For the last few months, my home office has been plagued with these annoying fluttering moths. I swat them as fast as I see them, but their numbers have been increasing, and last night was the worst — they were trying to fly up my nose, my ears, my wherevers, and there was just a cloud of them in the house. It was these guys:

Rice moths. Ick. Evil incarnate. We finally realized where they were coming from — the kitchen pantry is right next to my office. I had proudly stashed away maybe 50 pounds of dry goods, in preparation for the zombie apocalypse, and they had found my repository. Everything was double bagged, wrapped in plastic and stashed in storage containers, so I thought we were safe.

No, we were not safe.

We went through the containers and found that almost everything contained eggs and web clusters (except the lentils — apparently they don’t care much for lentils). Everything had to be thrown out. We dismantled all the pantry shelves and washed them down with bleach and hosed everything down. I wanted to cleanse it with fire, but Mary thought soap, water, and bleach would do the job. We’ve got some glass canisters that will go in the pantry once we’ve reassembled everything.

This was not how I wanted to spend my Saturday, but at least I can say the moth swarm in my office is currently greatly diminished.

I need more spiders in my house, although maybe the rice moths were just too disgusting to consume.


  1. Snidely W says

    This is basically how I learned that grain moth larvae have no problem boring through plastic bags.
    Only solids form a sufficient barrier.
    Every grain product I buy now goes straight into a hard container when I get back from the store.
    Rice, barley, groats, oatmeal, hot cereals, everything.
    It sucks when you have a real hankering for something, only to find it perfused with these buggers.

  2. says

    PZ, I’m surprised. You are in so many ways astute and observant. But, you just did not recognize that those rice moths ARE the zombie apocalypse!
    Occasionally the eggs of ‘zombies pests’ are already in the grains you buy. @1 Snidely W has the right idea. It’s a little more expensive, but mason jars or ‘tupperware-like’ containers that seal are best.
    Those moths aren’t even a good source of protein like some fried insects.

  3. birgerjohansson says

    I know infest and infect are different words, otherwise you would get a link to Infect me with your love by The The.
    Silverfish are mercifully not so good at chewing through thick plastic boxes, so I have invested in a lot of those surprisingly expensive things.

    More unwanted things: 50 people in Uganda has Ebola. FUUUUUCK.

  4. markgisleson says

    It sounds like your prepper reserves came with the bugs/eggs already included. If you buy rice in bulk, buy it from an Asian grocery store. I have never had this problem with Three Ladies, Double Horses, Royal Umbrella or Hmong Family brands. I have a 50# bag leaned up against the refrigerator at all times and the only thing keeping the bugs out is a plastic clip.

  5. aronymous says

    When I was young I read that you can build a moth trap using a jar with some water,
    waxed paper and a light source. You curl the paper into a half funnel in the mouth of the
    jar and the light behind it. The moth flies at the light, slips on the paper and falls into
    the water. It sounded perfect but I never got it to work. Who knew that some moths aren’t attracted
    to light?

  6. raven says

    This is basically how I learned that grain moth larvae have no problem boring through plastic bags.

    Yeah, I’ve seen this also.

    I sometimes bought multiple 1 lb bags of rice and put them on a shelf.
    Until the Mediterranean pantry moths appeared.
    They will chew through plastic bags without any problems and lay their eggs.
    You can see the holes where they get in.

    I put everything they will attack in tight plastic containers.

  7. moarscienceplz says

    Well PZ, I find it most amusing that you were finally done in by invertebrates!
    But yeah, as someone who is still an omnivore, but finding much joy in exploring non-meat food (I’ve kinda stumbled my way to a vegan kinda-sorta Black Bean Chili that I am currently addicted to), I do feel your pain. I have a number of glass clamp-lid jars to store my beans and grains, but they all came with rubber gaskets that have mostly cracked and failed. I am researching silicone gasket replacements, but if anyone out there can give me a personal review of any of them, I would love that.

  8. says

    Did you add dish soap to the water? If not, many critters can just climb right out.
    I’ve found that a dish filled with soap and vinegar is very good for getting rid of various insects. The vinegar attracts them and the soap ensures that they drown.

  9. blf says

    According to the mildly deranged penguin, lentils are their tripods (albeit she says the moths rarely come from Mars anymore, due to having eaten all the native Martain crops — the real reason Mars is now mostly uninhabited (the other reason being the Ice Warriors have left)). Anyways, lentils are the moths tripods. That’s why there didn’t seem to be any in those colonies, the moths were either safely encased in their trilenpodtils, or had migrated to the other colonies, some of which you found.

  10. aronymous says

    I don’t remember if I used detergent but I remember setting it up in our garage when there was a moth flying around, in the dark,… and nothing.

    A friend bought some rural property years ago and was infested with wasps. Thousands of them. He put out a dish of soapy water and suspended a piece of cooked chicken about a half inch over the water. When they fly off they dip down before their wings beat enough to get them airborne. Soon the dish is full of corpses. It was a week or two, then no more wasps.

  11. brightmoon says

    I found that the only thing that got rid of mine was rinsing the glass, ceramic and metal containers I keep my grains and sugar in , with boiling water ( yeah you heard that right . They got in those too) . I washed my shelves too

  12. TGAP Dad says

    We had the same exact problem in my house about 15 years ago with indianmeal moths, again with no problem boring through sealed packaging and flimsy plastic containers. We, like you, had to throw everything out and restock. We learned to love of glass and tin/steel containers after that, and all of them are air tight as well. As a bonus, your brown sugar stays moist forever in glass mason jars.

  13. raven says

    Everything had to be thrown out.

    I put grain like that in my bird feeder.
    They could care less if there is an occasional moth larvae in there.

  14. Oggie: Mathom says

    Completely and totally meta:

    blf, your is a very strange mind. Very. Strange. Very.

    By the by, Wife and I, last night for dinner, had a nice cheese board with some mild brie, some Vermont cheddar, some New York cheddar, and some dark rum salami. And I still cannot tell the difference between Vermont and New York cheddar. Other than the shape of the state on the labelling.

  15. Oggie: Mathom says

    And, per the actual subject of the post, Wife and I were having problems with little tiny grey moths. Always one or two fluttering around the house. Haven’t seen them in about two months, but I know they are hiding. SOmewhere.

  16. says

    I have a small army of mice that I bet would eat them. And a snake to cap the mouse population. In principle. Want me to trap ’em and fedex them out? Maybe toss in a Mastriano or an Oz? We’re overrun with creatures that gnaw on stuff and poop all over, out here in Pa.

  17. hemidactylus says

    I recall my total war against the carpet beetles. Many lives were lost. Oatmeal may have been a culprit but I read they have a hankering for pet hair.

  18. Tethys says

    Pheromone moth traps are pretty effective at controlling various moths that infest human houses.

    They are species specific, but you can get them for meal moths and clothes moths. They have a sticky film that traps the males, so are good for monitoring for any insects while being very safe to use in food storage areas.

  19. seachange says

    11 @ Erlend

    Vegan Zombies eat GRRRAAAAAAIIIINSSSZ!

    My cats hunt down and maim the free flying ones, but that’s only if they get into those cabinets or they fly out. Spiders and cats appear to be mostly useless against these guys. Me, I replace my earthquake supplies on the regular, and rotate new stuff in and take old stuff out.

  20. blf says

    I still cannot tell the difference between Vermont and New York cheddar.

    The mildly deranged penguin notes this is probably because they are the same cheese, the plants migrate between the two locations, albeit for no discernible reason — not annually, not seasonally, not cyclically (e.g., 17-year cicada), not even because the Internet connections are better in one place or the other. Whilst the critters the plants graze on do differ slightly — pizza-fed rats are not quite the same as rat-feed owls — the cheese plant’s erratic migratory patterns makes it very difficult to tell from the taste where the plant was trapped. There are claims the curses differ (both in content and accent), but as the plants are very carefully hit with big hammers (or in the more traditional method, with cricket bats) and dried before the cheeses are extracted, you’ll rarely hear the difference once presented on a cheese board.

  21. chrislawson says

    If the apocalypse comes, it won’t be the nukes, microbes, or zombies that wipe out humanity, it’ll be the pests.

  22. Oggie: Mathom says

    the plants migrate between the two locations

    Must be an interesting migration as it means crossing the Hudson River (or Lake Champlain) the Adirondack Mountains, the Catskill Mountains, or up the Mohawk Valley (not to mention crossing the New York Thruway (which, despite Arlo Guthrie’s announcement has NOT been closed).

    albeit for no discernible reason

    I can think of many good reasons, not least of which is the Brewery Ommegang is located in New York, not Vermont (though Vermont does have Catamount Brewery . . . )
    not annually, not seasonally, not cyclically (e.g., 17-year cicada), not even because the Internet connections are better in one place or the other
    I have this vision of Curetcaseus septentrionalis riding bicycles across Northern New York state. Thank you.

    Whilst the critters the plants graze on do differ slightly — pizza-fed rats are not quite the same as rat-feed owls — the cheese plant’s erratic migratory patterns makes it very difficult to tell from the taste where the plant was trapped.

    But the rat fed pizzas are both rare and dangerous. And the erratic migratory patterns are mostly due to the rural habit of shooting all roadsigns full of holes from shotguns, rifles, handguns, blunderbusses, arquebus, Greyhoud bus, wrist rocket, RGP (Ручной Противотанковый Гранатомёт, which means handheld anti-tank grenade launcher (so it should really be an HATGL (except that it really is RPG in Russian (РПГ)))), not to mention restrictive volleys against the special master.

    There are claims the curses differ

    That is why, when delivering curses over long distances, you should use curse control.

    (both in content and accent)

    Which is why I was drinking Constant Content tea and speaking with a North East Pennsylvania Brogeu.

    but as the plants are very carefully hit with big hammers

    Wooden, brass, steel or depleted uraniaum?

    (or in the more traditional method, with cricket bats)

    I’m sorry. Any sport that takes days to complete one ‘game’ and that can be played while drunk, cannot be a sport (which is why fishing is also not a sport (yes, you can fish while drunk))
    and dried before the cheeses are extracted,
    Dried and extracted sounds suspiciously like either American-style cheese food product or British Industrial Cheddar. This was neither. Both were Wegman’s (or, if you follow the Great and Powerful Idiot of Oz, Wegners) store brand and quite good.

    you’ll rarely hear the difference once presented on a cheese board.

    Both do make much the same sound when being munched, but I was referring to something called taste. Which, from my years of discussions near blf, at blf, and past blf, is something that blf seems to be lacking. Her Majesty the Penguin, however, I will never against her say a word (mostly because she scares me).

    One of our cats used to hunt moths. One of them was deathly afraid of them. The other two ignored them as either hunting them or being frightened by them would have both taken energy.

  23. Oggie: Mathom says

    And I just read my writing which I wrot and writed, and realized that Ommegang Triple must be stronger than I thought.

  24. silvrhalide says

    @4 Usually this is the case. The insect eggs are already in the rice, oatmeal, whatever staple grains/legumes and will hatch out if not boiled or eaten prior to the hatching.

    I’ve had excellent success in getting rid of the problem by putting the food in the microwave at low power for a few seconds (how long depends on the amount of the food). It seems to disrupt the hatching. I’ve always put the food in borosilicate glass containers because I don’t like the way plastic picks up food odors.

    As for getting rid of the moths once they’ve appeared, Tiny Game Hunters is a book I’ve always found useful for getting rid of pests without poisoning yourself, small children or the household pets.
    Or just get a younger cat.

    @7 IKEA makes interchangeable lids for variously sized borosilicate glass containers. Hard plastic top, silicone gasket. The nice thing about them is that most of the glass jars all take the same size lids.

  25. wyst says

    FWIW, I assume newly purchased grains are preinfested, so they go into the freezer overnight, before going into containers. Although in Minn, that might happen by accident just from sitting in a delivery truck during winter.

  26. redwood says

    My bedroom faces west and usually gets a ladybug infestation. They seclude themselves in all the window and sliding door cracks. If I leave one of those open, then I’ll get them all over the ceiling, from which they end up inside my overhead light fixture (it has a big glass cover). They’ll stay there over winter and then leave when it gets warm enough in the spring or when I forget about them and open a window or sliding door and get a ladybug cascade.

  27. R. L. Foster says

    Pantry moths. Like you I was confused about what they were at first. Where the hell did they come from, I wondered? I finally discovered that mine seem to have found their way into my pantry via Indian grown Basmati rice. An unopened, 5 lb. bag was teaming with their larvae. But, by then, they’d bored through plastic bags and cardboard boxes to infest cereal, oatmeal, crackers, flour, everything that wasn’t stored in glass or thick plastic. I had to take the scorched earth approach, too. Many dollars worth of food had to be dumped. Then I searched all of the dark corners and crannies of my pantry. The first campaign wasn’t 100% successful. So, a few weeks later I found another sources: a tall glass jar of cornmeal with one of those springy latches. The larvae had somehow slipped under the rubber seal and set up shop. It took me about two months before I finally saw the last of them.

  28. rabbitbrush says

    I had an infestation of those damned moths a few years ago. I used pheromone traps, with what I thought was fair success. And then there was an explosion of moths. They were everywhere and unrelenting. They even had managed to invade a gallon glass jar full of dehydrated sour cherries that I had spent much time pitting. THAT really pissed me off, ruining all those cherries. The jar had a screw-on metal lid. How the heck…?

    I finally found the source when I saw swarms of those moths in the garage, more than any other location. They had to be breeding somewhere in there. I looked in a 25 lb bag of black oil sunflower seeds someone had given me to feed yard birds. A huge cloud of moths puffed out. The seeds were wriggling with larvae. YUCK! Seeds be gone! The moth problem soon disappeared. So far. Knock on wood.

  29. StevoR says

    @24. chrislawson : “If the apocalypse comes, it won’t be the nukes, microbes, or zombies that wipe out humanity, it’ll be the pests.”

    It’ll probly be a combo of factors, pests included. Likely Global Overheating (“Warming” is too misleadingly mild a term for it) combined by pandemics, war, starvation and technology collapsing on people who are too used to the benefits of that technology i.e. people like me. With connections between Global Overheating and the other usual “horsemen” i.e. starvation caused by crops being lost due to extreme weather events and that sparking and exacerbating conflicts and hackers & cybercrooks then crashing things maybe as part of that war.. whilst thawing permafrost and disappearing jungle leads to more deadly pandemics breaking out.

    Back on topic; Bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) may have some deterrent / preventative effect so I’ve heard? Googles .. Hmm :

    Bay leaves are effective at repelling various insects that infest grains, including flour beetles and mealworms, reported a February 2016 study published in the ​Iran Red Crescent Medical Journal​. Further, the study showed that some insects are more susceptible than others to bay leaves, in which the leaves actually act as an insecticide and not just a repellent. These include maize weevils, wheat weevils, and the red flour beetle. These are all pests that generally infest grain storage areas rather than homes.

    There is no available scientific evidence that bay leaves are effective against the common pantry moth, although several internet sites claim this is the case. But there is also no apparent evidence that bay leaves are not effective, so there is no harm in placing some dried bay leaves in the containers where you keep your grains, such as rice and flour.

    Source :