Waste No Food Challenge — Mothra’s Revenge

by Katy on October 8, 2010 · 31 comments

I’m not sure what I did to the moths, but they sure have it on for me. First, last week I noticed that my clear glass container of sesame seeds had actual flying moths inside, then the unopened 5-lb bag of flour tortilla mix was webby, with little wiggling larvae at the edges.

Gag, gag and double gag!

I finally today went through an entire plastic bin (with tight fitting lid) and threw everything into the compost. This included whole wheat flour, beans, wheat germ, gluten, rice, barley and a number of other grains that I can’t recall at the moment. I still need to look through the rest of my kitchen cupboards, but I’m sure there’s more to this story.

I’m really careful about keeping containers closed, and have even been known to freeze grains when I first buy them, as I am enough of a grown-up to know not to believe in spontaneous generation. I store as much as possible in glass jars, and try not to buy more than I can use in a timely fashion.

And here’s the part that’s putting me over the edge. I have a Japanese teaching assistant moving in with us in a week, and it is not acceptable to have our food infested with anything that wiggles or flies!

I have neither wit nor wisdom to offer here, just frustration and angst.


Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@TheFrugalGirl October 9, 2010 at 2:48 am

My mom has had occasional trouble with this, but I never have. I don’t know why, as we live in the same climate.

I wish I had something more helpful to say!


WilliamB October 9, 2010 at 5:40 am

Faster turnover?

Katy, I have a ton of sympathy to offer you. And empathy – my standing freezer defrosted on me when it was 80% full. It’s painful to have to throw out all that food.


Dooley October 9, 2010 at 10:52 am

I just had the same thing happen. I asked my boyfriend to stick some meat in my freezer as I was preparing to leave town for a conference. I came home three days later and the freezer door was ajar – everything in the freezer had to be tossed. 🙁


jenniwaka October 9, 2010 at 4:11 am

If it’s any consolation, I’m sure the teaching assistant is used to creepies and crawlies. While I’ve never had more than a ladybug infestation living in the States, I had all kinds of invaders in my homes while living in Japan: slugs, huge spiders, cockroaches, mice, centipedes, lizards, little jumpy things in my dry rice…


sarah k. October 9, 2010 at 5:30 am

No ideas, just sympathy.


Tracey H October 9, 2010 at 6:26 am

I find bird seed and pet food the worst for bringing in pantry moths. Bird seed is kept outside and pet food gets frozen for a few days when it enters our house.


Leslie K October 9, 2010 at 6:49 am

Ate a handful of roasted pecans only to later see the wigglies in the container as I put it away. I pretended they were only in the container, not the nuts I just ate. Some people put flour, nuts, etc in freezer to keep wigglies away. I have no room in freezer. Double bags, airtight containers, and you gotta throw things away sometimes – just no getting around it.


Beth D. October 9, 2010 at 6:57 am

The problem may not be your house (to begin with) it could be the grocery store you are buying your flour or cereal from. I have read recently about an upsurge of moths coming from the grocery store and once they get to your house, they take over! I would throw out anything that may contain them and then maybe replace dry goods from a different store. Just make sure not to open the suspected products inside and don’t keep the trash inside or the sneaky bugs will find a way to keep hanging around. Good luck!


Kate October 9, 2010 at 8:48 am

Another “you’re not the only one” story – I work at a health-food store and often order bulk quantities of things we use a lot. So I bought a 10 lb bag of shredded organic mozarella – not cheap, even with my employee discount. Apparently, I didn’t get it frozen in time, and about 7 lbs of it had to be tossed – I almost had to be sedated! Oh, and did I mention that this was right around the time I first stumbled upon you and The Frugal Girl? The shame! I try to realize, however, that I’m doing my best and sometimes things are just beyond my control. 🙂


Lisa October 9, 2010 at 8:48 am

I had a problem with them a few years back, and I went to our local hardware store & purchased a “pantry pest” trap. It was about $3 and had a sticky bottom that had a pheremone (sp?) scent and it wiped them out. Hope that helps – I think it was by Ortho?


Jacquelyn October 9, 2010 at 8:55 am

I had this same problem with pantry moths earlier this year. http://broadbrains.blogspot.com/2010/01/eww-bugs-in-food.html Apparently, they can fit through the tiniest of tiny cracks in containers, eat through a lot off different kinds of hard and soft plastics, and their larva often exist in the food before we even bring it home. Now when I buy flours, grains, nuts, beans, etc that I plan on storing long term, I put them in the deep freeze for at least 24 hours to kill off any pests before I put them into pantry storage. I had to do a deep cleaning/scrub/purge to get rid of them, even though I really only found a few. I didn’t want a recurrence, and (crosses fingers) I haven’t had one since.
It really doesn’t have anything to do with how good of a housekeeper you are, they are just really sneaky buggers and we have to watch out for them and be really thorough about cleaning them out when we do find them.


CC October 9, 2010 at 10:30 am

I once had a science project going in the cabinet and didn’t know it. I noticed we all of the sudden had spider webs living in a cabinet I keep dry grains in. Decided to clear off the shelves and clean everything up. In one box was bugs. It made me wonder how long they had been there and how much had the spiders ate. After the clean up no more spiders showed up so I guess all the bugs were gone.LOL


Molly On Money October 9, 2010 at 2:21 pm

This happen to me the time we decided to go a month without buying groceries. I opened up the oatmeal to find it full of crawly worms. I fed it to the chickens, who by the way, had gone on strike and were not laying eggs! Hence, the reason I was having oatmeal!


Tracy Balazy October 9, 2010 at 3:18 pm

I found short, white, soft, worm-looking things (not moving) in a jar of grocery-store sliced jalapenos, and the peppers weren’t expired or anything. Does anyone know, ARE these worms?


Practical Parsimony October 9, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Everything Jacqueline said–good post.

Pantry Pest at Lowe’s is what I am using to trap all the males it will attract. Put out many of the traps.

There is a $142. option that uses male and female hormones to trap both, unlike the Pantry Pest. I came home from two-weeks at a friend’s house and brought these monsters. Even one grain of escaped oats attracted moths and had webs all over it. I find the horrid little worms before they become moths. I have become adept at swooping down with one had to capture/crush them. My only fear is that I have mailed something to my daughter’s home that is infested. They will turn to cloth and paper if they don’t have food. I have too much food stored to start tossing it all. I know they can chew through plastic bags, but that is my first line of defense right now. Tupperware and glass work better.
I am to the point that I am going to put all the beans and rice in glass jars and see what starts growing in the jars. That way, I will know exactly what is infested. If you put things in jars, the rubber seal that is on used canning lids will keep anything out IF the lids are on really tight.

One guy at Lowe’s said, “Just put bombs in your house.” Good grief! Don’t I look like I know about bombs? I am looking for a better answer.

Cracks are the likely places I need to put diatomaceous earth into. Monday, I am taking the Pantry Pest trap full of moths to the County Agent to see exactly the genus and species of these moths. Maybe he will have other non-lethal-to-me ideas that are not outrageously expensive.

I am really ashamed of this problem. I thought it was licked a few weeks ago! I was embarassed when one flew out of my purse at the grocery store. Maybe no one saw it.


Practical Parsimony October 9, 2010 at 7:14 pm

I attack the moths with a swoop of my hand. I don’t do that to worms. Sometimes I just play patty cake with the moths!


Sara October 9, 2010 at 7:31 pm

Whoa, I am so sorry to hear about your (and the other commenters) problems with the pests. When we lived in NC i used to keep flour, etc in their original paper bags and just put them inside regular grocery bags and never had a problem. Now that we are in the Corvallis, OR area I’m thinking it will be a different story – we are renting a 50 year old house that already has a problem with sugar ants. I bought a ton of glass and ceramic jars from Goodwill to store flour/sugar/grains in and we also have a deep freezer I am keeping things in as well. I am keeping my fingers crossed but now I am wondering about our oatmeal, cereals, and nuts!


WilliamB October 10, 2010 at 4:26 am

Sara’s comment reminds me that NONWORKING fridges and freezers make excellent sealed environments. Another advantage is that broking fridges are cheap (just make sure they’re not leaking coolants or anything). I knew someone who finangled one from a house renovation.


Melissa October 10, 2010 at 6:49 am

Sara- I used a little sugar ant trap to get them out (you put this clear liquid stuff that they love to eat, then they take it back to their nest, and it kills them), and then I put chili powder along the window sills they were using to sneak in, and they haven’t been back. Simple and cheap. The ant stuff really attracts them, so you have to get used to the sight of them all lined up around it gorging, but they don’t then move on to other places.


laura October 9, 2010 at 7:39 pm

I’ve never wasted as much food as when I was dealing with pantry moths. It went on forever while I reluctantly pitched things here and there. Finally, I realized that without a complete clear-out I’d waste more in the long run. I got rid of everything–even removing cans because they like to lay eggs under the labels. Once the cabinets were emptied, I removed the shelves inside and wiped them down. I let them sit empty for a day and then replaced my staples….but, all dry goods were put into glass right away and the cardboard and paper packaging pitched. I removed labels on the canned goods and then wrote what was inside them with sharpie markers. The problem was totally eliminated and after awhile I didn’t need to be as diligent, but having gone through it once I’d never take the “little here and there” clear-out process again because eventually you’ll end up dealing with a bigger infestation.

Our condo was on the market at the time so drastic measures were needed. I’m glad though, now I know.

p.s. I got rid of everything-even cupcake wrappers, packages of food coloring, spices etc…Drastic, but with good results.


Katy October 9, 2010 at 11:13 pm

Under the labels on canned foods?! Kill me now. 🙁



Deb October 9, 2010 at 10:36 pm

I live in a somewhat rural area in the woods, so I have pests galore here. However, I like to keep 3-6 months of emergency staples on hand so I buy in bulk. No I’m not one of those hunkered down survivalists, but if an emergency happens, I want enough to help my neighbors out too.

I purchased (found reasonably priced on Ebay) some food grade buckets with super tight fitting lids. I also purchased mylar food storage bags. I purchased large glass storage jars locally, and of course have jars gleaned from thrift stores/garage sales.

I first dole out the bulk dried goods items into reasonably sized mylar food bags, then seal the bags shut with my Food Saver, put the date & content on the seam of the bag, then I leave the bags in the freezer for at least 24 hours. After that, I transfer the sealed bags of dry goods into the food grade buckets & put them in my storage cellar. I’m very mindful to rotate my stock.

I use large glass jars & canning lids/rings for beans, lentils, etc. I keep our brown/wild rice in glass jars in the fridge because brown rice has oil that can actually go rancid, it doesn’t have a long shelf life.

It’s totally worth the effort. Here in the woods, I’ve never had a problem with weavils and moths in the food. When I lived in the city, I actually had a lot more problems because I didn’t use proper food storage techniques. You just cannot leave dry goods in their original packaging, it’s a magnet for pests.

Honeetly, if you like buying in bulk, invest in those mylar food storage bags & food grade buckets. They’re reusable and they’ll save you lots of $$ in the long run.


Bellen October 10, 2010 at 6:20 am

Besides freezing the food, transferring to glass containers, using and cleaning out the storage area, don’t forget to thoroughly clean the shelf supports. For me, when I had an infestation from packaged raisins, it meant swabbing out, with an alcohol saturated swab, all the little holes that make repositioning the shelves easy. What a chore!! But I’ve never had an infestation again.

Also, if you buy in bulk from a store with those self-serve dispensers – look carefully at all the bins in the same row, above and below. In CT, the Health Dept required that if the grain moths were found in a bin, ALL the adjoining bins had to be emptied and contents destroyed , bins had to be sterilized and then refilled with new product.


Blackgirlinmaine October 10, 2010 at 6:32 am

Ugh. I had a pantry moth infestation a couple of summers ago and it took a good month or so to get rid of them. I ended up having to get rid of every dry item in the cabinets, then washing down the cabinets with bleach. I also waited a good couple of weeks before I put anything back in the cabinets. From my experience you have to get rid of everything that they could possibly be living in, otherwise you are constantly dealing with them. My el cheapo husband fought against that but after tossing out stuff and still dealing with them it was the only way.

In my case we believe the culprit was bulk sunflower seeds I had purchased from the health food store. After that incident I started freezing all bulk grains and flour for a good 24 hours and using glass jars. I did have a moth in a glass jar earlier this year and I took the entire jar and dumped it in the outside garbage. Thankfully that worked and there was no wide spread issues this summer.


Erin October 10, 2010 at 4:57 pm

I hate throwing food away also, but sometimes it can’t be helped. Last weekend I made a large batch of soup and a double box of mac & cheese with milk that I hadn’t yet realized was already two days past the expiration date. We still ate them that day, but the rest had to be dumped. I’m not willing to risk making the entire family sick just to prove a point. 🙁


Practical Parsimony October 11, 2010 at 12:19 am

Sour milk will not make you ill. I put milk on the counter for 24 hours to make buttermilk. Use buttermilk and milk, 1:3. Voila! Buttermilk. Yogurt and other dairy products are the result of “souring.”


Jacquelyn October 13, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Unfortunately, the Ultra-Pasteurized milk sold in grocery stores has lost all the good bacteria that causes milk to ‘sour’ into a delicious cultured product. UP milk just goes bad. 🙁 Although, I would still drink it past the expiry date if it didn’t smell or taste bad. It’s pretty obvious when it goes.


Practical Parsimony October 15, 2010 at 12:32 am

Jacqueline, I drank half a gallon of soured milk by putting Hershey’s Quik in it. Unfortunately, at that time I was hitting the Quik pretty heavily. I didn’t become ill. Maybe I was lucky? Oh, and I save soured milk now to use with a little vinegar or lemon juice as a substitute for buttermilk in baking. I probably will continue to use soured milk since there is only me to poison!


Anne Marie @ Married to the Empire October 11, 2010 at 9:36 am

Ewwww. HATE that problem! I usually buy my cornmeal in bulk, then put it in a sealed container in my pantry. Last week, I discovered it had little worms in it. Gross gross gross!

My panty is tiny, so I have my overflow pantry in the garage. As soon as I bring home things like flour or sugar, I seal them into bread bags that I keep out there. I figure it keeps critters out, and if anything is already in it, they’ll be contained.

I had to throw away several items from my freezer last week. They got buried in there and were just too old and looked freezer burned. I hate it when I have to toss stuff like that! But in that case, it’s my own dumb fault for not keeping better track of what’s in there.


Jennifer October 12, 2010 at 5:29 pm

Oh, I’m so sorry! Very painful indeed.


Dottie October 12, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Sorry to hear about ur problem… Like several other people commented, a thorough cleaning & then air-tight storage of food will prevent future problems.

And the little guys can go EVERYWHERE – I found some in a few stuffed toys that I had in another room. But, if the new food is in air-tight containers, any moths that you might miss in cleaning, will not be able to re-contaminate it.

I’ve found that canning jars are the ONLY for-sure AIR-TIGHT storage containers available. For larger volumes, I use the wide-mouth half-gallon jars, while smaller volumes are nice in the wide-mouth quart jars. Of course, if you’re not sure if the new food that you’re buying is “clean”, it can be placed in the freezer for 48 hrs to kill any insects… Then, allow to come to room temp, and store in the jars. GOOD LUCK!


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