A moth can wreak havoc on about anything. Have you ever noticed an infestation in your grains? They are notorious for laying eggs in your flour and rice. They will also invade your grain bins and silos where you store your freshly harvested products.
Moths that feed on your grains are the Indian Meal Moth. This moth is also known as the grain moth, flour moth, weevil moth, and pantry moth. It is the most common species, that will infest your stored grains.
Moth Life Cycle
The life cycle of a moth is about 30 to 35 Days. This is from the time the egg is laid and the moth dies. Due to the short lifespan of a moth, it is difficult to get an infestation under control because there is always a next generation started.
A female moth will lay an average of 150 eggs but can lay up to 300 eggs in her life. The eggs will hatch in about a week’s time. These eggs are grayish white in color and are very small. You usually don’t notice the eggs when they are in your grains, what you will notice is the larvae.
The larvae are internal borers in the grain, feeding on the starchy part. The larval stage is about three weeks. The caterpillar is yellowish white in color with a brown head. The larvae hatch and soon bore into the grain and start to feed. Before pupation the larva will construct a silk cocoon in the hole made in the grain from feeding. The pupa is reddish brown in color.
The pupa emerges from the cocoon in four to seven days. The adult is a small, straw colored moth. Adults are short lived. They can be seen flying around in large numbers in storage bags and on grain surfaces.
Signs Of Infestation
Grains that are infected are often covered with scales shed by the moths. The grains are left hollow and are filled with larval feces. Infected grains are unfit for consumption and often smell bad. You will need to discard of any infected grains. The larvae can eat through plastic and cardboard so even unopened containers can become infected.
It is very hard to check if there is an infestation with the naked eye in the egg stage. You will need a magnifying glass to see. Aside from catching the infestation so late and seeing moths flying around there are other things you can do. Inspect with a flashlight being sure to look in the corners and crevices of the entire area. Also, be sure to inspect the food or grain product itself with a light.
Seeing clumps in the infested food is a sign that you have a problem. You can also see the larvae crawling around, especially as they grow because they become bigger. Another sure sign is actually seeing the moths flying in your grain storage or in your kitchen. The moths fly mostly at night and are attracted to light sources.
If you are unsure of an infestation you can test it. Place the grains in a clear plastic bag where you will be able to see inside. If you notice that there is an infestation you need to discard of the product. It is a good idea to store the item in the bag for a month to be sure that it is pest free. If you do not see any signs in the months time then you are good to go.
Prevention And Management
Storage is key when it come to deterring moth infestation. There are several different options from natural remedies to insecticides to help control and rid a grain moth infestation.
#1. Good Hygiene
Thoroughly clean all bins and containers with white vinegar and allow them to completely dry before use. Do not mix the old and new foods together, if the old food is infested then the moth can invade the new food. Wipe down all shelving, being certain to remove any food bits that may attract a moth. Also, be sure to clean aeration ducts, augers, elevators and harvesting equipment before and after each use to prevent cross contamination. For extra precautions you can also use a few drops of essential oils such as peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus, and citronella.
It is best to repair and seal any cracks or holes in your storage area. You do not want to allow moisture to enter. Apply insecticides to your aeration ducts to prevent entry.
If storing in jute bags it is recommended that the bags be dipped in insecticidal solution of fenitrothion and water according to instructions. You can also spray the stored bags with an application of dichlorvos, being sure to follow the instructions for use.
You can use sticky traps or cardboard traps that are baited with the female moth sex pheromone to catch the male moth. Hang these traps anywhere needed.
#5. Storage Practice
Do not overfill your grain bins. You should leave at least six inches of space between the grain and the top. Be sure to level the grain. If the grain is stored hooved then it is easier to penetrate. It is also a good idea to store foods in tightly sealed containers out of their original package. Do not purchase damaged packages as they can be infested and you will bring them into your home.
#6. Temperature Control
Entomologist, Harold Shepard, discovered in 1947 that insect activity is slight at 45 degrees Fahrenheit and no insect activity at temperatures at 43 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to maintain a temperature between 40 to 43 degrees Fahrenheit. It is a good idea to store dry goods in the freezer for one week to kill off any eggs that may be present. If you have space then you can store there long term.
Grain moths prefer moisture so it is best to keep the grains and storage dry. You can dry freshly harvested grains in the sun for about three days to reduce the moisture content. The recommended moisture content is below 12%. The moisture is maintained by air flow in your storage.
#8. Bay Leaves
Grain moths do not like the bay leaf. To repel the moth place the leaves in containers and in bins or cupboards.
#9. Lemon Peels
The grain moth does not like lemon. You can lay lemon peels about on your shelves of the pantry or cabinets.
If you do notice any of the larvae or moth’s then you can vacuum them up. Be sure to vacuum up the whole area and any contents that may be spilled. Empty the vacuum outside or take the bag and discard of it outside of the home to prevent any further infestation.
Low temperatures and low moisture levels can allow grains to be safely stored for months. There are certain items that a moth don’t particularly care for and the presence will deter them from invading. It is always a good idea to take extra precautions to prevent an infestation.
Grain moths can produce several generations in a year’s time. Being diligent in checking your grains is the best way to keep the infestation from spreading. Always use your older grains before opening any new packages and be sure to clean the containers. Good hygiene and storage are the most important when dealing with the dreaded grain moth.
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