get rid of, mealy moths should be exterminated as quickly as possible to prevent the destruction of food or the spread of disease.

  1. Locate the source of the infestation. To do this, you will have to go through your kitchen carefully. Pay careful attention to cereal, wheat, crackers, pasta, pet food and bread. Mealy worms can eat through the plastic and cardboard, so don't assume that an unopened box is safe. They also can get into glass jars and storage containers. Check behind appliances and on the floor to make sure that they are not grouping around a piece of dropped food. The infestation site is likely to have an abundance of mealy moths and worms. You also may notice a fine, grainy dust. These are unhatched eggs.

  2. Throw all of the infested food and containers into a garbage bag. If you even suspect that something may be infested, throw it away. While erring on the side of caution may seem costly in that you will have to replace much of your pantry contents, it will actually save you money in the long run. If you let an infested item slip past you, you could end up having to clean out your pantry a second time.

  3. Take the garbage bags outside, and spray insecticide into them. Seal them tightly before throwing them into your outdoor garbage can.

  4. Purchase commercial products, including pheromone traps and insect growth regulator, to rid yourself of the remaining moths. Although you may have eliminated the larvae and eggs, you don't want the moths that were left behind to start breeding again.

  5. Remove everything from your pantry and cupboards, and place it all in a different storage location.

  6. Place the pheromone traps around your kitchen, pantry and cupboards. Pheromone traps are sticky squares coated in a smell that will attract adult moths. As moths become stuck to them, replace the old traps with new ones.

  7. Wipe down all affected surfaces with insecticide, and allow it to sit for at least an hour.

  8. Thoroughly clean any areas where you applied insecticide. Warm water and a strong soap usually do the trick. Repeat this at least twice to prevent your food from becoming contaminated with insecticide.

  9. Apply the insect growth regulator to all affected surfaces. Make sure that you reach all of the cracks and crevices. Insect growth regulator is nontoxic, but it will disrupt the mealy moth life cycle by preventing cocooned larvae from hatching into adults. Allow the insect growth regulator to sit for a week.

  10. Wipe down your pantry and cupboards with soap and warm water to remove any residual larvae, eggs or chemicals.

  11. Return your food to the pantry and cupboards.

  12. Warning

    Insecticide can lead to contamination if used near food. When using it inside your kitchen, move the food to a different location, and thoroughly wipe off any areas where the chemical was used before returning it.