Pantry moths

CalicaCalica Registered User regular
My apartment has pantry moths, aka Indian seed moths. I probably brought them home from the parrot shelter I volunteer at on Saturdays, or possibly they were in a batch of birdseed. It doesn't really matter. When I first noticed the infestation, I threw out everything grain-based that wasn't airtight, and I bought seed moth traps. (Unlike with wool moths, seed moth traps can supposedly end an infestation by killing all the males before they can breed.)

Since then, it's been a cycle: I'll go for a couple weeks with only one or two moths in the traps and have days where I don't even see any live ones. Then all of a sudden there will be moths everywhere and the traps are saturated. The first couple of times this happened, I found and threw away food sources that I'd missed; but this has been going on for months. I feel like I'm under siege, and I'm really frustrated.

I told my landlord early on what was happening and what I was doing to deal with it, and they were cool about it, thankfully; so at least I don't have to worry about getting evicted over this. But I'm at a loss here. I'm starting to think that ultimately I'll have to throw out everything in my pantry and scrub every surface in my apartment, and I can't even begin to imagine having the energy for that.

A further complication is that I have pet birds; and while seed is only a small part of their diet, there's always seed scattered around the cage.

Also, I've posted here before about sleep issues; well, I've been diagnosed with delayed phase sleep disorder, so now at least I have a reason for being exhausted all the time. The reason I mention it here is that, because of said exhaustion, I struggle to keep myself fed and presentable day to day, let alone keep up with dishes and laundry. Maintaining a state of cleanliness such that there's nothing for moths to eat is right out, at least for now.

Help?

Jedoc wrote: »
The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.

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  • Blameless ClericBlameless Cleric An angel made of sapphires each more flawlessly cut than the last Registered User regular
    Hm we had these in our pantry a couple of times, @spool32 might have some advice

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  • BloodySlothBloodySloth Registered User regular
    The loose bird seed is really a wrench in the works here. My parents had pantry moths for a year or two before really bunkering down and moving all their pantry stuff into sealable containers. They just bought a bunch of jars and airtight plastic bins and started storing all their sugar, flour, coffee, etc. in those. As much as it sucks, getting rid of a vermin problem typically comes down to extraordinary diligence.

    Honestly you can still find the occasional moth fluttering around the house, but the days of batting moths away whenever you open a cupboard in their place are gone.

  • SiskaSiska Shorty Registered User regular
    edited April 2017
    Seal everything, in containers with super tight fitting lids. Even non grain foods, like powdered milk, nuts, beans and spices. And don't rely on ziplock bags (or flimsier plastic containers) as they may be able to chew into those.

    Perhaps get a small hand vacuum for the bird cage and clean up around it every other day, or so. And clean the filter after.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Here's how I purged us of these persistent sons of bitches:

    1: get a bunch of huge ziplock bags
    2: inspect every food item in your pantry for the moths. Discard anything with any evidence of moth activity.
    3: set all the remaining food aside
    4: bleach your pantry
    5: no seriously, get a sponge and a bowl of water with clorox in it and a rubber glove and bleach your pantry. Scrubbing not needed, just wiping.
    6: put any food that isn't sealed in a metal can into a separate ziplock bag.
    7: this is your life now, you eat out of ziplock bags.
    8: after a few days if your pantry has no more moths, you can put the ziplock bags back. Don't take the stuff out of them!
    9: eventually you might notice one or more of the bags has got moths in it. Throw that away of course.

    After a month with no moths, you can go back to normal storage. In that time, put everything new you bring into the house into a ziplock bag, unless it's sealed in a metal can. I mean every food item you have should either be in your fridge, or in a separate bag, or in an unopened can. Additionally, you should store all the birdseed separately (in a ziplock bag) and you should probably move your birds somewhere far from your food area.

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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Kinda wastful, but I might consider easing your dishes by switching to paper. If you are diligent, reduce your stock of dishes to just enough for you (one plate, one bowl, that kind of thing) and pack up the rest. That means they cant accumulate, and washing one plate is just never that bad.

    Alternatively, if you have the means, hire a cleaning service to at least get the ball rolling.

    When we had these things, they also had eggs on the pantry walls, and on packaging for things like flour. Putting a containter around everything helped isolate them. The cheap solution is just some ziplock containers and/or bags to keep flour and seeds in indefinitely.

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  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    additionally, if you don't have the energy to do the necessary cleaning, you should strongly consider dropping $50 on a cleaning service to come in and knock it all out for you at once. Get a baseline you can maintain, and work from that.

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  • MadicanMadican No face Registered User regular
    Reminds me of a fun infestation I had in my apartment, though my solution was to buy a bug zapper from Amazon, set it up, and be serenaded by the pop-pop-pop of constant insect death.

    Swarm was gone in a couple days.

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  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    Wow, in the same ten minute span we all leapt to give the same advice. Pantry moths are annoying as fuck.

    If you are exhausted, id maybe bribe a friend to help you sanatize the pantry, it has to be done.

    Just to note, I dont think the moths really give a shit about your dishes, so that advice is more of a tangent.

    spool32Zilla360
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    Thanks everyone. Unfortunately, there's nowhere in my apartment that is "far from the food area," but the rest of this sounds pretty doable.

    The "pantry" in my kitchen is just a bunch of shelves installed in a very deep nook next to the fridge. I can't reach the back wall of the top two shelves, even standing on a ladder. Will spraying diluted bleach suffice for the surfaces I can't reach?

    The dishes thing was mostly by way of illustrating how hard I'm failing at adulting right now.

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    yah spraying will prob work. The point is to try and kill any eggs or larvae you can't see.

    Iruka
  • KruiteKruite Registered User regular
    They love cereal, rice, crackers. They will best in every cavity of the pantry. We had shelves that were not completely flush with the wall so they would burrow there.

    We resorted to spools method and it worked. Unfortunately you are likely to find them in dry goods from the grocery.

    I worked for a grocery for a while and one brand of pasta would occasionally come infested with these little Beatle larvae.

  • NightDragonNightDragon 6th Grade Username Registered User regular
    I once discovered them in some old tea bags at my grandmother's house. I had no idea they'd get into tea, even.

    Spool's got the right of it, but just a warning regarding food types you think are safe: don't take any chances whatsoever. You can throw things in the fridge or freezer, too, if you have space for it.

    So It GoesArch
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Once you've cleaned up and everything is dry, a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth on the relevant surfaces left to sit for a few days might help. You can also dust it on the floors/carpet near where you keep your food, let it set for a day, and then vacuum it up. It's neat stuff; nontoxic if you get food-grade, not harmful to most animals (maybe don't use it if you have a pet tarantula), and it helps with infestations on a larger scale.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    These are all good suggestions. I would also recommend getting and setting up some pheromone traps (like these: https://www.amazon.com/Pro-Pest-Pantry-Moth-Traps-Pre-baited/dp/B00UZAVYR8) in the pantry and around the foodstuff area.

    You can use bleach, diatomaceous earth, or if you want to go semi-nuclear, use a pyrethrin containing spray, and spray it in the cracks of your pantry, where the larvae hang out. Pyrethrin has a short half-life (around 14 days, less time if it gets exposed to sunlight or other UV light), and has very low inhalation or ingestion toxicity, due to it being more active at cooler temperatures. Birds are also unaffected, generally, by these chemicals. The biggest danger is contact burns, but you can minimize that risk by using gloves, and making sure to spray with the windows open. I'd recommend this product, it's cleared for use in industrial kitchens etc: https://www.amazon.com/CB-80-Contact-Aerosol-17-Can/dp/B00474SOVC

    The thing is, the larvae don't live in the birdseed, or at least not the stuff scattered around your house. You can also inspect that stuff for larvae, or even sprinkle diatomaceous earth around big piles of it on the floor and then vacuum it up. If you notice birdseed "clumping" together, get rid of it immediately, as there are probably larvae who have spun the seeds together for shelter/pupation.

    One other method to use, if you have enough space, is to put all your dry grains into a freezer set on the coldest setting for about a week. This will kill any larvae or eggs in there rather easily, although this doesn't ALWAYS work, if the product doesn't get cold enough to kill and instead puts the insects into a pseudo hibernation state, which can happen with large bags of grains (the middle will be warm enough for them to survive, basically).

    About the only folk remedies I'd suggest would be the diatomaceous earth, the bay leaves, wintergreen gum, and all the other ones are kind of garbo made up nonsense.

    I'm also pretty sure you can put the diatomaceous IN the bird cages as well, it shouldn't hurt the birds. You could also put some of the traps on or near the cage, but be careful not to let the birds get their beaks on them, that glue is no joke!

    I'll try and think of some more suggestions in a bit....

    Calica
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    Shit, didn't read that you've already tried a bunch of this. I'd recommend traps, traps, traps, traps. Leave them up ALL the time, everywhere you can think of that the birds can't reach. They are pretty low-impact, easy to use, and will do a good job over time. Put them EVERYWHERE there is birdseed, near cages, in the pantry, in corners of your house, your closet, under desks, ON desks, just like, everywhere. Bag your food, or if you can afford it, literally pitch everything out, get new stuff, and keep the new stuff in giant ziploc bags.

    If you can at least pull the stuff OUT of the pantry, then I'd recommend spraying, waiting a day or so, then putting everything back (or putting it back immediately if it is in ziploc bags), and keeping up the trapping regimen.

  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Make Ready. We Hunt.Registered User regular
    spool32 wrote: »
    7: this is your life now, you eat out of ziplock bags.
    This is quality. :D

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  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    Diatomaceous earth is safe for birds, but I didn't think of it for flying insects. I'll pick some up next time I get a chance. I'm not taking a chance with aerosolized poison, though. Parrot lungs are ridiculously sensitive to airborne toxins.

    I keep finding larvae pupating on the ceiling. Do they just crawl up there to spin their little cocoons? They're not eating the drywall, are they?

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
  • CogCog Registered User regular
    One warning about the diatomaceous earth, be careful how you spread it. It's a silicate and some forms of it are really bad for your lungs. It's non toxic if you were to ingest it, and the type used for insecticide is not generally the calcined form that is exceptionally harmful, but better safe than sorry. Just a normal filter mask should be ok.

    CalicaArch
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    Calica wrote: »
    Diatomaceous earth is safe for birds, but I didn't think of it for flying insects. I'll pick some up next time I get a chance. I'm not taking a chance with aerosolized poison, though. Parrot lungs are ridiculously sensitive to airborne toxins.

    I keep finding larvae pupating on the ceiling. Do they just crawl up there to spin their little cocoons? They're not eating the drywall, are they?

    The larvae are climbing up the wall, yes, and aren't eating the drywall. I understand your reticence to use pesticides with parrots, but pyrethrin powders (and things like ivermectin injections) are specifically used by veterinarians to treat infection of parrots by ectoparasites, so if you spray with windows open it shouldn't be any worse than bleach. Plus, like I said, any warm-blooded animals are not going to be affected by pyrethrin, but again, it's your call.

    I suggested sprays and traps because they are the most "low energy" control methods I can think of, although Spool's big post is basically how I would handle the problem (I would just probably spray instead of use bleach)

  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    Arch wrote: »
    Calica wrote: »
    Diatomaceous earth is safe for birds, but I didn't think of it for flying insects. I'll pick some up next time I get a chance. I'm not taking a chance with aerosolized poison, though. Parrot lungs are ridiculously sensitive to airborne toxins.

    I keep finding larvae pupating on the ceiling. Do they just crawl up there to spin their little cocoons? They're not eating the drywall, are they?

    The larvae are climbing up the wall, yes, and aren't eating the drywall. I understand your reticence to use pesticides with parrots, but pyrethrin powders (and things like ivermectin injections) are specifically used by veterinarians to treat infection of parrots by ectoparasites, so if you spray with windows open it shouldn't be any worse than bleach. Plus, like I said, any warm-blooded animals are not going to be affected by pyrethrin, but again, it's your call.

    I suggested sprays and traps because they are the most "low energy" control methods I can think of, although Spool's big post is basically how I would handle the problem (I would just probably spray instead of use bleach)
    Good to know.

    I'll probably ask my vet about pyrethin, then. Luckily the local clinic has a couple of avian specialists.

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
    Arch
  • ArchArch Neat-o, mosquito! Registered User regular
    Calica wrote: »
    Arch wrote: »
    Calica wrote: »
    Diatomaceous earth is safe for birds, but I didn't think of it for flying insects. I'll pick some up next time I get a chance. I'm not taking a chance with aerosolized poison, though. Parrot lungs are ridiculously sensitive to airborne toxins.

    I keep finding larvae pupating on the ceiling. Do they just crawl up there to spin their little cocoons? They're not eating the drywall, are they?

    The larvae are climbing up the wall, yes, and aren't eating the drywall. I understand your reticence to use pesticides with parrots, but pyrethrin powders (and things like ivermectin injections) are specifically used by veterinarians to treat infection of parrots by ectoparasites, so if you spray with windows open it shouldn't be any worse than bleach. Plus, like I said, any warm-blooded animals are not going to be affected by pyrethrin, but again, it's your call.

    I suggested sprays and traps because they are the most "low energy" control methods I can think of, although Spool's big post is basically how I would handle the problem (I would just probably spray instead of use bleach)
    Good to know.

    I'll probably ask my vet about pyrethin, then. Luckily the local clinic has a couple of avian specialists.

    Yeah, that should be prefaced. I'm just a bug doctor, not a bird doctor, but I do know what pesticides are generally used, where, and on what. If there's been new stuff about pyrethrin and parrot toxicity I'm not really deep in that literature, and am going on what I learned in school.

  • OremLKOremLK Registered User regular
    edited May 2017
    Had these before too. The way I eventually got rid of them was to kill every moth I saw AND every larva I saw nonstop for weeks. I don't think they were ever in our food, though, just the bird seed, I assume because it was a much easier target and because were never in the habit of keeping unsealed food in the pantry in the first place.

    I noticed that both moths and larva tended to congregate on the walls and crawl toward the ceiling. I never found any close to the floor in our case.

    Anyway, after awhile you get really good at spotting the moths and eggs/caterpillars, and smashing them on sight. Once they run out of breeding pairs they're done.

    Good luck. It was a disgusting PITA but eventually we did get rid of them.

    OremLK on
  • ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    Cog wrote: »
    One warning about the diatomaceous earth, be careful how you spread it. It's a silicate and some forms of it are really bad for your lungs. It's non toxic if you were to ingest it, and the type used for insecticide is not generally the calcined form that is exceptionally harmful, but better safe than sorry. Just a normal filter mask should be ok.

    From what I've read, as long as you make sure it's food-grade (VERY IMPORTANT) you practically have to do lines of the stuff for it to really damage your lungs because it just doesn't do anything in conditions as moist as, say, a lung. It just gets caught up in some mucus and expectorated normally. That's part of what makes it ideal.

    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
  • CalicaCalica Registered User regular
    @spool32 I followed your advice, and it worked beautifully. I ended up throwing away most of the food in my pantry, but honestly it was overdue for a culling anyway. There was a slight setback a couple of weeks ago when I opened a Ziploc bag and some moths that had been hidden inside a paper bag escaped, but I think I killed them before they could breed (knock on wood). I haven't seen adults or larvae since then. I'm keeping everything in Ziploc bags still and for a while yet, but I'm cautiously optimistic.

    Thank you! :biggrin:

    Jedoc wrote: »
    The GOP cares about babies until they're born, soldiers until they're in need of care, and families until they interfere with stockholder dividends.
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  • EncEnc A Fool with Compassion The Land of Flowers (and Dragons)Registered User regular
    Another thing here: your landlord is usually responsible for regular pest control servicing as part of her side of the tenancy agreement in most states. In the future, you may (depending on your state) be able to request they call in a professional pest control person.

  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    Yessssss destroy the invaders

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