by Bandurasbox – AKA Salena.
Not too long ago, my husband took a three-week-long business trip to the West coast. Although he has traveled often domestically and abroad for his job in the past, this trip was particularly difficult for me and our special needs son.
Our son was out of school for the summer, and because he has special needs, he requires more monitoring and care than most children. I was working on a difficult semester in the Ph.D. program to which I am involved. To add to this typical stress, several things around the house needed repairs that couldn’t wait.
One morning as I was putting on my running shoes, I noticed a moth flying around in our walk-in closet. A brief look through our clothing led me to find several more. Needless to say, I was not the least bit thrilled. Although our house is not that large, our walk-in closet is rather roomy. As a result, we store more than clothing in there, including books, backpacks, my husband’s military equipment, uniforms, and our food preps.
Once I determined how to get rid of the moths, I began tackling a tiring job without any assistance. I moved everything out of the closet except for our food stores. I spent several days washing every article of clothing in hot water, and those that couldn’t be washed were dry cleaned or placed in the freezer. I sealed off the closet until my DH came home and I had his help cleaning the walls, shelves, and floor. We undertook this with a vengeance!
We covered the food stores with visqueen, and vacuumed all of the larvae. Then we scrubbed the shelves, ceiling, and walls with bleach water. Once that dried, we vacuum the floors and coated the whole closet with Permethrin. The closet was sealed off for four days before we began moving everything back in.
Flash forward to a recent morning. As my husband was getting dressed for work, he noticed moth larvae all over the walls and ceiling. We were both very frustrated as you can imagine. All of that work for nothing as the pesky critters had come back with a greater vengeance that our cleaning efforts.
He took off work and once again, we began a second cleaning effort. This time, however, we consulted our neighbor who is in pest control. He said he would come over and spray once we had everything moved out of the closet. Everything, including the food preps.
We gathered as many boxes as we could find to put the food in and once we started moving it, we noticed the rice had live larvae inside the bags. Both hubby and I felt like idiots at this point. Our “moth patrol” efforts had been in vein.
Being unfamiliar with moths, and since neither of us had any experience with clothes moths, we both assumed this was the pest with which we were dealing. As it turned out, we had an Indian meal (pantry) moths all along. Our first cleaning effort was a waste of time because we left all of the infested food in the closet. As a result, the moths were safe and had a nice clean breeding ground with lots of food to eat.
We were able to salvage about half of the food we had been storing in our closet for five years. We lost hundreds of dollars of rice, beans, dry potatoes, pasta, snacks, Ramen, and powdered milk. We were heartbroken that so much had to be thrown out, but relieved that we were finally able to identify our enemy thereby gaining a permanent solution to the problem. We also learned that our food storage practices had to change.
We will now store our dry foods in sealed Mylar bags inside of sealed buckets. It’s pricier than just stacking things on a closet shelf, but not anywhere near as pricey as losing hundreds of dollars in contaminated food.
An important lesson we learned is that it is crucial to know your enemy. Had we have spent the time to educate ourselves on the different types of moths, we could well have saved ourselves some time, some energy, and a great deal of frustration.
This lesson goes a long way not only in our experience with insects but in our lives as preppers. We weren’t able to share our moth experience with but a few people because we were fearful that being “exposed” as a preparedness family could jeopardize our safety in the event of a WTSHTF scenario.
Fortunately for us, we trust our neighbor who is in pest control. We take care of his dog when he is busy or out of town. He loves our son, and he watches over our property when we travel. He is now interested in participating in preparedness efforts. Thankfully, he owns and knows how to use his firearms, and his loyalty to us give us the encouragement to “bring him on board”, so to speak.
One thing I would like for you to take away from this: We learned that pantry moth exists on bags of beans and rice and other malleable food items before they are brought into our homes. If you purchase your stores from places that have large warehouses (Sam’s, Walmart, Target, Kroger, Publix, etc.), you run the risk of introducing pantry moths to your home.
In the south, it’s very common. My best advice is to check the bags/packages for larvae prior to purchase, and not store them in an open-air area (closet, garage, etc). The best storage practices involve the reduction of air/oxygen and humidity. It will save you what can end up being a ton of money and a great deal of stress.