Are pantry moths harmful?

Written by edriaan koening
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Are pantry moths harmful?
Pantry moths feed on stored foods, such as flour. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Pantry pests destroy millions of pounds worth of stored foods and other edible products every year. The moths that infest food products include grain moths and Indian meal moths. People often throw away food products infested by pantry moths because of the contamination and risk of diseases.


Pantry moths mainly cause contamination damage to infested foods. They leave various by-products in the food containers, including cocoons, webbing, excrement, dead bodies and skins. As the pantry moths feed on the food materials and move around, they spin silken threads that cause food particles to stick together in webs. These materials make infested materials unsafe for consumption. In some infestations, pantry moths even cause bacterial decay in the affected foods.

Secondary infestations

When pantry moths infest food products, they break down containers, such as paper boxes and plastic bags. As the food materials spill out of the containers and the containers develop holes, the food may attract other food pests, such as cockroaches, rats, mice, beetles, weevils and mites. These pests can cause a more extensive contamination and transmit various diseases to humans.


Because infested food materials become exposed to the environment, bacteria may also be present and affect people who consume them. Other microorganisms that may affect moth-infested foods include microbes and fungi. Cooking the infested food products may not kill these microorganisms. You also can't remove them by hand because of their tiny size. As such, you often have to destroy foods infested by pantry moths to prevent digestive problems.

Rescuing food items

You don't have to dispose moth-infested foods. You can kill harmful organisms by subjecting infested foods to extreme heat in the oven at 48.8 to 54.4 degrees C (120 to 130 degrees) for 30 minutes to one hour. Alternatively, you can also heat the foods in the microwave for five minutes, submerging them in boiling water for six to 10 seconds or freezing them at zero degrees for four days. You can then sift the foods to remove the moths.

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