In addition to the usual pests that invade Pittsburgh businesses, the Indian Meal Moth has a special place among the more annoying and potentially destructive. Also known as the pantry moth, the larvae of Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella), is known to feed upon stored grains, grain products, dried fruits, nuts, cereals, and a variety of processed food products.
They are known to penetrate all types of food containers including boxes, bins and sacks and adult female moths lay their eggs inside food packaging and also within the food itself. When the eggs hatch, the food becomes contaminated and must be thrown out.
As such, it is a formidable threat to food-related businesses and other industries, and typically infests food packaging in kitchens, grocery stores, restaurants, industrial food processing plants, grocery stores, supermarkets. Why? Because these insect pests are drawn to food items and once they infest a structure, results can be devastating to any business operation.
So if you would like to take preventative pest management steps, or your business is suffering from an Indian Meal Moth infestation, read on to learn more about this nuisance and how its met its match in our seven decades of pest expertise — or call our professional Pestco expert today (412) 252-5200.
10 Interesting Facts About The Indian Meal Moth
It was a 19th-century entomologist named Asia Fitch, who was employed by the state of New York that gave the species its name. She published a report in 1856 in which she noted that the larvae infested stores of cornmeal, which at the time was referred to as “Indian meal.” Even when compared to other pests and other moths, the Indian Meal Moth is a relentless infestation machine that is difficult to eradicate. Here are ten interesting facts about these pests.
- The Indian Meal Moth Is Resilient
This pest can thrive in almost any environment except Antarctica, which makes it one of the most destructive stored food pests both globally and within the United States.
- This Pest is Nocturnal and Phototactic
In addition to flying under cover of darkness, these pests, like most other moths, are very attracted to all bright lights, which some experts surmise they mistake for moonlight, which they instinctively use as a guide to keep them flying in a straight line at night.
- All The Damage They Cause Is in The Larvae Stage
Adult Indian meal moths do not eat at all and they only live long enough after they emerge from their cocoons to mate and lay eggs. In larval form, however, they do all their damage because they eat constantly and spin massive amounts of silk that collect fecal matter, discarded skins and eggshells in food products.
- Cardboard Containers Are Useless
The majority of insect larvae cannot eat through cardboard, but that is not the case with the Indian Meal Moth. Their ability to chew through soft plastic and cardboard is what makes packaged foods like cereals and stored grains so vulnerable to destruction. Airtight, hard plastic containers are recommended to those involved in the Pittsburgh food processing industry.
- Indian Meal Moths Are Very Difficult To Eliminate
Indian Meal Moths are highly resistant to pesticides because they reside on food. They also are more mobile than other pests and experts have wiped out infestations with the employment of biological agents, including the granulosis virus. Unfortunately, recent studies have indicated that these pests have developed a resistance to this virus and its resilience has made it the most common and destructive stored food pests in the world including the United States.
- Adult Indian Meal Moths Don’t Eat
Fully formed adult moths emerge from their cocoons and live only about a week which is long enough to mate and lay eggs. Conversely, in their larval stage of development they eat constantly.
- Indian Meal Moth Eggs Can Go Dormant
The life span of Indian Meal Moth eggs is affected by temperature changes and these insects have developed a technique to deal with these alterations called diapause. This refers to a period of suspended development in which the eggs go dormant in climes that are either too hot or too cold. Their life cycle resumes when the temperature is sufficient for them to thrive.
- These Moths Can be Cannibalistic
While Indian Meal Moths will normally not eat meat and other animal products, they will sometimes dine on each other. When they do, the target is always the larvae. Unlike other moth species,which are known to eat their own sick larvae in order to conserve resources to raise the healthy ones, Indian Moths prefer to eat their healthy young.
- Indian Meal Moths Prefer Blue Lights
These moths areso attracted to blue lights that farmers in rural Pittsburgh areas and throughout western PA use them to lure these insects to desired areas. This odd phenomenon is due to the fact that these moths do most of their foraging at dusk and at that time most of the available light is blue. They can and do function at other times of the day, but they prefer blue light above all other colors.
- Natural Predators Help Control Their Populations
Mother Nature has helped humanity by providing many predators for Indian Meal Moths. These include: birds, bats, lizards, cats, dogs, and even bears. None of these species are dependant on these moths for their daily diet, but they all eat them whenever they can. This can hopefully always lead to workable, natural strategies should problems with pesticide applications occur.
Their Reproductive Cycle Can Become A Serious Infestation In Weeks
Pittsburgh business managers and owners must beware of how quickly the Indian Meal Moth can reproduce. A female Indian meal moth usually lays up to 400 eggs in one period. Within 14 days these eggs hatch, these young insects emerge and the destruction begins. The larvae spin webs within the food, causing it to become matted, more infested, and contaminated.
As the insects mature, they crawl out of the food packaging and up the walls toward the ceilings of commercial spaces where they form cocoons. Once they reach maturity, the mating process and life cycle begins again, with new females laying more eggs inside the food.
One of the problems with noticing an infestation is the fact that the eggs, which are deposited either on the surface of the grain singularly or in groups of twelve to thirty, are very small in size and are almost impossible to detect without the aid of a microscope. When the larvae become fully grown, they spin a web that creates silken threads on the grain, which makes them visible but already a sign that the infestation is out of hand.
The larvae damage grain by feeding on the seed germ and contaminating it with their webbing and fecal material. When Pittsburgh farmers sell their grain either for human or animal consumption, this feeding cycle reduces the dry weight but at the same time may also increase the grain weight due to water absorption, which in turn can cause mold to form.
Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania owners and managers of food processing plants, warehouses, groceries and granaries should always be alert for signs of infestation. Prevention is ultimately the best strategy to avoid these insect problems, including effective exclusion steps, but as stated earlier, Indian Meal Moths are usually not noticed until it is too late.
One thing that can help is running a grain dryer fan on a regular basis. This increases and helps maintain the temperature of the grain and reduces the build-up of moisture, which the Indian Meal Moths don’t like.
Pittsburgh Extermination & Exclusion Services For Indian Meal Moths
Outside professional help is always the only answer for successfully eliminating these destructive pests. We are a family-owned and operated company and our integrated pest management strategies and solutions are customized to address the specific tactics required to eradicate an Indian Meal Moth infestation.
It all begins with a thorough inspection of the premises to determine the extent of the infestation, the cost and the development of an effective action plan. We will work with each client individually to establish the best course of action at the most affordable price.
Complete Commercial Facility Pest And Hygiene Services
This three-pronged initiative offers a vast array of professional services under the umbrella of one program. Services include the ultimate in pest control, washroom hygiene services provided Enviro-Master and environmental odor and air freshening solutions supplied by Air-Scent.
This special offer ensures that all those who work within the food industry which includes food processing plants, kitchens, granaries, restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets and farmers, can benefit from their integrated pest control and management strategies and environmental odor control and air freshening services.
If you own or operate a commercial, industrial or municipal business facility in Coraopolis, West Mifflin, Sewickley, Fox Chapel, Terentum, Allison Park, Mount Lebanon, Shaler, North Hills, South Hills, Bethel Park, Bridgeville, Clairton, Homestead, Monroeville, White Oak, Haden Hills, North Versailles, Cheswick, Bridgeville, Swissvale, Upper St. Clair, Elizabeth, McKees Rocks, Wexford or any area throughout Pittsburgh and its environs, call us today. We can help save your business from Indian Meal Moth infestation and increase that all-important and sometimes elusive bottom line.
Additional Studies and Statistics About Indian Meal Moths
The goal of the researchers at Lubbock-based Texas Tech University was to build upon previous research that had already established that certain caterpillar species are capable of digesting polyethylene, breaking down this chemical used to make plastic bags and other packaging materials that can hang around landfills for decades (and perhaps even centuries) to disintegrate.
Conducted by Anisha Navlekarand D.Carr and entitled: Comparative Study of Polystyrene and Polyethylene Degradation By Insect Larvae, this study was presented at the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry North America Annual Meeting, in November of 2017.
The researchers fed polyethylene to the larvae of Indian Meal Moths and then carefully examined the bacteria that formed in their guts. Ironically, the destructive larvae are also beneficial to the environment because some of the colonized bacteria identified (Tepidimonas, Pseudomonas, Rhizobiales and Methylobacteriaceae) helped to degrade plastics in the ocean, leading scientists to believe that these pathogens may also have the capacity to shrink landfills.