Mediterranean Flour Moth – The ‘Other’ Pantry Moth

How much do you know about the Mediterranean flour moth?


When homeowners and pest managers mention pantry moths, more often than not they are talking about the Indian meal moth (Plodia interpunctella). However, there are in fact a number of other moth species that impact stored products, such as a variety of grain moths, the almond or warehouse moth (Cadra cautella), the rice moth (Corcyra cephalonica), the tobacco moth (Ephestia elutella) and the meal moth (Pyralis farinalis). However, after the Indian meal moth, the Mediterranean flour moth (Ephestia kuehniella) is probably the next most common moth that causes problems for homeowners and food handling businesses.

Although similar in shape, the Mediterranean flour moth (pictured above, right) is larger than the Indian meal moth (pictured above, left) and lacks the characteristic brown band on the wings. The wings of the Mediterranean flour moth are a mottled grey with a couple of narrow, darker zigzag bands. Their larvae are a white or pinkish in colour with dark spots and a dark head. Indian meal moth larvae are an off-white colour with a brown head.

As its name suggests, the Mediterranean flour moth preferably targets flour, but will attack a range of cereals and breakfast foods. However, unlike other pest moths and stored product pests, they generally don’t feed on other dried foods such as fruit and cocoa.

Like the Indian meal moth, it is the larval stages that feed and causes all the damage. Infested food that is intended for human consumption will often need to be disposed of. However, it is the large amount of silk that the larvae generate that can cause significant issues. The presence of silk is an obvious contaminant but in significant infestations, the silk has been known to clog equipment in mills, causing shutdowns.

These moths thrive in temperate, Mediterranean-like climates (it is a well named moth!), and consequently are present in many parts of Australia. The females lay up to 600 eggs on a suitable food source and when the eggs hatch the larvae build silk tubes in which they feed. They then build a separate silk cocoon when they are ready to pupate. In warmer temperatures they can complete their life cycle in as little as five weeks, so an infestation can get quickly out of control.

Successful control of a Mediterranean flour moth problem requires all infested food to be identified, sealed in suitable bags or containers and placed in the garbage. As the larvae can migrate quite a distance from food sources to pupate, it may be necessary to carry out a surface spray treatment. If the location allows, large spaces may need to fogged to deal with any adults flying around.

Prevention is the name of the game with Mediterranean flour moths, as it is with all stored product pests. Inspect any materials coming in, store the material in sealed containers and ensure good stock rotation. Good sanitation to essential – regular vacuuming, including in cracks and crevices is important to eliminate potential food sources. Monitoring for adults using pheromone traps (which also help disrupt mating) provides a good early warning system and they are essential in conditions where food sources are readily available. These pheromone traps are useful for all the pest stored product moths.