Dear Advice Guy,
I have an infestation of pantry moths in dry storage. What attracted them? Everything is stored in [airtight containers]. What do I do?
– Cook, Narberth, PA
In restaurant pest control we often focus on building pests out with structural changes like air curtains, screens and patching holes and cracks as part of an integrated pest management program. Pantry moths are insidious because they don’t come in from outside to eat the food as a mouse would but rather develop from tiny eggs and later larvae inside the food. They can be found in a variety of products but especially problematic—as their common name suggests—are whole grains, flour, nuts and other dry goods like powdered milk.
The good news is that if you are properly storing dry goods in rodent-proof airtight containers, it doesn’t just keep vermin out, but can keep pantry moths in. If the infestation is contained, discard the entire container and be sure to closely inspect any related product that may have come from the same lot as well as your other products in dry storage.
The problem gets more complicated if the moths spread throughout your dry storage area, contaminating and laying eggs in other foods. There it’s best to discard any and all possibly contaminated inventory and deep clean the entire area. While it’s painful and expensive to waste food that may be perfectly safe to eat, the negative PR costs of larvae moving around a guest’s dessert would be much greater! Don’t spray anything in food storage areas—or anywhere. Your pest management professional can use approved traps that will help.
As for prevention, maintaining a small inventory—frequently turned over—in dry storage; using FIFO (first-in-first-out) and storing food in airtight containers will help. More on pantry moths here.