There are two main types of food moth found in the UK – the Mediterranean Food Moth and the Indian Meal Moth.
The adult Mediterranean Food Moth is a light-grey colour and from 6-12mm long, with a wingspread of about 23mm. The wings are marked with two fuzzy, dark zigzaging lines (see photograph). The hind wings are a ‘dirty white’.
The Mediterranean Food or Flour Moth is larger than the Indian Meal Moth. Development and damage is similar to the Indian meal moth, except the larvae live and feed in the small silken tubes that they spin. Although flour is the favorite food, grains, bran and breakfast cereals are also attacked. The life cycle takes about 10 weeks. The webbing and matting of the larvae often cause the main damage by this insect, whether it is contaminating foods in the home or clogging machinery.
The female moth lays from 110 to 600 small white eggs in their preferred food sources and the eggs are usually attached to the food. Usually in about 3 days the eggs hatch into small white or pink larvae, with a dark colored head and small black spots on the body, that immediately begin to spin silken tubes. The Mediterranean Food Moth larvae remain within the tubes until fully mature – usually about 40 days.
When fully grown, the larvae will leave the immediate area where they were feeding and look for a place to make their silken cocoons within which they turn into red-brown pupae. After eight to twelve days the adult moths emerge. Although the lifecycle can take place all year round in warm houses, during particularly warm weather, the Mediterranean food moth may complete its life cycle (egg to adult) in five to seven weeks.
The Indian Meal Moth is sometimes referred to as the Pantry Moth or the Flour Moth. The Indian Meal Moth larvae are commonly known as "waxworms". They are a common grain-feeding pest found around the world, feeding on cereals and similar products.
Adult Indian Meal Moths are 8–10 mm in length with a typical wingspan of 16–20 mm. The outer half of their forewings are bronze or dark grey in colour, while the upper half are a yellowy-gray colour, with a dark band between. The Indian Meal Moth larvae are off-white with brown heads. Fully grown Indian Meal Moth larvae are usually about 12 mm long.
The entire life cycle of Indian Meal Moths may take between one and 10 months depending on conditions, and in particular temperature. The Female moths lay between 60 and 400 eggs on food. These eggs (see picture) are usually less than 0.5 mm and not sticky. The eggs hatch in 2 to 14 days. The larvae stage can last from 2 to 41 weeks, depending on the temperature.
The Indian Meal Moth larvae can infest a wide range of dry foodstuffs of vegetable origin, such as cereal, bread, pasta, rice, dried fruits and nuts. The food they infest will often seem to be webbed together.
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