Q There are a number of moths with gray and red wings inhabiting my kitchen. What are they and how do I get rid of them?
- J.B., Boston
A The Indian meal moth, distinguishable by a rusty-brown outer wing and a grayish-white upper wing, is the most common pantry pest in America.
"It uses foodstuffs such as grain, cereal, flour, macaroni, powdered milk, pet foods, nuts, and even chocolate to lay its eggs," says Lou Ragusa of Boston-based Minuteman Pest Management.
A female lays 100 to 300 tiny eggs in her lifetime, but the infestation can be difficult to spot. Indian meal-moth eggs are so common that most people have consumed them at one time or another because of the quantity that infests stores, warehouses, and delivery trucks that handle food, but the moth eggs are harmless.
People first become aware of them when the moths emerge from eggs.
"Getting rid of the Indian meal moth can be very easy," says Mr. Ragusa. After disposing of infested food items, vacuum spilled flour and other food material at the bottom of cupboards, rather than just washing, which leaves a "paste" in the cracks.
Seal pantry food in airtight plastic containers; these insects are able to chew through cardboard and paper bags of dog food and the like.
The adult moths will die out in two weeks, after which - if your food is properly stored - the infestation should taper off.
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