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The appearance of food moths is often mistakenly associated with an unhygienic kitchen and usually causes disgust and panic. However, the pests can also be introduced when shopping for groceries. Although the moths are not considered disease carriers and therefore generally do not pose a danger to humans, they should still be combated immediately. Because on the one hand infested food is inedible and on the other hand moths can trigger allergies. With our step-by-step instructions, you can fight the pests in no time!

Different moth species

Food moth is basically just an umbrella term, because there are a variety of moth species. In local regions, three of these moth species are particularly common, namely the flour moth, the corn moth and the dried fruit moth. The respective pests and their maggots can be recognized by various characteristics.

Flour moth (Ephestia kuehniella)

Flour moths can be recognized primarily by their blue-grey to reddish-grey front wings. These are also crossed with light and dark jagged lines. Flour moths have a body about 8-10 millimeters long and a wingspan of about 20 millimeters. The maggots of the flour moth also have typical identifying features:

  • up to 20mm long
  • slight reddish or greenish coloring
  • brown head
flour moth. Ephestia kuehniella

Corn moth (Nemapogon granellus)

The corn moth is relatively easy to identify by its patterned forewings. Because these are black-brown in color and have yellow spots and a dark contrasting fringed hem on the edge. The length of the body is about 6 millimeters, while the wingspan can reach up to 20 millimeters. The maggots of the corn moth are slightly smaller than the flour moth and can be identified by these features:

  • about 9-12 mm long
  • Maggots are yellowish white
  • slightly shiny, light brown head
Corn moth, Nemapogon granella

Dried fruit moth (Plodia interpunktella)

If the pests are more rusty brown to copper red in color, they may be dried fruit moths. Also typical of this moth species are light transverse bands on the forewings. The dried fruit moth has a body length of around 6-10 millimeters and a wingspan of around 15-20 millimeters. The maggots of these moths have the following peculiarities:

  • up to 17 millimeters long
  • Maggots can be colored differently
  • whitish with a slightly greenish or reddish tint
  • brown head

How can an infestation be identified?

First and foremost, an infestation can of course be recognized by the pests themselves. If moths are suddenly buzzing around in the kitchen or maggots are found in food, this is usually relatively clear. However, there are other characteristics that indicate an infestation with food fads:

  • Webs of threads on food
  • nibbled food packaging
  • eaten grains
  • empty moth pupae
  • crawling in the flour
Dried fruit moth, Plodia interpunctella

notice: Moths prefer certain and above all different foods. Among other things, they are attracted to grain products, animal feed, rice and pasta.

Detect food moths with pheromone traps

It is not always possible to clearly determine whether the pests are actually food moths. In this case, pheromone traps can provide information. These are available from specialist retailers and are used as follows:

  • Set up pheromone traps in the kitchen
  • Traps release a sex attractant
  • male moths are attracted to it
  • Pests stick to the trap

notice: Pheromone traps are great for detecting an infestation, however not as the sole means of combat. Because the traps only attract the male animals, so that the females can continue to lay their eggs in peace.

Fight moths in 4 steps

An infestation with food moths often causes panic, but the pests can be fought relatively easily and effectively. It should be noted, however, that the use of chemical agents in the kitchen is only possible to a limited extent. After all, food is stored in the kitchen, which should not come into contact with the mostly toxic substances. However, the pests and their maggots can also be combated in a natural way:

Step 1: Checking the food

As soon as there is a suspicion of an infestation with food moths, it is best to act immediately. The first thing to do is to check what food is available. If infested food is present, food in the immediate vicinity should also be checked for pests:

  • control all food
  • also check packaged foods
  • Check packaging for signs of damage
  • Refill food if necessary
  • dispose of contaminated food

notice: According to the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, it is advisable not to dispose of food directly in the household waste. It is better to freeze the food for a few days first or to heat it in the oven for about 2 hours at 60-80 degrees.

Step 2: Clean thoroughly

After the infested food has been disposed of, the cupboards and shelves must be cleaned thoroughly. It is important to ensure that not only storage compartments and shelves are wiped. Because they too corners of closets and foot panels fitted kitchens offer moths excellent nesting opportunities. When cleaning the kitchen, it is therefore best to proceed as follows:

  • first clean with vinegar cleaner
  • Household vinegar is also suitable for this
  • mix this with water
  • 1 part household vinegar to 2 parts water
  • then wipe with warm soapy water

tip: When cleaning, it is advisable to check the cabinets for pre-drilled holes and mask them off. Moths often lay their eggs in these inconspicuous holes.

Step 3: Clean hard-to-reach corners

While storage compartments are easy to wipe, corners and cracks in cupboards are usually difficult to access. In this case a hairdryer remedy. Because the eggs and maggots of food moths are not only sensitive to cold, but also to heat. The warm hair dryer air has therefore proven to be particularly effective against the pests. A hair dryer is best used for the following areas:

  • Nooks and crannies of pantry cupboards
  • cracks in the wall
  • small cavities behind the skirting board
  • hard-to-reach places

Step 4: Use natural enemies

In the fight against food moths have above all parasitic wasps proven. Because the natural enemies of the moth lay their eggs in the moth eggs and can thus destroy entire moth populations within a very short time. Practical side effect of parasitic wasps is that they completely harmless are for humans. Parasitic wasp eggs are usually delivered on cards, with between several hundred and a few thousand eggs on a card.

  • about 1000 eggs per card are recommended
  • Place cards on affected areas
  • At least 1 card per cupboard
  • Ichneumon wasps have a radius of action of about 50 cm
  • after 1-3 days the wasps hatch
Dusty wasp, Ichneumonidae

notice: Ichneumon wasps disappear by themselves when there is nothing left to fight or eat.

Prevent food moths

Although the pests are relatively easy to control, it is still better to prevent an infestation as much as possible. Simple but effective hand movements have proven their worth for this:

  • Always close supplies tightly
  • Do not store food in paper bags or cardboard boxes
  • Check packaging when buying flour and grain
  • Always wipe up spilled flour and co
  • It is best to decant animal feed in large bags

tip: The longer flour and grain is stored, the higher the chance of food moths appearing.

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