Moth wars

I am plagued by tiny gray/brown moths in my pantry. Every time I open the door I find one to three moths on the walls, ceiling or packages. I have tossed out every food that could possibly attract them but they're still alive and well. What can I do without contaminating my food?

— Barbara K., Ashland

We went straight to the pest experts on this one, Barbara.

Specifically, we bugged Marsha Waite at the Master Gardener Program in the Jackson County OSU extension office. Not only is the longtime master gardener the plant clinic coordinator but she also teaches entomology and integrated pest management.

In other words, she has no fear of insects, be they journalists or other crawly creatures.

She immediately identified your problem as most likely Indian meal moths or Mediterranean flour moths.

The creatures lay their eggs in certain foods which often end up in the pantry, she explained.

"Not only do they get into anything made with flour, they can also contaminate things like spices, powdered milk, dried fruits or nuts," she said.

"When they are done feeding, they crawl up walls or find secluded places and pupate there," she added. "After they are done pupating, they hatch out into adult moths."

Aside from canned goods, she recommends you freeze everything in the pantry for a week, Barbara.

"That will kill anything that might have slipped in," she said, noting the eggs may have arrived inside a sealed package. "The larvae can eat their way out of cardboard boxes and plastic packaging.

"You need to clean out the cupboard and take a vacuum with a wand and suck out corners, shelves and cracks," she continued. "We don't recommend spraying anything. Just clean it out very well."

For added peace of mind, you can buy pantry moth traps at the local Grange Co-op, she noted.

If you have any follow-up questions, we highly recommend you call the OSU extension service office at 541-776-7371 where you are never considered a pest.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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