Long-Term Storage : Know your Enemy The Moth

In Preparednessby M.D. Creekmore14 Comments

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.


  1. Articles like this are what I want; not videos. I can gather information faster by reading, and retain it better than listening to someone speak it.

    1. Author

      Robert Slaughter,

      I’m sorry that you don’t like videos. That’s fine, but you are not the only one who reads and or watches and a lot of people have told me that they love the videos. You can use read articles as they are posted but skip over the videos if that’s what you want to do. That is up to you. Thanks.

  2. It’s a good practice to place foods such as rice, beans, flour, etc. in the freezer for a couple of days to kills any unhatched larvae which may be in them (and they’re there, believe me). Once I’ve done this, I remove them and allow them to come to room temperature before vacuum sealing them in glass jars. I plan on using some mylar bags with oxygen absorbers in the future, but so far have had 100% success with the vaccum seal in glass jar method.

  3. Great article of personal experience.

    This is why people need to get together and TALK. You WILL find others with experience in your problem areas. That’s why we encourage “Meet Ups”. Get to know others with similar mindsets! Classes are helpful, but I get just as much out of “chats over coffee” as from formal training.

    We are fortunate. Where we live we have very little bug problems. I has saved me a fortune in having to throw away items that got ruined while I learned (mostly by ourselves).

  4. Great advise. And if it isn’t moths, it’s the larvae of another bug of the year. Mine are in my upper cupboards. I spend twice a year, spring and fall, going through the cupboards just to keep those nasty little things from taking hold of my jars. I also put dry products in the freezer before I put them in mylar bags.

  5. Great article, also i know people that have bought food from health food stores, all organic, nothing but. i went in such store with my friend and walked over to a shelf of organic flour, rice and wheat and touched a bag, moths came from every where. Be careful where you buy, just saying…..

  6. Great article, sorry you lost so much of your preps. Thank You for sharing your experience with the community in hopes we won’t go through the same.

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