Ive got a moth problem. How do I get rid of them?

Q: I've got a moth problem. How do I get rid of them? [rssbreak] A: Why, oh why can I relate to.


Q: I’ve got a moth problem. How do I get rid of them?

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A: Why, oh why can I relate to nearly every insect infestation question I get? Let’s just say that when I first noticed a few moths humming around my pad I assumed we could live in peace. Then they multiplied.

First thing you have to do is deduce what kind of moths they are. Are they coming from your kitchen, your bathroom or your bedroom? If you’re spotting the winged things near your food, you’ve got pantry moths, honey.

Whether they’re Indian Meal Moths or Mediterranean Flour Moths, they’re feasting on your grains, flour, cereal, nuts, cookies, dog food, dried fruit – you name it, they love it.

These bad boys are pros at flying under the radar. In fact, they’re nearly impossible to detect in their early days, except for the telltale white silky webbing you’ll find on container edges.

You’ll also notice that grains will get clumpy thanks to a sticky secretion. They could stay in that form for weeks or months, until they’re ready to leave their silky tubes, at which point you’ll see squiggly larvae crawling out of your jars/bags and up your walls.

If that sounds nightmarish, consider this: my sleep-dazed boyfriend baked scones one morning without realizing the flour was, um, shall I say, tainted. Luckily, we spotted the problem before we ate the damn things (though I’m sure they would have been rich in protein).

What do you do to get a grip on these pests? Well, you should toss any visibly contaminated food, wash out your cupboards and containers with hot, soapy water and put everything else in completely airtight containers from now on.

(Trust me, they’ll sneak into regular lidded plastic and glass food storage containers).

And since there’s a good chance they’ve made their way undetected into your fancy organic granola and brown rice without leaving any visible signs, you’ll want to pop all your grainy foods into the freezer for a few weeks to make sure they don’t become a problem in the future.

You could also bake them at 120F for two hours on a shallow baking tray, and boil dried fruit for 10 seconds.

What about good old-fashioned clothing moths? They’ll make a meal of your fave cardigans if you’re not careful. But being careful doesn’t mean loading up on old-school mothballs or moth crystals – they’re chock full of the possible human carcinogen naphthalene, and inhaling a whack of that stuff is linked to hemolytic anemia and liver and neurological damage, according to the U.S. Environment Protection Agency.

To get clothing moths under control, wash whatever you can. Put garments made of wool/mohair/feathers – even pet-fur sweaters – in a closed plastic bag and pop em in the freezer (or on your frigid balcony/deck) for three days. If you can’t part with said items for that long, stick them in a hot clothes dryer for an hour or put them out on a sunny day for a few hours of direct light.

Don’t expect too much from cedar planks and lavender sachets in a drawer. They’re only mild wool scent maskers. Cedar is most effective if you’ve got a well-sealed cedar chest or closet. Things get heavier damage-wise if you’ve got carpet moths burrowing into your rugs, wallpaper or furniture stuffing. Again, drag whatever you can into a backyard for sunning/freezing, and steam clean the lot of it.

Now, if you spot cute, wee brown moths with fuzzy bodies flying out of sinks or showers, you’re dealing with moth flies, aka drain or sewage flies. They just love the gelatinous scum that builds up down there.

To get rid of these, you’ll have to clean out sinks and drain pipes with a wire scrub brush. (You should wrench open the clean-out plug or trap at the base of your pipe’s curve to really get in there.)

Flush drains with a baking soda and vinegar mix weekly as a preventative and you should be brushing your teeth moth-free again in no time.

Lastly, keep in mind that almost all moths can be monitored and partly controlled with some basic pheromone-based moth traps. These glue-lined cardboard traps use moth hormones to lure your unwanted roommates into their sticky confines without resorting to dodgy chemicals.

Look for them at Home Depot and Grassrootsstore.com.

Just remember not to mothball your efforts when the pests die back. Keep your eyes peeled and your guard up or there’ll be a winged resurgence in your future.

Send your green queries to ecoholic@nowtoronto.com

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