Indian meal moths: Don’t let them eat your revenue

Pari Pachamuthu

The Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella) is one of the many types of stored product insects encountered in certain commercial facilities, such as food processing. Attracted to light, they will fly inside in search of stored, dried food. In addition to product contamination, Indian meal moths can pose several other threats when their cocoons and larval webs clog machinery, leading to costly downtime on the production line.

 

How an infestation takes place

Although these pests prefer warm and humid habitats, Indian meal moths are very flexible insects and can thrive in a variety of environments. This resilience in adapting to different conditions has made them one of the most common and destructive stored food pests in North America.

The risk, though, is highest during the larval phase as adult Indian meal moths leave the food source and seek a suitable site for pupation. The infestation cycle will start as soon as the eggs are laid, typically happening nearest food sources so that larvae will have enough to eat as soon as they hatch.

This is where the problem begins. Being tiny does not stop the Indian meal moth’s larvae from eating through soft plastic and cardboard to get to the food inside. This ability makes almost all stored food products vulnerable to an infestation since they are not safe inside closed plastic bags or cardboard boxes.

 

Prevention is always better than cure

Since they reside on food, eliminating Indian meal moths is not an easy task as, in many cases, the larval feeding sites cannot be treated with pesticides. Instead, you must address the sanitation and structural conditions that have allowed Indian meal moth to thrive. Rentokil Steritech’s Tips for Prevention of Indian Meal Moth sheet has over half a dozen tips for helping your staff prevent Indian meal moth issues, including these two:

  • Clean thoroughly to remove dust created during processing and spilled product. Eliminating even small amounts of material that these pests can infest can reduce infestation potential.
  • Use the First In, First Out method of product rotation to ensure that the oldest product is used first, limiting the amount of time that infestations have to develop.

If you think you have an Indian meal moth problem at your food processing facility, call a trusted pest control provider immediately to perform the correct treatment method.

Indian meal moths may sound like an impossible pest to keep away, but by adopting some preventive methods, you can save your business money by eliminating the need to destroy contaminated food products and clean or repair machinery. Check out Rentokil Steritech’s Tip Sheet on preventing Indian meal moths and learn more about its biology, as well as how to identify the pest and tips for prevention.

Pari Pachamuthu
Pari Pachamuthu

Pari Pachamuthu is a board-certified entomologist and the technical director for Rentokil Steritech’s Central Market. He is an expert in detecting and treating stored product pests in food manufacturing facilities and other commercial settings.

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