Friday, September 21, 2007

The Unlucky Thirteen

It started innocently enough. Just one day I looked up on the ceiling and saw a little worm crawling alone, minding his own business. As I crushed him in a napkin, part of me felt bad, thinking that he had traveled so far from the outside only to meet his demise on some upside-down endlessly flat terrain.

He resembled an inch-worm without the ungainly but cute gait.

The next day, I saw another one, and after liquefying him in a napkin, my thoughts weren’t so much on how far he had trekked, but where he had trekked from. I check the windows and the sliding glass door in the kitchen for any signs of his brethren. When nothing turned up, I went about my day.

As the week rolled by, the little visitors became more frequent and in larger numbers. Soon, it seemed like a genocide as I would clear out four or five. And when one lost his grip and dropped down on my arm while I was watching TV, enough was enough. But then, over the course of the next couple of days, without any help from me, they disappeared.

Problem solved, I thought. But it was just the beginning.

Then, every time we opened the pantry, we were greeted by a flying moth of some kind, a narrow, slow moving, not especially agile little brown winged thing that flitted around the room until he was dispatched in a napkin or easily swatted out of the sky. They were harmless moths, just flying around, landing on stuff, not the kind that frantically attack light bulbs or dive bomb your eye sockets. However, after a couple of days of this, I decided that there must be something going on in the pantry that would require my attention, as the number of moths were increasing. I surmised, these weren’t just random moths getting stuck in the pantry. They were coming from the pantry and they needed to be stopped before we inadvertently begin to cook them into our dinners. Which is such a lovely thought.

One Friday afternoon, I got the motivation to completely clean out the pantry. Starting at the bottom, I took out everything, from those extra plastic forks that everyone has in the back of their shelves to the random can of beans you bought in the name of emergency preparedness. On the top shelf, I came across a Kashi-brand Go Lean Crunch cereal that had expired two years ago—we must have packed it at the old house and moved it here—and when I picked up the box, I could hear little flutterings against the plastic bag inside the box. I had found the source. Immediately, I took the box of cereal outside and, curiosity getting the better of me, I opened it and stood there gapping! The cereal box had turned into a bug condo, as every nook and cranny was occupied by one of those little moths.

Disgusted, I doused the box with bug spray and chucked it in the trash.

Back inside, with the shelves empty, I scrubbed them with cleaner and a brush, hopefully killing all traces of them. I threw away most everything that had been opened, from pancake batter to flour to corn starch, anything that look susceptible to the infestation. Then I took a trip to Target and bought a dozen or so air-tight canisters and transferred all the replacement foods—snack foods, sugar, flour, cereal—into them.

With a fine job done, I was happily content, thinking that I had ethnically cleansed my pantry of the little bugs.

Then about a week ago, we started noticing them again, and it was a couple of days after Kara came home from Henry’s, the health-food feel-good grocery store that she goes to from time to time to pick up a collection of seemingly good-for-you food that usually ends up tasting terrible. Why would I want potato chips made from baked cucumbers? Why? Anyways, that’s another story for another time. But, after she came back, she told me that she saw the moth-like bugs there… and that’s where I place the blame. After a quick check on the Internet (is there anything it can’t solve?) we discovered that they are Indian Meal Moths. Below is a description:

This is probably the most common pest of food found in the home. The Indian Meal Moth is often confused with the Webbing Clothes Moth, a fabric pest. Indian Meal Moths affect food product and not fabric. Clothes Moths affect fabric only.

This pest in introduced into a building by being brought in with a food product which is already infested. Although manufacturers attempt to deliver food that is virtually pest free, they do not always succeed.

Another way that this pest may enter food is from a store that has an infestation of this insect. The immature stages of this insect may crawl into other food packages thereby introducing Indian Meal Moth into a home or business.

Most insects are phototropic, they will fly toward light. Because Indian Meal Moths are most active at night, people often report finding them in rooms away from the source as they follow the lights that may be turned on in those rooms.

So, where’d they come from? Henry’s of course. Thanks a lot. We’ve gone from having none, to just one or two flying by and I killed 13 of them.

I’m thoroughly disgusted, but the site ( offered this advice:

As a moth, Indian Meal Moths goes through complete metamorphosis including egg, larvae (crawling stage), pupae (cocoon) and adult (flying moth). Therefore, if the infested food product is discovered and removed, and no other food source exists, the life cycle of the moth may be interrupted.

If an infestation exists, sanitation i.e. removal of all infested food product, is key to managing this pest. Thus, the first step in managing an Indian Meal Moth problem is inspecting for and then removing infested food product.

The list of products to check includes milled foods such as flour, pasta, cereals, cornmeal, spices and most commonly, dry pet foods including (especially) bird seed. Other sources to check include dried fruits, dried flowers, nuts, rodenticide baits, food brought in by mice, rats or squirrels and even decorative wall hangings containing food products such as beans or spices. Be sure to check areas other than the kitchen or pantry where these items may be stored. Think about the nuts that have been left out in the living room in case company comes or some food product that you may have left up in the attic and forgotten about. Also, be sure to move appliances away from the wall to see if any food is hidden behind or underneath.

A caller helped to point out how important it is to locate the source of the problem. She cleaned and searched and searched but could not locate the source and thus continued to have a problem. Finally, one day, in her continuing effort to find the answer, she searched through a storage area that had a bag containing other shopping bags that she recycled and there, located a significant number of insects. After remove this source, the problem subsided

So, I guess I know what I’m doing this weekend, complete kitchen tear down. We’re going to remove everything from all the shelves and spray the whole kitchen…

If you see one of these little guys nonchalantly flying around your kitchen, welcome to my world. You'd better take action, becuase they're not going anywhere until you make them leave.

Oh yeah, and don't shop at Henry's. They apparently sell bugs with their food.

1 comment:

The one and only REAL Meg Kelso said...

I hear ya dude. I've been fighting my own little genocidal war against those heathens for months. I cleaned out the cabinets, and everything else I could find. yet I still have fly strips full of those hideous little demons. No more falling pupae, but their winged brethren abound.


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