What Are Pantry Moths?

By Brenda Priddy; Updated April 24, 2017

The pantry moth, or Indian meal moth, is a household pest that can contaminated and ruin foods. The moth does not harm humans or animals, but it does cause problems with food storage. Knowing the life cycle of the moth can help control the population and prevent it from infecting foods in your home.


The pantry moth and larva have a distinct appearance. The adult moth is grayish-brown, and the wing tips are a rusty brown. Brown speckles are spotted over the body of the moth. The moth is about half an inch long and has a wingspan of just over half an inch. The moth larva look like small, thin grubs. The bodies of the caterpillars are about 2/3 of an inch long. They are typically white or yellow in color, but may sometimes have a green or pink tint.


The diet of the pantry moth is items that are commonly found in household pantries, which is where the moth gets its name. The caterpillar will eat dried foods commonly found in the pantry, such as nuts, grains, cereal, flour, herbs and pasta. The caterpillar can eat through thin plastic and cardboard or paper bags. The adult moths do not eat at all, spending their week of life breeding to create new caterpillars.

Life Cycle

The adult moths lay eggs during their week of life. The eggs develop for a few weeks, then hatch as small caterpillars. The caterpillars' main goal is to eat and get as fat as possible, so they can wreck devastation in food supplies. The caterpillars are ready to form pupas in about one month to six weeks. The caterpillars create their pupas and develop into the moths after about two months. The adult moths then emerge and breed. About four life cycles of moths can be completed in one year.


Controlling the moths can be difficult, but it is not impossible. Discard all contaminated food away from the house. Clean out the entire pantry with soap and water to kill all dormant eggs that may be present. Keep food in thick storage containers, such as thick plastic or glass containers. Use nontoxic moth traps in the pantry to collect any stray moths after cleaning. Monitor the kitchen closely to eliminate any future infestations.

About the Author

Brenda Priddy has more than 10 years of crafting and design experience, as well as more than six years of professional writing experience. Her work appears in online publications such as Donna Rae at Home, Five Minutes for Going Green and Daily Mayo. Priddy also writes for Archstone Business Solutions and holds an Associate of Arts in English from McLennan Community College.