Plodia interpunctella, better known as the Indian Meal Moth, is usually found where you store your grains. This means it can move through small openings in plastic or cardboard packages in your pantry to eat cereal, pet food, flour, cornmeal and other stored grains and dried fruit. It can also contaminate the contents of larger food storage facilities and grain storage buildings.
The moth is one of the top twelve moth species trapped in US ports and is closely related to many other highly damaging species that are not native to US agriculture.
This Indian Meal Moth, or its larvae, are often intercepted in commodities by other USDA agencies and sent to the ARS’ Systematic Entomology Lab, located at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, for identification.
When the lab receives the moth larvae, ARS researchers compare external diagnostic characteristics such as hair, and overall color, to distinguish them from other closely related non-invasive caterpillars. These diagnostic tools are then provided to other USDA personnel at US ports to identify the species.
“This particular research allowed the USDA to identify invasive species that could be introduced into the country,” said ARS researcher Alma Solis. “It also allows us to conduct research, identify, and exclude many other closely related species that may be harmful species to the US economy.”
Tropical climates are a popular habitat for the Indian Meal Moth, but infestations occur all over the world, including Antarctica. Although they are not known to bite or sting, their contamination of food products is detrimental to agriculture and the US economy. When the moth collects the grain with a temperature of at least 50 degrees, the eggs are laid directly on the food source. A mature female can lay up to 300 eggs at a time before the larvae begin to hatch for 14 days.
The USDA recommends storing flour, grains, and other pantry items in thick plastic or glass containers with airtight lids. Do not buy packaged food that looks spoiled, and if you suspect you have an infestation, please contact a licensed pest control company to prevent and eliminate the infestation.
Provided by the United States Department of Agriculture
Citation: Research identifies and tracks moth species that destroy packaged food (2023, July 25) retrieved on July 25, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-tracks-moth-species-destroy-packaged.html
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