The Pantry Moth Life Cycle

The Life Cycle of the Pantry Moth

Moths. Bet you never expected to see them inside your bag of flour, crawling around. How gross! Unfortunately, moths are attracted to more than just clothing and carpet. Turns out that some types absolutely love grains and nuts and will happily lay their eggs throughout your pantry so the whole creepy-crawly family can enjoy the cereal, dog food, or other goodies you have.

If you are looking to control the pests in your kitchen, you need to know their life cycle, so you can nip their invasion in the bud. We have outlined the pantry moth life cycle for you below.

What Are Pantry Moths?

Also known as Indian meal moths, Pantry Moths are one of the more common kitchen pests. They can be found throughout North America and Europe, as well as other places. Because they love to feed on cereals, grains, and nuts, pantry moths often invade the household through such products. For example, some items from the grocery store could unknowingly contain eggs that will eventually mature and hatch larvae.

The pantry moth larvae then eat whatever food is surrounding them. When moths grow into adult moths, the females will lay up to 500 eggs during their lifespan. Because of this, Pantry Moth infestation can be a nightmare. Not only that, but those eggs and larvae can contaminate large portions of food.

Anything that comes into contact with pantry moths will need to be discarded. The good news? They’re not poisonous.

How to Identify a Pantry Moth

The adult Pantry Moth or Indian Meal Moth

Pantry Moths in their adult form are easy to spot. They have bronze wings that may have a pattern, such as a horizontal black line through the middle. Others will look slightly lighter in color.

The eggs are nearly invisible, but the larvae? Those are difficult to miss. Although several of them could fit on a small coin, they look a little like maggots (ew) and have off-white bodies. You will find them on corners, chewing through cardboard and covering their trails with white silk.

Pantry Moth Life Cycle

pantry moth life cycle

1. Pantry Moth Propagation

As mentioned earlier, a lone female Pantry Moth can lay nearly 500 eggs, with 300 eggs being the average. The moth will lay these eggs all at once or over 18 days.

The extremely tiny eggs will be near foodstuffs, especially strong-smelling or poorly packaged goods. Those eggs will then hatch within 7 days of being laid. Sometimes, it can take up to 14 days.

2. Pantry Moth Larval Stage

When Indian meal moths are in their larval stage, they will do the most damage. They’re voracious and will eat and eat, excreting something called frass (waste) as they do so. The frass and webbing will contaminate the food, and it will be unusable.

Depending on the conditions and availability of food, the larval stage will usually last for 2-3 months. However, in some places, the larvae will not mature for half a year (up to 210 days).

A Pantry Moth Larva

3. Pantry Moth Pupal Stage

Once the larvae have eaten themselves into a food coma, they move onto the pupal stage. During this time, the larvae make cocoons around their bodies in the crevices, corners, or cracks near their food source. Sometimes, the cocoons are hidden within clumps of webs and frass - a sure-fire sign that you have a Pantry Moth infestation.

About 15-20 days are spent as pupae transforming into adult Pantry Moths.

4. Adult Pantry Moth Stage

The final part of the Pantry Moth life cycle begins when fully grown moths erupt from their cocoons and start flying towards any light source you have in the kitchen. This common bump and grind against light bulbs is, comically, a way to attract a mate for reproduction. Interestingly, adult Pantry Moths do not have mouths, so they do not need food.

Their sole purpose is finding a light, finding a mate, and laying eggs to die. Because the lifespan of an adult moth is only 5-25 days, you often won’t see them until they are found while sweeping up dust bunnies.

So, to summarize: the full life cycle of a Pantry Moth is anywhere from 27 days to just over a year. Up to 8 generations of Pantry Moths can be born and die in a single calendar year, though cold weather will greatly hinder this process. That is why moths are rarely seen when the temperature drops below 50 degrees F/10 degrees C.

Dealing With Pantry Moths

No one wants to deal with something as disgusting and destructive as Pantry Moths in their home. And when larvae can live for 60-90 days on average, you need to be able to tackle the problem head-on before they get a grip in your kitchen and foodstuffs.

There are a few things you can do to prevent Indian meal moths from making frass of your pantry:

  • Never leave your food opened or in containers that do not seal properly. If there are any larvae in the food, they will eat their way out (or into) the plastic of other food, mature, and breed even more moths.

  • Use resealable containers, silicone baggies, or even Mason jars for storage items like flour, nuts, oatmeal, and baking mixes.
  • Consider purchasing pantry moth traps to rid your home of these pesky nuisances. The traps attract male Pantry Moths to a glue board, where they get stuck and die. Since the females cannot have their eggs fertilized, they will die without breeding.

Dried foodstuffs stored in glass containers

Why Learn About the Pantry Moth Life Cycle

Adult Pantry Moths may not be harmful themselves, but they are not welcome guests in your home. Not with the mess they are sure to invite in. Pantry Moth larvae can quickly contaminate your kitchen, and that can be expensive to repair and replace everything affected. Knowing the Pantry Moth life cycle is just one way to be proactive about preventing a pantry moth infestation in your home because you will be able to monitor the situation and act accordingly.

Indian Meal Moths stuck on a glue board

About MothDefense

MothDefense speak to customers every day about their clothes, carpet and pantry moth issues - clothes moths are a species that are ever increasing and that can cause significant damage to clothes, carpets and other home textiles.

To date, we’ve helped over 125,000 customers deal with their moth problems. We have developed professional grade traps. which include proprietary pheromones, not available from anybody else in the USA, and engineered in Germany to the highest production standards.

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