Moths & Meal Worms

Archived Q&A and Reviews



Indestructible meal worms and moths

Sept 2011

Help! We've been having a meal worm problem for YEARS! We just can't seem to get rid of them. We've cleaned out the pantry many times-- throwing away everything that's not in a can or sealed in a plastic or glass container-- but they just keep coming back. Do the eggs live in the cracks in the wood? Anyone know how to deal with this in a non-toxic way? Totally grossed out

The eggs don't live in your cupboard. They live in the products in the store. Many times when you buy stuff, you bring the eggs home with you. The only way I know to control it is to ALWAYS keep ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING in a sealed container. And make sure that what you think is a sealed container, actually is. If you fill a container with water, seal it, and water can leak out, the critters can get in. I've spent a fortune on brand-name tupperware containers (because they really do seal) for flour, cereal, crackers, chips, rice, and all kinds of nuts, dried fruits, and other stuff. Heck, they even like dried chili peppers! The instant you get anything home from the store, it must go immediately into either the refrigerator/freezer or a sealed container. That way, even if you bring home something that has the eggs in it, it will only contaminate the contents of that one container, and none of the other stuff in your pantry. As long as something's in sealed plastic (e.g. bags of rice) it's OK, but the instant you open the plastic bag -- fridge or sealed container. Chip clip kinds of things do not work. Also, never buy anything from those bulk containers. They are all infested. Karen

Hi- I've had the same problem in the past and the way I dealt with it was to keep many of my pantry items in the freezer. Obviously you can't move your entire pantry into the freezer but I transferred the most susceptible items like flour, oats, popcorn. Basically all my bulk food. It helped quite a bit. anon

I really felt for you when I read your post. I have dealt with these critters a few times and always found them hard to get rid of with basic hygiene (sealing off containers, using up food in a timely manner) alone. I have had great success with pheromone traps that attract the male pantry moths and mire them in glue. It's a non-toxic way to keep them from reproducing so all the other things you are doing can be successful.

I would also be cautious about buying grains etc. from bulk bins in quantities larger than you are planning to use right away. I think that is where the infestations we had originated several times over.

Good luck! Finally rid of those pantry moths

Yes, they live in the cracks of wood cabinets. It might be a good idea to clear the shelves, wash with soap and water, and then vacuum the crevices. More info here:

I know it seems gross, but many cultures have been sustained by insect protein. In fact, I read a story about vegans who became ill when they came to this country and started eating grains without insects.

Good luck! anon

Moths/black bugs/wiggly worms in food cupboard

Oct 2007

about 4 or 5 years after the ex moved out, i discovered she had stashed some bird seed in the cupboard and it was now old and kind of moldy or something. there were all these little moths clustered in and around it (and flying out into the house every time i opened the cupboard), which triggered me to look and find the bird seed. of course i immediately threw out the offending bag and cleaned the cupboard as thoroughly as i could.

now a couple of years later, we (my daughter and i) no longer see many moths (we think the few we do see fly in from outside). but there are these teeny little black bugs in the cupboard. they are smaller than ants and move very slowly and nowhere near as many of them as there are when ants invade, but of course we would prefer not to share our space w/ them. the odd part about them is that for the most part they stay away from our fresh food in there; sometimes we don't even see them for months. of course i keep all grain things in there in sealed plastic bags, but despite leaving the fresh food mostly alone, what seems to bring them back out is food that has gotten stale. they are very aggressive about food that has been there awhile and even manage to find their way into the sealed bags, if the food isn't recently purchased.

in addition, when something has been there long enough to really attract a crowd of them (i do try to not let that happen, but it does on occasion), there is the occasional very small white wiggly worm (or two or three) mixed into the frenzy as well.

does anyone have experience w/ such a phenomenon and if so, are the moths, bugs, and worms related or part of the same life cycle? and in any case, most important, any recommendations for the best (non-toxic, hopefully) way to get rid of these critters and get our cabinet back once and for all?

i have tried emptying the cupboard of all food (storing it in the fridge instead for a while), but no matter how long i've tried this (several months), when i try to put the food back in the cupboard, they eventually return.

thanks for any education, help or advice offered.

moderator note: see UC Davis Pest page:

The UC Davis web site that the moderator provided IS a wonderful resource.

One thing I noted from your posting is that you use plastic bags. Plastic bags are not thick or sturdy enough to keep out the insects. If I were you, I'd get a bunch of tupperware or rubbermaed-like containers and put all the dry goods I buy in those. We use those for our flour and sugar and other grains that we keep around for a while. This has made a huge difference it keeping bugs at bay. Also, make sure you wash out the containers before you fill them with a new batch of the product. Mom

I don't know what the black bugs are, but we had little moths and the wiggley worms (which turn into moths, I believe). I had to buy large tupperware containers and put EVERYTHING in tupperware. (Check Target...they have these tall containers which can fit spagetti noodles and most snack bags). I don't keep any pasta or noodles or crackers even if they are in sealed plastic bags in the cupboard. All this stuff is put into the tupperware. Then I would check every day or so and kill anything I found. I also went to the Wild Bird Center and bought this trap which catches moths (it's just pin it up in the cupboard). Even so, I was finding a few worms or a stray moth for probably a year. They finally seem to be all gone. I suspect that the moths lay eggs in the crevices of the cupboard and these continue to hatch months and months later. I can't explain it otherwise.

I think that finally everything has hatched and been killed. I can now keep the stray item in a plastic bag in the cupboard...but I try not to do that. The container store is another great place to get tupperware containers you can use to organize the stuff in your cupboard and prevent bugs from getting into it. Finally bug free (crossing my fingers)

The black bugs sound like weevils which are pretty hard to get rid of. They can eat holes in plastic and cardboard, so I put all of my grains/flours in glass jars.

If I've had some weevils invade, I'll get rid of the infested food, empty the whole cabinet and scrub it down thoroughly with soap. They are sneaky and can hide out for a long time so it's important to evict then thoroughly.

I think weevils come into the home via grains/flours that contain some eggs. It's impossible to know if you've invited in some weevils until they hatch and start moseying around your cupboards.

The white worms and moths are probably the same creature in different forms. I'd use the same remedy as for the weevils. The source of flour moths is usually eggs in the flour you buy. Enemy of Weevils

Whenever I buy bulk food, I put it in the freezer for 24 hours, It realIy seems to do the trick on killing all the bugs/worms. Then I have no problem keeping things in plastic bags, if I need to. bug free

Moths in our food

June 2005

Help! We are innundated in moths! Our cereals and grains are full of little worms. We've had this problem for two years now and it is out of control. Several times I've thrown away all of our food after finding dozens of little worms crawling out of cereal boxes, jars I thought were sealed, doubled up plastic bags, etc. We had a worm migrations from out cabinet. I cleaned everything out, sterilized, washed, threw everything out, moved our cereals and grains to a shelf. On the advice of a friend all bulk grains and cereals go into the freezer for a few days before being put on the shelf. Still, now again, we have a moth cloud coming out of the shelf. Right now we are innundated in moths. I vaccum them off the ceiling, the walls, they are in our closets. I don't know where they are coming from. No doubt they are laying their eggs everywhere. Repeated cleaning has not helped. Must I stop buying bulk food at Berkeley Bowl? Please, any advice? By the way, we have no wool (I'm allergic to it) in our closets and don't seem to have a problem with our clothes, just the food. Mothindated

We had a horrible moth infestation too. In the evening times is when we would really see them all - we'd sit in our living room constantly swatting to kkep the moths from our faces. It was bad. Here's what we did to get rid of them:

1. Remove all grains and foods that they've gotten into. It's not enough to put them in the freezer and then back on the shelf. You have to throw all of it out!

2. Store all new grains and foods in the refrigerator or freezer, or in ceramic or glass air-tight jars. Even hard plastic will not keep them out! We now keep all our cereal boxes and pasta in the fridge, and yeah, it's crowded, but better than the swatting every night.

3. Buy some phermone boxes for pantry moths at Ace hardware. Place them around your kitchen. These are not effective simply on their own - you have to do the other things listed. The fairmones will only get about 1 in 5 male moths, but they do help keep the population under control.

We have occasionally seen new moths appear, so we go back into our cabinets and find that one of us has placed unprotected food in the cabinet. That's really the trick. You can't have any food available for them. Use the fridge or tightly sealed jars.

Good luck. moth free now

You can buy expensive moth traps, but a helpful and inexpensive poison is boric acid which you can mix with cornmeal and put up high, AWAY from your children. I keep my rice etc permanently in the freezer because we have these occasional invasions. One egg missed and you are in for another in a few months. Mary Ann

See the BugMan's advice at Be sure you take out each shelf and get into every little nook and cranny, and even behind the cabinets if there is space there. They lay eggs in all those places. They can also get into screw-top jars if there isn't a good rubber seal (they can travel up the threads of the lid!) anon.

Horrible moth infestation in our kitchen

Jan 2005

Hi, We have a horrible moth infestation in our kitchen. We have gone through all of our cupboards and thrown away all open food containers and scrubbed down everything, but still the moths are reproducing and getting into other rooms. Does anyone have a non-toxic sure fire way of getting rid of these pests (we have a newborn baby and want to stay away from chemicals)~ or perhaps suggestions of someone we could hire to take care of the problem? Thanks for your advice! Laura

I know it seems hopeless. Eventually we had a pest control company come in. In retrospect our final cleaning was enough to kill the moths off, but after cleaning out the cabinet three times in as many weeks (between Thanksgiving and Christmas...ugh!!!) I felt more confident after the exterminator came.

Throw away all food packaged... openned or closed. Sometimes they are already in the food when you buy it. They can worm their way into packages through boxes or plastic bags. It is better to start over clean! Did you take the shelves out of your cupboard? The first time we only removed the ''things that were in the cupboard, but they kept growing.

Then we removed the shelves (they were hatching in the cracks between the shelves and walls). That wasn't the end though... guess where else they were hiding.... in the tracks underneath the lazy susan spice rack... we threw it away because we couldn't get them out by scrubbing. I think that was when we got the last of them... but by then the exterminator was on the way.

Overall it was one of the most horrifying and disgusting experiences in my life to find the worms in my cabinets... I can only imagie how much worse roaches would be. Fortunately the moths can be gotten rid of... good luck. moth-eaten

Absolutely use the cupboard Moth Trap from Gardens Alive ( They work really well. We had a horrible infestation that took forever to get rid of because I hadn't realized what was going on and they were all over the house. But this product works geat and is pesticide free. I found it worked a lot better than the traps available at some local stores. ak

Ugh, aren't they disgusting? One thing that has become clear to me: THEY CAN CHEW THROUGH PLASTIC BAGS. So you have to toss EVERYTHING that's in a plastic bag (or cardboard box, like mac & cheese or powdered sugar). They do seem to nest in odd things; I think I found their last hideout recently, in a plastic bag of *pistachios*! Anyway, good luck; ugh, it's such a pain. Jennie

Help! Moths/Worms in Dry Food

Aug. 2003

I'm wondering if anyone can help me with a solution for moths/worms that get into our dry pasta, flour, sugar, oatmeal, etc. unless they are sealed hermetically. I've thrown everything out of our cupboards numerous times, scrubbed and bleached and after awhile they are back. I now keep opened items in the fridge, but these pests are still getting into things. Any solutions? The challenge is not to use some type of poison since it's all food items. Thanks! Julie

According to Richard Fagerlund (the ''Bug Man'' whose bug column runs in the Chronicle):

Q: I have a problem with pantry moths. We cleaned out the pantry of all the dry goods and I have just purchased this new product from Safer Inc. The product is called the Pantry Pest Trap.

I installed the two traps in the pantry a couple of days ago but I have only trapped one moth. I still see a few moths on the wall and I haven't figured out the source of the moths. Would you have some comments or suggestions for me in dealing with this pest?

A: The problem is that you put out too many traps. One trap is sufficient in any room. If you put out two or more traps, the pheromones in the air will confuse the moths and they will not be able to find the traps. It is kind of like walking into a bakery blindfolded. You know there are goodies in there as the smell of cookies and cupcakes permeate the air, but you wouldn't be able to find them just from the smell.

Take one trap down and I am sure you will start catching moths in the remaining trap.

(Source of quote:

Also, try storing things in glass jars with tight screw-on lids, and avoid bulk bins. R.K.

Cleaning doesn't always get rid of these critters because they are so good at secreting eggs in cracks, etc.

What finally worked for me was mixing boric acid into cornmeal at about a 1:3 ratio and putting little jar tops of of it around in the cupboards and pantries. You can do this up high if you have small children. It takes some time because you will have hatchings until all the adult moths have gotten into it, but it does work.

I keep my rice in the freezer.

There are also traps you can buy that have pherhormones(ph) that attract the moths, and are non-poisonous. I found these did not work as well, but maybe I didn't use enough. You can get them from A fellow sufferer.

Bay leaves keep grubs out of dry foods like flour and whole grains. Just put 1-3 leaves in the container with them -- one on top, one near bottom, and keep things in sealed containers. You can buy bay leaves in bulk at Berk Bowl, Whole Foods, etc. I haven't had a problem with bugs since I started this years ago. I don't think they will conquer bugs that arrive in your foodstuffs though - they prevent only. -sharon

I had a recent problem with this. This is what has worked for us:

1. Throw out all grain based food you have currently. Also stuff like nuts, raisins, and dried chili peppers (yes, really). If you can't bear to throw it out, freeze it for at least 4 days.

2. Invest in airtight containers for all of this type of food that will be kept in the cupboard. And make sure they are really airtight (lots of things that claim to be are not). Put water in the container and see if any drips come out. Tupperware works well...

3. Freeze all grain-based food you buy for at least 4 days before using. Then store in airtight containers. Also, never buy food from bulk containers. They almost always contain pests.

4. You can use ''pantry pest traps'' (available at Target, some Longs...) in your cupboard as they are not poison based. They will catch the moths, at least. You have to stay vigilant, and pretty much use this new routine for ever. Every time we slack off, the critters come back. Karen

We put bay leaves in our dried food to keep weevils out. I don't know if it will also work for moths/worms. Karen

Moths in the Cupboard

Aug. 2002

We have a severe problem with cupboard moths, and I'd like to know how to get rid of them. I'd really rather not call in an exterminator; we have a 14 month old baby, and I don't want to use poisonous chemicals. I've put all of the food they could possibly eat in plastic containers with rubber ring sealers. Well, today I found a large number of moths INSIDE one of these containers with the rice! I've heard that you should freeze all of the food they could live in, but I cook a lot, and my freezer isn't big enough for 3 kinds of rice, 3 kinds of flour, oatmeal, polenta, cereal... plus all of the normal things one keeps in a freezer. Any suggestions? Karen

I've discovered that if you have cupboard moths the only way to get rid of them is to Throw everything that they eat out (or finish it up). As gross as it sounds, there were probably larvae in the food that were sealed and still had moths. You then need to really clean your cabinets well. Freezing does kill most moths. There are also traps that you can get (I think Safety First had them last time I checked). I also heard that oil that has had food cooked in it placed in an open dish in the cupboard will attract the moths which will then down. Good Luck. been through it.

Cupboard moths! We had a really bad infestation, too. But we did manage to get rid of them without an exterminator. First of all, you have to throw out EVERY single food item in your cupboards. Clean the cupboards. Then use airtight containers for all new food you get. I found that some containers SEEM airtight, but they are not. Check that out, because the moths can get into amazingly small cracks. Then get moth traps at Whole Foods or somewhere like that. They will trap (and kill, yes) any remaining moths. After about a month, we had no more moths, and now we don't have to use the air tight containers anymore. Kellie

Start by throwing out ALL the food that the moths go after. Sorry, I know it's wasting food, but you want to get rid of the moths, you just have to. Remember to toss out open boxes of crackers or cereal, and from now on, keep half-open boxes in the fridge. Then wash all the containers that hold grains -- in the dishwasher if you have one. Remember that not all containers that are supposed to seal compeletely do- -you've discovered this the hard way--and look for new ones that really do the job. Wash the cabinets, too, for good measure. Then buy new grains, and if you can, get them in sealed bags--I've seen moths fly out of the grain bins at Whole Foods and the Monterey Market. Yuck. Finally, you could try putting a dried chilli pepper in with your rice and other whole grains, or a bay leaf in with the flour. These act as bug repellants. The rice will not take on the flavor, though the flour will. I have heard some people have kept moths out by putting pieces of bubble gum in the cabinet, though I've never tried it. Good luck. Bean there.

Karen, These meal bugs are actually pretty easy to get rid of -- although a pain. Take everything out of the cabinets and throughly clean the cabinets with a vinegar solution. Plan on a soppy rag because you need to get the solution into all the crooks and crannies. This will kill the eggs that may reside in crevases. BUT you need to throw any type of grains, including crackers, croutons, sometimes cerel, etc., in the garbage as they are already infected with live bugs. Then when you buy new flour etc., put in the freezer for three days -- it will kill any larve that may be harbored -- you can then safely put them into your newly cleaned cupboards. jm

Hurrah! I have the perfect solution for you! The ''pantry pest trap'' or ''cupboard moth trap'' from Gardens Alive. ( It's a non-toxic pheromone lure attached to a super sticky trap. It works great! I understand they also sell them at the Ecology Center on San Pablo in Berkeley. Christine

We had kitchen moths for years also. What seemed to work was putting all the grains & packaged goods (eg crackers, pasta, etc) in heavy ziplock bags. I also put bags of bulk grains in the freezer for 24 hours, the theory being that the cold kills any bugs or eggs. It worked & we've been moth-free for a long time now! Good luck! Rebecca

Ooooh, I *hate* those! Here's how we truly got rid of those moths: we moved!! But if you don't want to be that drastic...One way to get rid of them is throw out all of your pantry items and bleach the pantry. Let it air out for a day or so. Then try again. We did that, and placed fresh bay leaves in the cabinets and it seemed to work until the leaves went stale. I did see an article in the household advice section of the SF Chronicle a few months ago about this. The author suggested using... something to get rid of them but of course I don't know what. We would keep everything in ziploc bags: grits, pancake mix, flour, rice, etc. inside a tupperware container. We also kept some grains in the freezer forever but I hated how the grains tasted (better than bugs though). Good luck! Laurel

For insect problems, I have a great book to recommend. The title is Common-Sense Pest Control: Least-Toxic Solutions by William Olkowski. It is available at the Berkeley Public Library. It does say that food can be frozen to protect it. Another possibility is to create an oxygen-free storage environment using dry ice. The method is explained in the book. The food infested with moths probably had eggs in it when you put it in the glass jar. Sally

We are doing what the man who gives advice on bugs said to do in the Chronicle-using traps that attract the male moths with (I can't spell it but it is something like pherhemones) to a sticky death. They are advertised as ''safe & non-toxic'' (and can be placed out of reach) & are available thru the Hometrends catalog ( or 1 800 810=2340)2 for $9.99. The item # is 205083.

They certainly seem to be working, although I'm not expecting instant results because 1 live male can produce many moths. However, they have definitely made a difference.

The bug man freom the Chronicle said these pantry moths lay eggs in cracks etc. so your other option is to clean your entire pantry, throw out all existing food, and maybe even paint it before replenishing. Mary Ann

One more thought about those moths: Years ago, when I was a child, my parents couldn't get rid of the moths in our kitchen, in spite of throwing food out, scrubbing, etc. One day, my mother discovered larvae living in a large box of kitchen matches! She threw those out, and the moths never returned. I guess the moral of the story is, if you can't get rid of the moths, look in unlikely places. Louise

Just to add a few things that were not covered in the advice given: I had moths, too-yes, sometimes you can get them in the bulk bins. Yes, they spread once you get them. I found that their favorite items were flour, rice, NUTS (esp. walnuts, pine nuts) and CHOCOLATE. Tupperwear does NOT stop them; plastic bags do NOT stop them (they chew, they squeeze into teeny spaces, etc.) I hadn't thought of the great idea of freezing things for a few days after you buy them, but it sounds really good (though I wouldn't be willing to go through the trouble, and you don't need this if you don't bring home something infested). Also, I kept things in my fridge and freezer, which worked for a while, but it got old both for taste and fridge room. Most importantly, you should learn to recognize the tell-tale signs in the items: a fine web in the grains or flour, little clumps of flour that seem unusual, teeny little pellets of chocolate or rice that look like it's been almost ground up, and if you're really astute, you can notice that the grains smell a little different than usual. (and eventually, you'll find the larvae if you don't see these things.) And I agree that you need to get rid of whatever they were in (I admit that I didn't always throw things away--I'd wipe out the webs & larvae and use the flour when I didn't feel like going to the store--but it's easier to just toss them. I didn't actually do the whole sanitize the cupboards thing, and didn't have a problem. Eventually, when you find the larvae before you end up with moths, and wipe them out, you will no longer have a problem. The best thing is to be diligent and quick: if you see more moths than usual flying around, or if one flies out of your cupboard, IMMEDIATELY search for the offending grain/nut/chocolate. If you notice something with one of the signs, immediately pay attention and deal with it, and look around for the same thing in your other bins. moth-free now

I haven't tried this, but someone suggested storing flour and cereals, etc. on the lower shelves near the floor instead of the shelves in the top cupboards. She said the lower temperature really made a difference to the moths. If you try it, I'd like to know if it works. Barbara

Protecting sweaters from moths

May 2000


Summer is here and soon moths will be looking to make a feast out of my sweaters.I just can't bring myself to buy those super toxic moth balls. Can someone please recommend a source for natural but effective moth repellant/anti-moth products? Either a local store or internet source. Thanks!! Cristina

Since there have been a couple of questions about moths and sweaters and no one's replied yet, I guess I will. Cedar wood is supposed to be a natural moth repellent (one of the reasons that hope chests etc. are often made out of cedar) and unlike moth balls it smells nice. You can buy cedar balls or blocks at your local Target/Walmart/Kmart/etc., usually next to the hangers or storage supplies. Or you could buy cedar at a lumber yard and cut it up into smaller pieces and sand it yourself (if you want to avoid slivers or snags.) You can hang pieces of cedar in your closet but I would imagine that for maximum effectiveness you'd want your sweaters with the cedar in a closed space like a drawer or trunk. Also, the cedar has to be re-sanded occasionally to continue to work. One caveat: once when I had had some cedar for quite a long time (several years) it actually leaked some resin (very nice-smelling, but sticky) and tho' it didn't get on any of my things I suppose that could be a risk. Wheeler

Non-toxic solution to pervasive moths?

May 2000

Does anyone out there have a good non-toxic way of getting rid of moths. Too many holes in too many sweaters forces us to act. We have tried vacuuming everywhere, moved all the furniture, took all the woolens out of the closets and shook them etc etc, but the little buggers keep showing up again. Any help gratefully received. Thanks. Brian

Sweaters, sure, but the worst is expensive THIN woolen cloth, as for suits and shawls -- they LOVE it!

First, you must clean again the woolens you already have -- dry cleaning or washing, depending on which you can do to what.

Next, buy the plastic containers that seal airtight and slide under your bed -- sweater boxes, some places call them, or the zippered plastic bags for bedlinens will work, but you MUST NOT put your clothes into these without the following additional protection:

1) The most effective moth chaser that is available in many herb shops is a bean, dark brown and about 1.5 - 2 in length, called a Tonka Bean. These are available for from 50 cents apiece to 25.00/lb in bulk on the web. A couple of Tonka beans in a white cotton bag (like the muslin teabags they sell various places, also very cheap) can, if fairly fresh, permeate the entire sweater box with their nice aroma, and keep moths away from your clothes. Add lavendar or cedar for additional nice smells and moth-repellant properties. Shaved cedar gives you the instant gratification of extreme aromatic qualities, but does not hold up well over years. A small cedar block (such as are sold in boxes of 15 or so in some housewares stores -- check Lechters in any mall that has one) can be sanded whenever it starts to go neutral, and that will expose enough new wood to renew the aroma, provided the air in your home is not utterly bone-dry all year round.

2) For REALLY long-term storage of woolens that do NOT have moth eggs or larvae in them, you can use the same storage compartments, but also wrap the clean, fully dry woolen with the muslin-bagged Tonka beans in one of the silver-colored Hefty (I think they are Hefty) lawn bags. They are extremely tough. Press to expel the air before sealing. We have kept woolens pest-free and sweet-smelling in tropical storage for five years or more with that method.

Of course, this isn't much good if you can't stand the smell of Tonka beans or cedar... Finally, and here is the bad part, kill every moth you see in the house, but most especially the small, fluttery, silvery ones. Tell them they have to live outdoors, or not live. They will also go for your rugs anywhere they are protected by furniture from light and traffic, and for throw pillows, etc, wherever they are relatively undisturbed. We moved a big old desk in my mom's apartment and the moths had eaten paths in her oriental rug under that desk, which had been there for years. We had to throw the rug out -- it was a large cheesecloth hole and quite central. This made us very suspicious of any of her woolens -- everything that was kept went to the dry cleaners first.

Good luck! Heather

We also had a pervasive moth problem up until about 2 years ago. I did a little research in the scientific literature on moth balls to confirm that I did not want to breathe the chemicals they give off, and started looking for alternatives.

Sources I found on moth control mentioned some ways to kill the larvae: 1- heat (low oven - we didn't try this and I don't remember the time/temp) 2- freezing (freezer for 2-3 days) 3- brushing/shaking (the larvae are easily killed by crushing - pay special attention to folds like under collars, pocket flaps, etc.)

Ways to repell moths: Light, cedar, and a physical barrier (ie sealed container)

Here is what we did. 2 years later, not only have we not seen any moths or moth damage (knock on wood), but we also have gotten rid of the toxic mothballs that weren't working anyway!

1- Froze garments in ziplock bags, hung larger garments/blankets out in hot sun and shook/brushed them vigorously. This hanging out treatment should be repeated annually. The idea was to kill any lurking larvae.

2- Stored garments in large plastic tubs that kinda seal, and others in a cedar chest. Layered both containers with paper that had a bit of cedar oil (sold with essential oils) on them to increase the cedar smell. This is to discourage new moths from invading.

3- Checked every 6 months or so for any activity.

I also read that if you DO decide to use moth balls, they should be used in a sealed container (to make them more effective- this is probably why ours didn't work). Also, this container should not be stored somewhere you breathe a lot (gargage or basement might be better).

More info from an Integrated Pest Management perspective:

Here's another site with moth info:

The parent website to the UC Davis one has sections on lots of other hosuehold pests, too:

Good luck! Charis

My mom would place dried lavender flowers in shallow containers without lids and in sachets around where the offenders live. Don't ask how, but this magically worked for us. You can buy lavender in bulk at Whole Foods. Rue

Shaking the clothing is not getting rid of eggs and smaller larvae. As many of the sweaters as possible and all clothes stored with them need to be placed into a chest freezer and frozen for 24-48 hours, and all involved clothes cycled through the freezer as quickly as possible (ie days instead of weeks or months. After a week or two and you still see moths, do it again. Also, a thorough cleaning (with bleach, pine-sol, soap, or whatever) to the area where the clothes are kept. The moth larvae eat only animal products (wool, hair, fur, certain glues) and should not affect polyester, etc. Still, if stored with such items, they may have eggs on them if the infestation is high. AFTER treatment, I would recommend investing in a good cedar chest. The fumes from the cedar keep the moths out, but won't help if your clothes are already infested.

This method is pesticide free and easy, but maybe it will not be as easy to convince your friend with a chest freezer that you want to put your 'buggy sweaters' in their freezer! Sweaters may be sealed in a plastic/paper bag or box beforehand, but then need to be kept a little longer in the freezer to be sure everything gets down below freezing for the full 24-48 hours. I hope you don't have any old and valuable rugs or tapestries. There are not very many options for such things.

Good luck! Jim

I have had excellent luck with cedar chips and cedar rectangles. I place lots of them in closets and around where wool is and it seems moths do not like the scent. We get household catalogs and I have found them in there. Perhaps they could be found at a hardware store. Good luck. Home Depot may have some also. Barbara

Try calling BIRC, The Biointegral Resource Center. They're a Berkely based, non-profit research institute that functions to provide information on controlling pests with alternatives to conventional toxic chemicals. They have a series of brochures for individual problems such as controlling mice, rose problems, ants, etc.... in safe ways for the environment and children. They're phone number is 524-2567. I think they take calls 9am-5pm, M-F. Susan