Battling the annual moth invasion

Not to gross anyone out, but we have a bit of an infestation at the farm. (Seriously, if you’re eating, you might want to come back later).

It started the first spring that we lived here. On Easter weekend, the moths arrived.

The first year, I had just brought in a big bouquet of forsythia branches, so we thought the flowers must have been the source.

We spent all spring and most of the summer battling the moths. They were dusty creatures that left behind a smudge when we squished them. Our ceiling, which was so disgusting before we painted it, was mostly marked by moths.

Gross smears on the ceiling

I emptied cupboards and closets and sprayed insect killer. We vacuumed webs. And nothing changed. The moths just kept coming.

Finally, the weather turned cold, and they stopped.

But the following spring, they were back. There was no forsythia to blame this time. It seemed that the moths were somewhere in the house. We smacked and squashed and slapped. We were both disgusted and resigned.

Moth

They didn’t seem to be the types of moths that threaten wool clothing. Instead, they seemed to congregate in the kitchen. They liked crackers and rice and cereal. They munched on our food, spun webs and occasionally we spotted their maggot-like larvae crawling around. It was totally gross. But we had no idea where they were coming from.

Then this spring, we decided we had to try something new. We found some moth traps and hung them around the kitchen.

Flour and pantry moth trap by Tanglefoot

Our goal was to kill one generation before they had a chance to reproduce. We were vigilant about killing any that we saw. To avoid putting more smudges on our freshly painted ceiling and walls, we kept our handheld vacuum handy to suck them up. The traps filled up, and we deployed fresh ones. They’re basically a sticky sheet of cardboard with little scent capsules that go inside.

Flour and pantry moth trap by Tanglefoot

The traps seem to work. Although I don’t think we accomplished our mission of killing a whole generation, there have been slightly fewer moths this year than previously. I feel like they live somewhere in the kitchen, within the walls, behind the cabinets. I don’t think the moths will truly go away until we renovate the kitchen.

And as much as I want that project to happen–for more reasons than just the moths–it’s probably at least a few years away still.

I realize that creepy crawlies are part of country living. However, the moths can move on a n y t i m e.

Anyone else ever dealt with moths? Any tips to share?

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20 thoughts on “Battling the annual moth invasion

  1. We’ve never really had an issue with moths but each fall we get an infestation of Japanese ladybugs or beetles or whatever they are called. They swarm the house, they stink and they even bite if they land on you. http://www.asianladybugs.com/

    And now we are dealing with a darn mouse in the kitchen!

    I hope you can get your moths under control. That has to be irritating!

  2. Yes, I have had problems with the same moths your dealing with. We call them “Smudge Bugs” though because of the mark they leave when you kill them. I don’t think they will ever be gone. Every year they come back and sneak in the house during the summer, all fall and winter you will find them hiding when you open a closet or cupboard and when you think you have finally killed them all, it will be summer again and in they will be back. Some years seem to be worse then others, but they are a part of living in the country I guess. Good Luck!

  3. They are Indian Meal Moths, and will go after ANY grain – including bird seed. They can get into the tiniest holes in a container or plastic bag.

    If your food is infested with them, like rice, flour, etc. your only option is to throw it out or freeze it to kills the larvae. They are congregating in your kitchen because that is where their food source and egg laying material is. You have to keep your food completely sealed off, like in Rubbermaid, or in the freezer.

    http://www.doyourownpestcontrol.com/indian_meal_moth.htm

  4. AHHHHH this brings back memories. In summer, 2008 we had a citywide blackout so my power was out for 8 days. With the AC off I left the windows open, and I had a bag of cockatiel bird seed that had been left open. They laid eggs in there and after that I had several months of moth infestation hell, until the winter killed them off. I don’t know I why I never called my landlord for help; I guess because I knew it was my fault for leaving the birdseed container open for a few days I didn’t want to bother them with it. Basically like you I had a nasty mess of dusty bugs everywhere. UGH! I am sorry I have no advice for that one…..but I do offer you my sympathies.

  5. We used to get those months! I always assumed they came from the grocery store. We ended up buying cedar moth balls and blocks and kept a few in each cabinet. I was also vigilant about sealing up all food and thoroughly cleaning the insides and outside, especially the tops, of the cabinets.

    Reading this makes me want to go clean everything right now and seal up our food! Good luck, eventually you will get rid of them 🙂

  6. When we renovated our kitchen, we found where they were living (gag). The original cabinets were built in place, and the moths set up camp between boards. They have started to come back, so I’m horrified that they found a new place to hide behind the cabinets. Funny thing is, we don’t eat grain. No bread, no rice, or oats, nothing. We do have seeds and nuts, but they are sealed and show no sign of infestation. So gwoss.

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