At the end of my rope: PANTRY MOTHS

I’ve had pantry moths before, and I defeated them for some years through cleaning and improved storage: nothing grain-like in any unsealed container. The sealed containers have included ziplocs, Mason jars with canning-type rings and lids, heavy Rubbermaid containers, and of course original sealed plastic bags from the store.

It’s this last that was my downfall, I think. Of course the moth eggs come in the package. Today I think I found the central hive, so to speak: a big bag of jasmine brown rice that turned out (the squeamish should probably just bail, now) to have about as many worms as grains of rice. They look remarkably alike, too.

From this “sealed” bag or elsewhere, the moths have gotten the upper hand again and are flying around the cabinets. So I did an incredibly thorough clean-and-inspect, hardly looking at a sealed Mason jar full of brown rice because what could be better sealed than that? But a tiny bit of the rice seemed to be clumped, so I took off the lid and seal, looked very close, and… there were worms on the rim of the jar, just on the outside of the rubber seal of the lid, under the ring.

I feel rather defeated. If a sealed Mason jar is not good enough, I don’t know what I can use to store grains. Curious to me that the worm was outside the rubber seal, but I can’t tell for sure if it started off on the outside and never made it in, or if it started on the inside, heroically breached the seal, then promptly died of the effort.

At any rate I’m ready to just burn the place down and never look back.

Short of this, tell me about food storage systems that will defeat these horrible things. Before I discovered the Mason jar inhabitant, I was experimenting with a small Rubbermaid container filled with water, and found that it leaked. Oh well, I thought, just get glass jars with sealed lids for everything. Apparently not good enough.

Still short of burning the place down, what about giving all new grains from the grocery a short trip in a 250F oven, in open glass jars, before cooling, sealing and putting on the shelf?

We were getting overrun by sugar ants. I’d get up to find the cat’s dish swarming with them. They were in the pantry, on the kitchen counters, scouting in the bathroom. No amount of cleaning kept them at bay. I would spray areas with Lysol to discourage and kill them, but they’d be back after a few days. Much as I dislike poisons, I finally had to get a container of a granular ant killer and distribute it all around the exterior of the house. What happens is that the ants are attracted to it, they take it back to the nest, and eventually the queen dies and the colony moves somewhere else. It took several days, but it did finally work. I just hope I didn’t kill any birds, etc. in the process.

I, too am dealing with my annual ant invasion. I expected to find them around the cat’s dish, but feasting on cat vomit? Or better yet, a dead bug? Yeah, I know I shouldn’t anthropomorphize them.

I use Terro ant poison.

As for 250 degrees, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea, because it might toast your grains. Freezing them may work better.

At this point I am mainly in search of the most impervious containers known to man, so that if any food in any one container suffers an outbreak, there’s no way anything can escape and infest something else. I need Containment Chambers worthy of a sci-fi movie.

More grossness: I was going through every sealed cardboard box, with a manufacturer-sealed plastic bag on the inside, planning to toss the boxes and wipe down the bags. The very first one I opened had a big patch of eggs on the inside cardboard surface. Bye bye Bisquik, cake mix, Stove Top Stuffing, the whole lot. Breaks my heart to throw out so much food, but I’m taking no chances from now on.

Nuke the entire site from orbit–it’s the only way to be sure

Yes, that’s the thinking, but I don’t have the resources. Burning down the house – a lesser step, perhaps sufficient, perhaps not? Maybe I should consider a paleo diet.

Curious where you live / what type of climate? I’ve never had pantry moths to my knowledge.

(Though I did live through some drain moths, which I solved by running lesser used sinks/tub more often.)

Near Portland, Oregon, so pretty mild outside year-round, and rather humid in the warmer months. The moths really busted out just in the last week or two, as we get more into spring weather.

I wish you could get real Tupperware without going to a flipping Party. That stuff, back in the day, was about the most airtight, watertight plastic container in existence. Remember the “burping” thing? A gimmick, maybe, but it really did seal tight. All the Rubbermaid and other knockoffs are just not as good as the old stuff was, probably because the old Tupperware was full of BPAs and who knows what else. Small price to pay if you asked me.

I’ve mostly lived in the tropics - bug central, in other words - but I have never had pantry moths. Ants, roaches, mealie bugs, and some kind of thing that likes flour I have seen plenty of.

My one size fits all solution is - don’t keep much grain, flour, or other bug-friendly food at room temp. I keep only enough flour on the shelf to make an impulsive batch or two of bread; the rest stays in the freezer and is only taken out to replenish my small pantry supply. Rice lives in the fridge.

If you don’t have a big fridge and/or freezer, that won’t help, I know. But if you’ve got the space, it’s the only way I know for sure to keep insects out of stored food.

Yeah, I bet that’s going to have to be the solution in the end.There’s certainly not space for all that I threw out today, but let’s face it, there were some old packages, a lot of them early-pandemic stocking up purchases but a lot even older than that. I blame myself.

This is what I do for most grains that will be stored for any period of time - they go in the fridge. I do keep rice and oatmeal in the pantry, but that’s always in airtight containers. Rubbermaid and OXO make good ones with tight seals. The Brilliance line is the best Rubbermaid, but they’re not cheap. OXO’s Smart Seal is pretty good too - the POP containers aren’t as good as they used to be.

Ooh, thanks. Your Brilliance line link seems to be broken - will you please try it again?

Let’s see if this works - Brilliance.

You can get it without going to a party:


Pheromone traps work really well to get rid of pantry moths. Here is one of many brands:

We had a huge problem with cupboard moths, but they weren’t in the kitchen…probably started there, but they were everywhere in the house. Each spring when they hatch, I’d have a bunch of them flying about my computer desk whilst trying to do online stuff. They’re so rude. Let’s just say there was a lot of clapping going on around the house…gotcha you tiny little no sense of direction insect! (I hate moths).

This lasted several years…tried the moth traps and that’d get some of them, but not enough. They are starting to die off…just saw one last night instead of a clan of them. I cover all of my food…everything gets put in a plastic zippy bags, but they are hard to get rid of, that’s for sure.

The pheromone traps and diligence eventually worked for us.

Surprising place the moths liked - tea bags, if you have any that aren’t completely sealed, paper flaps not tight enough.

We had a problem with pantry moths a few years ago, but luckily they weren’t in the house, they were in the garage. A bag of sunflower seeds for the bird feeder was apparently the source. It sat in the garage all winter and in the spring it was full of bugs. Those things were everywhere - I had to throw out gardening hats, shoes and gloves that were crawling with grubs. They were in bicycle tire treads. We had to take several shelving units apart completely and make sure all the nooks and crannies were bug free. They liked to crawl up to the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling, so I was always up on a stepladder picking them off if I saw any. My wife bought a bug zapper and pheromone traps. We quit using the door into the house from the garage, and would go out the front door and open the garage from outside if we needed to get in. It took five or six months to get rid of them all, but we finally did it.

As for the bird seed, I quit buying the big 40 lb bags. I bought a galvanized metal bucket with a lid, which was just the right size for a 15 lb bag of seed. I never open it in the garage - I take the bucket out to the feeder and fill it there, so that if I wind up with infested seed again I’m not releasing the moths in the garage.

I would hire a professional pest exterminator, find someone good who is willing to inform you as a client, as well as treat the place. Set expectations, and also change your housekeeping practices in ways you might not have expected. I’ve never had pantry moths that bad, but roaches… O.M.G. … it turns out roaches like the glue in brown paper bags. One night my collection of paper bags sounded like, well, hissing from all the little feet pitter-pattering inside there.

So learn about the lifecycle of moths and what else they eat, how long they can survive and in what form, and consider if you are willing to go with toxic pesticides or what else there is besides that. Good luck!

When I took the dog out to pee last night, he missed the grass somewhat and a bit of pee puddled on the sidewalk (he’s old). As I was looking at it, I noticed an ant approaching the puddle. It got close twice, and both times it did a rapid about-face (ants have faces, right?) and went in the opposite direction.

So, just sprinkle your house with dog pee! :upside_down_face: