Unfortunately, it is sometimes found in muesli and trail mix – we will show you how to successfully combat and prevent the dried fruit moth.
This storage pest is widespread and many of us have come across the dried fruit moth. In the kitchen, in particular, you will always find traces of this pest in the stores, which is why you should always be careful when storing food.
The dried fruit moth ( Plodia interpunctella ) is also known as the house moth or storage moth and belongs to the moth ( Pyralidae ) among the butterflies. Originally, the dried fruit moth probably comes from the Middle East or the Mediterranean. It was introduced to Europe by trade in the 19th century and has since spread to households and the food industry.
Dried fruit moth: fact sheet
The adult dried fruit moth has a wingspan of 13 to 20 millimeters and its body is 4 to 10 millimeters in size. The wings of the dried fruit moths are light gray to yellowish gray at the base, the rest of the rear part of the wings is darker copper-red in color.
Adult dried fruit moths stop eating during their two-week life. During this time, the females lay up to 300 eggs that are approximately 0.5 millimeters in diameter. The females prefer quiet and protected places where their flock of children is well supplied with food. The choice therefore often falls on our food, especially of course easily accessible packaging that stands around in the back of the cupboard undisturbed and forgotten. After three to four days, caterpillars hatch from the eggs and can be very differently colored. These larvae molt up to five times and reach a length of up to 17 millimeters at the end of their development.
The larvae like to hide in webs and then pupate after a while outside of their food supply. During their development, the caterpillars eat, form webs, and contaminate the food in which they develop with their feces. Food such as nuts, cereals, pasta, tea, dried fruit, legumes, and much more are often attacked by the dried fruit moths. Due to their wide food spectrum, they colonize many of our stocks and are a pest to be taken seriously due to their high tolerance to cold and their robustness.
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The development of the dried fruit moth takes about a month at a temperature of 30 ° C. When the temperature drops to 20 ° C, the entire development of the dried fruit moths take over 70 days. In Central Europe, the small pests manage to train two generations per year. In warmer regions, even more, can develop.
The dried moth particularly likes to use these foods as a nursery: nuts, cocoa, chocolate, dried fruits, cereal products such as flour, semolina, pasta or oat flakes, tea and coffee, spices, malt, and legumes. In rare cases, even fresh fruit is attacked.
Recognize dried fruit moths
Since the larvae of the dried fruit moths produce webs, firm clumps of web and shiny silvery webs are an important characteristic of a dried fruit moth infestation. If food is heavily infested, the whole product is streaked with larvae, clumped, and contaminated by the larval excrement.
The larvae of the dried fruit moth are whitish in color and can have a reddish and greenish tint. The head of the larvae is also brown and the entire body has a greasy shine.
Pheromone traps also help with early and reliable detection of infestation. Our Gardender food moth traps, for example, are provided with an attractant that is only attractive to male food moths. Pheromones are sexual attractants that are naturally secreted by females to attract male moths to mate. In the case of the traps, however, instead of a female willing to mate, the males can expect aboard coated with glue to which they stick. So pheromone traps help to detect an infestation with food moths early – the stuck moths can also be viewed much better.
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Important: Since some males always escape the traps and mate with flying females, they are not a control method. However, they are the best option for infestation detection and monitoring.
Prevent dried fruit moths
Dried fruit moths are usually infected by a portion of already infected and damaged food in your household, but in rare cases, it is also possible that the dried fruit moths fly to you through an open window. When you buy groceries, check the packaging for small holes and damage, regardless of whether the packaging is made of paper or plastic.
At home, you should make sure the pantries are clean and keep checking your cupboards and shelves for dried fruit moths. To keep your groceries safe at home, it is advisable to use airtight storage containers made of thick plastic, glass, or ceramic. Because even though screw caps – without a seal – young larvae can get into the vessels.
When storing, follow the tried and tested advice and always store your food in a cool place, because dried fruit moths don’t particularly like the cold.
Certain essential oils have a deterrent effect on dried fruit moths and you can set up fragrance lamps with essential oils to ward off the pests. Essential oils such as peppermint, lavender, aniseed, geranium, lemon, cedar, orange, or eucalyptus have such a protective effect. These also spread a pleasant scent in your storage rooms.
Summary of preventing dried fruit moths:
- Check food packaging for holes and damage when you buy it
- Cleanliness in pantries
- Use airtight storage containers made of glass or thick plastic
- Cool storage
- Use essential oils
Fight dried fruit moths
If the dried fruit moth has made its way into your kitchen or pantry, then you should declare war on the moth as soon as possible.
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If you find heavily infected food in your kitchen, but it immediately in a garbage bag, close it tightly and dispose of it outside of your home on the spot. You should then check all of your stored food for infestation and thoroughly clean your storage rooms. It is best to clean all cracks and corners thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner and carefully clean all surfaces with vinegar cleaner. If you are not sure whether some foods are infected, you can freeze them for two to three days or heat them in the oven to 60 to 70 ° C for an hour.
Fight dried fruit moths chemically
Chemical pesticides such as moth spray almost always contain substances that are also toxic or irritating to humans and animals. For example, even small amounts of the common ingredient permethrin can be fatal to cats. Nobody really wants such means in their kitchen. Fortunately, the control can also be carried out using biological methods with beneficial insects, because the use of these shows great success and the pests are combated naturally.
Fight dried fruit moths organically and with home remedies
Dried fruit moths can also be successfully combated with the help of beneficial insects. Our Gardender parasitic wasps are particularly suitable for this against food moths. Parasitic wasps have long-laying spines with which they lay their eggs in the eggs of the dried fruit moth and thus parasitize them. After hatching, the parasitic wasp larva feeds on the egg of the dried fruit moth and develops into an adult parasitic wasp. This starts the cycle of parasitization all over again.
The parasitic wasps that can be used to combat the dried fruit moth in storage rooms are, for example, the brackish wasp (Habrobracon hebetor ) or the ore wasp (Trichogramma evanescens ). These beneficial insects are also used against other moths, such as the flour moth ( Ephestia kuehniella ) or the storage moth (Ephestia elutella ).
Tip: Even if moth traps are not suitable for complete control, we recommend installing moth traps during the control period. Thanks to this, the number of infestations can be monitored and the subsequent control success can be recognized.
Summary fighting the dried fruit moth:
- Remove infected food as quickly as possible, check all of your supplies for infestation, and clean your pantries thoroughly.
- Chemical agents are effective, but often also contain substances that are toxic to humans and animals.
- For successful control of dried fruit moths, it is worthwhile to use beneficial insects of wood wasps or brackish wasps, for example, the Gardender parasitic wasps against food moths.
- Pheromone traps are used to monitor infestation and show whether the control is working and when the infestation has been averted.