Signs of Pests in Food

Stored Product Pests

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Indian Meal Moth

indian-meal-moth-bug-book

Color

Even if they aren't as pretty as their cousins the butterflies, the moth still has distinctive colors. Each forewing is coppery red on the outer half, with a creamy white basal half. The head is yellowish to reddish-brown. Mature larvae can be even more colorful (including green, pink, or brown) depending on what they eat. Usually, though, they are dirty white.

Characteristics

Larvae have 5 pairs of well-developed legs on abdomen, each with hooks. Adults have wings. The hind wings are broader than the front, and fringed with long hair-like scales.

Where Found

Started out in Europe and Asia before taking flight around the world.

Habitat

Home is where the stomach is. Look before taking that next bite – the larvae's home is your food!

Food

Whatever you're eating! Or whatever foods you bring home. These are eclectic eaters, but prefer dried foods such as fruit, nuts, seeds, crackers, powdered milk, dried red peppers, cereals and other grains. They have a sweet tooth for chocolate and candy. They'll also raid your pets' food, from dry dog food to bird seed. And because of the webbing it uses when developing in your food, it also spoils more than it can eat.

Biology

As your food supply makes a great place to raise full and happy larvae, that's exactly where the female lays her eggs. They are laid either singly or in small groups during a 1-18 day period. As soon as the larvae hatch, they waste no time getting to the good stuff – settling down in a crevice of your corn flakes. They then make a webbed, tunnel-like case, in or near which they feed – and it's made of none other than silk and insect excrement. If you find any larvae in your cereal box, hopefully you've done so before you've taken the first bite. The length of larval stages (13-288 days) depends on temperature and food availability. Last instar (stage) larvae leave their food to scout out a good place to develop into pupae. The complete life cycle takes 25-135 days, with 4-6 generations per year.

Damage

Blame the parents. Adults are pests by laying eggs in your food, where the larvae get down to work. They produce web-material that spoils your food. Then they grow up and start the whole process all over again.

Invasion

They get into boxes and bags of food from grocery stores.

Good Riddance

There are 6 steps to control stored product pests.

  1. Prevention – inspect any incoming products, and reduce locations that insects may be entering through.
  2. Good Sanitation – discard any spilled or damaged products. Vacuum the spilled products, especially in small cracks and crevices where they may accumulate. Completely empty storage areas and check all products carefully for signs of infestation.
  3. Proper Storage – store products in sealed containers that will not allow insects to enter. Cardboard or paper containers are easier to penetrate by larvae or adults and should be discarded.
  4. Stock Rotation – don't forget about the old products sitting at the back of storage rooms. These are vulnerable to infestations, as they remain undisturbed and possibly damaged.
  5. Ventilation – many pests that invade stored products need a high level of humidity to survive, so reducing moisture content in stored products is essential.
  6. Control – some stored product pests tend to pupate away from the infested products. Therefore it is important to treat prepared pantry storage areas. Summary — finding and eliminating the source is the best way to achieve long-term control. Using aerosol pesticides for flying adult insects will only provide temporary relief. When using any pesticide, be sure it is registered for the target pest/location. Read the entire label prior to use. Follow all label directions, restrictions and precautions.