How do I Identify Bugs & Beetles Found in Tea Bags?

Kent Page McGroarty

Meal moths, also called pantry, kitchen, flour, grain or Indian meal moths, can infest dry foods kept in storage areas of the kitchen, including tea bags. Meal moths are known as "structural pests" due to the damage and spoilage they inflict on commercial grain storage warehouses.


Inspect all food for possible infestation when you bring it home. Freezing grain product for three days after purchase is considered an effective prevention method. All grains and pet food should be stored in airtight containers. Clean cabinets on a regular basis and make a point to discard vacuum bags that have been used to clean infestations.


Do not use chemical control methods as they are not considered effective methods of meal moth elimination. Do not eat any food materials you believe might be infested.

They can also invade the home and cause food spoilage. The first sign of infestation is small moths flying around the kitchen or rooms near the kitchen. They also rest on walls and cupboard doors. When killed they leave a black smudge on surfaces.

  1. Inspect your pantry, kitchen cabinets, tea boxes and bags and anywhere food is kept, excluding the refrigerator and freezer. These are the main areas meal moths infest. Besides tea bags they are partial to stored dried foods such as cereals, pet food, grains and fruit. Also check your living room and kitchen for moths that are flying around.

  2. Look at the color of the insects as well as wingspan to help with identification. Meal moths appear two-toned; the front third of their wings is white-gray and their bodies appear reddish brown or copper in color. Their wingspan is about three-quarters of an inch.

  3. Look for eggs, which can be found on or near foodstuffs including inside boxes of tea bags and in the tea bags themselves. Eggs are white, flattened and can be hard to view with the naked eye, especially if crawling around in similar-colored tea bags so consider using a magnifying glass. The appearance of fully grown moths indicates that there are more, most likely in the larval stage. Cocoons are covered in loose silk webbing and are found in package seams, napkin folds and other cracks and crevices around food materials.

  4. Set pheromone traps in food storage areas to further identify points of infestation besides those already found crawling in tea boxes and bags. Such traps only capture male meal moths but will show where other infestation has occurred. Thin white webbing marks the points of infestation; the larvae feed near food/tea bag surfaces. Larvae can also be seen crawling on walls, counters and ceilings.

  5. Discard infected food products and thoroughly clean all areas of infestation or potential infestation, including any old tea bags and boxes as meal moths are more likely to invade tea bags/boxes that have been sitting for a long time. Vacuum all cabinets as well.