Indian meal moths were named by the 19th century entomologist Asa Fitch; the label was inspired by the tendency of the moths’ larvae to infest cornmeal, which is sometimes called “Indian meal”. Other common monikers for this pest are the North American flyer, pantry moth, and weevil moth.
The Indian meal moth is a pest commonly found in households and grocery store. Adult moths have a wingspan measuring 16 mm to 20 mm, and are gray with distinctive copper-hued wings that make them easy to spot. The Indian meal moth is most active in the afternoon and evening, and is attracted to light.
Indian meal moths usually get into a house by way of some dry goods like cereal, pasta, or flour. The eggs and larvae are small enough to pass through the fine mesh screens used by manufacturers for filtering purposes, so they may be present even in new, unopened food packages. Indian meal moth larvae feed on the outer germ of grains. As they eat, the larvae spin a silken thread and leave behind a telltale trail of webbing.
Full-grown larvae abandon the grain source to find a place to spin their cocoons. Homeowners may find crawling larvae or cocoons on the walls and ceilings of their kitchens, or even hidden behind appliances.
Getting rid of Indian meal moths is a fairly straightforward process: simply eliminate their food source. Even if you only found the moths in one bag of flour or box of cereal, you may want to discard other food packages, especially those that have been opened for some time. After throwing out suspect packages, be sure to sanitize the pantry shelves with soap and water to prevent a recurrence of the infestation, and store food products in tightly sealed containers.
Although Indian meal moths can be unwanted guests in a home, they are no cause for alarm. They don’t sting or bite humans, and have not been found to carry disease. All but the largest infestations can usually be handled on your own, without the assistance of a pest control specialist.