Fast-forward past the holidays to springtime. You notice moths flying around the kitchen and pantry. Maybe you see them hovering around the light over the kitchen table or at a window. That is solid proof that you have Indian meal moth lurking in some leftover flour products, likely from all the baking you did many weeks earlier.
Back to present day, you do have the opportunity to avoid having to deal with this problem, and all the inspecting, finding, cleaning and disposing that goes with it.
Pantry pests are those tiny grain beetles and flour moths that use the leftover flour to feed on and live in. This situation is more common than you think, as many homes do not routinely bake during other times of the year. The leftover flour is eventually pushed to the side or to the back of the pantry or kitchen cabinet, and forgotten over time.
When baking those holiday treats for family, friends and gifts, consider buying the smaller bag of flour than that “giant-sized get more for your money” bag. It is not just the white flour either; any kind of grain flour will be home to the Indian meal moth if it hangs out in the back of the shelf for weeks.
In between your baking efforts, and certainly as the baking winds down, keep any unused flour in the refrigerator and that will slow any insect activity. Want to be sure of that? Place the flour in the freezer where those very cold temperatures will either kill or postpone any egg hatch.
Two additional sources of the Indian meal moth that you need to monitor are birdseed bought in bulk and dry pet food that contains flour as an ingredient. They are often located in the home for convenience and maybe right there in the pantry. As a precaution, they should be placed in a container that seals tight or kept in the unheated garage, three-season room or unheated porch.
Briefly mentioned are those grain beetles. They have similar feeding habits yet are not nearly as obvious as the moth flying about. Preventing the flour moth will also prevent the grain beetles.
Where do these pests come from? There could have been a contaminated product purchased, they could have flown in the home sometime during the fall, or come out of a dried fall flower arrangement that still contained seeds as part of the arrangement. Keeping all this in mind may save you a headache next spring.
About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.