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The meal moth takes Manhattan

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After several acquaintances complained to us recently about moth infestations in their Manhattan apartments, we checked with our pest management expert, Gil Bloom, to see whether a larger trend is taking wing.

According to Bloom, complaints about pantry moths (a.k.a. meal moths) have been on the upswing for several years now, corresponding with a trend toward bulk shopping.  Call it the Costco effect.  

"People used to buy things in smaller containers, and now they have a huge bag of flour or box of cereal sitting in the pantry and they don't realize that it's become infested,"  he says.

Moreover, there are more moths in the food chain these days as stricter environmental regulations have sharply curtailed fumigation practices.

"Food would undergo more inspection and if there was any chance of an infestation, they were put inside a fumigation chamber or tarped, and a poison gas would be introduced," says Bloom, an entomologist and the vice president of Standard Pest Management.

“Meal moths enter our premises most often with stored products such as grains, spices, dried fruits and nuts, as well as pet foods—most commonly bird seed and dog kibble to some extent,” he says.  The moths--or their eggs or wormy larvae--can survive inside tightly packaged goods.

Bloom recommends inspecting dry goods for insects when you bring them home, and storing uninfested foods in glass or plastic jars with tight-fitting tops in case the food contains eggs that could hatch later.

Bloom’s company gets so many calls that he developed a do-it-yourself extermination fact sheet, downloadable at the bottom of this post.

Purging is the first order of the day; vigilance is second.

“I trashed all my grains—flour, sugar, rice, pasta—and I store everything in an airtight package once it’s opened,” reports one of our moth-battling acquaintances. “The flour now lives in the freezer.  But I just found a new batch of moths in unopened almonds from Trader Joe’s.”

Bloom’s company only treats extreme infestations, using a sticky pheromone trap to catch flying male moths. 

“On rare occasions, these moths, or rather their larvae, migrate to other apartments in multifamily dwellings,” says Bloom.  

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