Do you Recognize this Enemy of your Food Storage?

Today’s non-fiction writing contest entry; “Do you Recognize this Enemy of your Food Storage?” was written Bandurasbox – AKA Salena


Not too long ago, my husband took a three week-long business trip to the West coast. Although he has travelled often domestically and abroad for his job in the past, this trip was particularly difficult for me and our special needs son. Our son was out of school for the summer, and because he has special needs, he requires more monitoring and care than most children.

I was working on a difficult semester in the PhD program to which I am involved. To add to this typical stress, several things around the house needed repairs that couldn’t wait. One morning as I was putting on my running shoes, I noticed a moth flying around in our walk-in closet. A brief look through our clothing led me to find several more. Needless to say, I was not the least bit thrilled. Although our house is not that large, our walk-in closet is rather roomy. As a result, we store more than clothing in there, including books, backpacks, my husband’s military equipment, uniforms, and our food preps.

Once I determined how to get rid of the moths, I began tackling a tiring job without any assistance. I moved everything out of the closet except for our food stores. I spent several days washing every article of clothing in hot water, and those that couldn’t be washed were dry cleaned or placed in the freezer. I sealed off the closet until my DH came home and I had his help cleaning the walls, shelves and floor. We undertook this with a vengeance! We covered the food stores with visqueen, and vacuumed all of the larvae. Then we scrubbed the shelves, ceiling, and walls with bleach water. Once that dried, we vacuum the floors, and coated the whole closet with Permethrin. The closet was sealed off for four days before we began moving everything back in.

Flash forward to a recent morning. As my husband was getting dressed for work, he noticed moth larvae all over the walls and ceiling. We were both very frustrated as you can imagine. All of that work for nothing as the pesky critters had come back with a greater vengeance that our cleaning efforts.

He took off work and once again, we began a second cleaning effort. This time, however, we consulted our neighbor who is in pest control. He said he would come over and spray once we had everything moved out of the closet. Everything, including the food preps.

We gathered as many boxes as we could find to put the food in and once we started moving it, we noticed the rice had live larvae inside the bags. Both hubby and I felt like idiots at this point. Our “moth patrol” efforts had been in vein. Being unfamiliar with moths, and since neither of us had any experience with clothes moths, we both assumed this was the pest with which we were dealing. As it turned out, we had Indian meal (pantry) moths all along. Our first cleaning effort was a waste of time because we left all of the infested food in the closet. As a result, the moths were safe, and had a nice clean breeding ground with lots of food to eat.

We were able to salvage about half of the food we had been storing in our closet for five years. We lost hundreds of dollars of rice, beans, dry potatoes, pasta, snacks, Ramen, and powdered milk. We were heartbroken that so much had to be thrown out, but relieved that we were finally able to identify our enemy thereby gaining a permanent solution to the problem.

We also learned that our food storage practices had to change. We will now store our dry foods in sealed Mylar bags inside of sealed buckets. It’s pricier than just stacking things on a closet shelf, but not anywhere near as pricey as losing hundreds of dollars in contaminated food.

An important lesson we learned is that it is crucial to know your enemy. Had we have spent the time to educate ourselves on the different types of moths, we could well have saved ourselves some time, some energy, and a great deal of frustration. This lesson goes a long way not only in our experience with insects, but in our lives as preppers. We weren’t able to share our moth experience with but a few people because we were fearful that being “exposed” as a preparedness family could jeopardize our safety in the event of a WTSHTF scenario.

Fortunately for us, we trust our neighbor who is in pest control. We take care of his dog when he is busy or out of town. He loves our son, and he watches over our property when we travel. He is now interested in participating in preparedness efforts. Thankfully, he owns and knows how to use his firearms, and his loyalty to us give us the encouragement to “bring him on board”, so to speak.

One thing I would like for you to take away from this: We learned that pantry moths exist on bags of beans and rice and other malleable food items before they are brought into our homes. If you purchase your stores from places that have large warehouses (Sam’s, Walmart, Target, Kroger, Publix, etc.), you run the risk of introducing pantry moths to your home. In the south, it’s very common. My best advice is to check the bags/packages for larvae prior to purchase, and not store them in an open air area (closet, garage, etc). The best storage practices involve reduction of air/oxygen and humidity. It will save you what can end up being a ton of money and a great deal of stress.

Prizes for this round (ends October 20th 2014 ) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  A $500 gift certificate off of any product or products at MRE Depot!
  2. Second place winner will receive –  a gift a gift certificate for $150 off of  Winchester ammo fromLuckyGunner and a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain mill courtesy of Kitchen Neads.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a Survival Puck  courtesy of Innovation Industries and  20 Live Fire Sport – Emergency Fire Starters from LPC Survival.
  4. Fourth Place winner will receive –  a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of and copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules that are listed below first…


  1. I learned as a boyto keep eberything inside glass RS with lids and now se havê pet soft drink bottles with wonderful capa. Simply wash tem dry funnel Rice and bens and ready to store.

  2. While i don’t use mylar i do seal in buckets that i have purged with CO2 . This has worked well for me through the years .

  3. Pantry moths were a problem for us for a bit and still pop up on occasion. My DW first suggestion was to dust off and nuke the site from orbit. When I pointed out that our shuttle was in for repairs we sought other options.
    Any bit of spilled food will provide them with a toe hold. First defense is absolute cleanup on any spills. Wiping the rims of storage jars as a regular practice is important as it only takes a little to get them started.
    I found traps are effective for control once the infestation is cleaned up using them various means on the post here, all of which are excellent. The traps are baited with pheromones that attract the beasties into their sticky interiors. They are available at local hardware stores & farm supply outlets here. Their best feature is that one can avoid poisons around food storage.
    The main source of our problem was not long term storage but the stuff we use everyday. We no longer leave groceries in their original package but store them in “snap-lock” containers. A couple of weeks in the freezer also seems to keep things like grains, flour, and beans pest free.

    • Thanks for the laugh this morning! I can actually say I was thinking the same thing about whatever it is getting into my garden this morning, George! Alas, my shuttle, too, is in for service with a 25 year backorder on the new warheads suitable for precision sticks on whitetails from orbit….

  4. We have a problem with carpenter ants and mice. We haven’t had rats, thank goodness (they will even eat soap and chew thru plastic containers I heard). I take everything out of cardboard boxes. I store in glass containers, half gallon mason jars, Tupperware, Lock’n’Locks, Mylar bags in 5 gallon buckets, and small quantities in their own bags (like beans) go into a 5 gallon bucket. Some folks put oats and things like that in cleaned 2 liter soda bottles, although I use those for water. Other things, like crackers or 5 lb bags of flour, go in the freezer, or in two Coleman camping coolers. I also use cookie tins a lot. Only tea is out in the open since critters don’t like it. Plastic bags are a big no-no. It’s a lot of work, but it’s an annual fight to keep the critters out.

    • Babycatcher says:

      Rats will chew thru lead pipes….ask me how I know….but yes, all grains need to be stored in Mylar bags with o2 absorbers, and I buy the big bags and repackage into 4 or 5 lb lots.

  5. Well this is a scary story. I’m almost afraid to go and see if I have that problem.

  6. Granny C. says:

    My husband went to a small restaurant in our town and asked the owner for her emptied large containers. She saves us her 2 gallon plastic and glass jars with screw on lids, and he goes by and picks up 3 or 4 a week. I wash them thoroughly in the dishwasher, dry them completely, fill them with rice, pasta, etc. and put them in the freezer for a week. Then I take them out of the freezer, label and date them and store them , so far no problems. And no extra cost.

  7. I never leave flour, oatmeal, beans, rice or other dry goods in their original containers alone just for this problem. I use airtight containers to put them in, especially the boxed items. Some Instant mashed potatoes, pancake mix and macaroni companies still put them in boxes without sealing and not being airtight.

    Why they do this and expose oxygen to the bug eggs and allows bugs to infest the boxes is beyond me. I don’t know why flour and sugar have to be in paper bags, ripe for infestation. I have to sift these to make sure there are no adult bugs or larvae before I store them in my containers. I have been repackaging my food storage for 4 years now and never found any infestation opening them up years later.

  8. We(Me, DW, & the Cub,) use a food saver and repack ever thing in serving size packs . We then put them in a food grade bucket thats been co2ed. ( morng B.C.)

  9. riverrider says:

    which is why our stuff is in #10 cans and superpails mostly. costs more, but i learned this lesson in y2k the hard way. good thing nothing happened. and i don’t need to rotate, so in the long run it saves money, time and frustration.

    • Same here, riverrider. We have our day to day rice, cat food, etc which stay in the original bags and go into big plastic storage bins with gamma lids, and we have our long term stores of rice, pinto beans, and quick oats in #10 cans from LDS.

      We put some of the day to day stuff into plastic or glass containers for actual daily use, and refill them from the bins as needed. The bins are especially important once a bag has been opened.

      Cereal, dried fruit like raisans and apricots, go into plastic snap lid storage containers of one kind or another.

      So far we haven’t had problems with bugs getting into the containers…oh…except for once a couple years ago. We lost part of a bag of rice IIRC. It might have come in already infested, but I think we would have noticed earlier. Yuck.

  10. All of our “bulk” foods are in pails. The moth problem discussed is not one we face in particular, but there are and could be others. Purchased bulk food is in “super pails” which are already mylar sealed.

    Thanks for the info.

  11. In all the things I’ve read about food storage, I’ve never seen anything about pantry moth problems. Thank you Bandurasbox (the author).

  12. ladyhawthorne says:

    I had this problem once in my regular pantry. From that point on everything not in a can or jar went in the freezer for a few days first. No more problems after that.

  13. Very useful warning, thanks for sharing. A dear friend had this problem; she would clean everything out and then within a month the pantry moths would be back. She finally realized they were coming into her pantry in the dog food bags. Changed where she bought the dog food and no problems since.

  14. Another source of pantry moths: Bird food. I have a few pet birds in the house and I battle the moths on a regular basis. It seems like pet foods are allowed to contain more bugs and bug larvae than human food, so no matter where I buy it, it already has bugs. Freezing the bag for a week and then putting in an airtight container helps.

  15. I store beans, rice, and noodles in a box in the cabinet. Theres stuff on top of it, so no moths or bugs should get into it. Im just worried about rats getting into it.
    Try diamatatous earth. It works on pests

    • Madison,
      Quite often the insect eggs are already in the food when you get it. If possible, place all dry goods like grains and cereals in the freezer for at least 72 hours to kill them.

  16. TN Farmer says:

    Put 4 or 5 bay leaves in any container that holds things like flour, rice, corn meal, dry potatoes, etc. It will inhibit meal bugs and moths. I guess they don’t like the scent of bay leaves. I put some in all my jars and pails of flour and meal after losing some with creepy crawlers in the jars. This is for everyday use as I store my flour in gallon glass jars. I also place some in my 5 gallon buckets before putting oxygen obsorbers inside the buckets. Never have had a problem since using bay leaves. They are inexpensive at Don’t make the mistake I did by buying a pound! It is enough to last five lifetimes.

    • TN Farmer, my grandmother told me that the reason bay leaves prevent weevils and pantry moths is that the bay leaves keep them from being able to hatch out. Bay Leaves would be hard to replace in some situations so you might honestly consider your 5 lb supply as an investment in pest control. The bay leaves never “go bad” or wear out. I am still using a 1 lb container I bought on clearance about 20 years ago, and a single one will still keep pantry moths out of my life!

  17. grandma Rosie says:

    Everyone says to store flour etc in freezer for ehile to make sure all bugs are dead. I had brought home several items to reseal & knowing I wouldn’t get all done in the same day I put a 5 lb bag of Mesa in the freezer. Life got in the way & it was a week or more later that I remembered it. I took it out to measure & reseal it in smaller Seal-A -Meal bags & when I opened it DIRECTLY FROM THE FREEZER several bugs flew out!! There were worms all in it. It went into the compost, but does anyone have any idea why the freezer didn’t work?

    • grandma Rosie,
      What kind of freezer and how cold is it. The one in your refridgerator may not be cold enough, especially if you’re opening and closing it to get things in and out. We use a chest freezer that’s at least 20F or colder, and have never had a bug problem.

  18. First, always take grain based food (rice, beans, wheat, cereal, pasta) and keep them in the freezer for at least 72 hours to kill insect eggs and larvae. We even do this with pasta, flour, etc. that we intend to use quickly. If you have space, leave the food in the freezer and take it out as you need it. My DW who is a coffee drinker, also stores her coffee this way.
    Store in an airtight container with a vaccuum or O2 absorber or both.
    We use mostly #10 cans from LDS or others, that are packed this way. I used to store in 5 gallon Mylar bags in 5 gallon pails; but, have switched to smaller Mylar bags, still in the pails. If there is a failure and you get infested, then you only lose a small amount, and not a whole pail or perhaps 35 pounds of food.

  19. recoveringidiot says:

    OP, I found out the hard way that the big bags in 5gal buckets work well for long term, but if the time comes to open them and you have no freezer available the varmets will get in before a lone person can consume 5 gallons of rice. I now use gallon bags instead for long term stores. Also freezing everything for a week or so before storing in mylar with O2 absorbers is almost fool-proof. And I have been a fool in the past, so I have first hand experience with that.

  20. This is why sifters were invented! Silly Home Economics teachers have waxed rapsodious about using a sifter to “fluff” flour for decades but the reality is that our great grandparents sifted their flour and meal to sift the bugs out. That is probably also why our foremothers did not grind their grain until immediately before use. I believe in isolated Mexican villages today women still take a day’s worth of grain to the town miller each morning.

  21. Bandurasbox – AKA Salena, Thank you for a great and important article about a topic that doesn’t get much attention in our modern world. I wrote a blog post with weevil/pantry moth remedies several years ago and it remains one the the most consistently read articles on my blog – so I know how much interest there is in this topic. Good job! 🙂

Before commenting, please read my Comments Policy - thanks!