I will never forget my first run-in with them. It felt sort of dirty, and not in a good way. It was a Sunday morning, The Archers on the radio, mixer lifted on to the kitchen counter, oven preheating. I lifted a plastic tub of flaked almonds down from the shelf and to my visceral and skin-crawling horror, well, the tub was crawling, moving, pulsing with tiny white larvae. The top of the container was thick with white webbing.
Do you have the enormous good fortune to be reading this somewhere in the Outer Hebrides? If so, now seems as good a time as any to ask whether you could hear the scream that pierced the calm of my London kitchen. I was surprised no one called the police. In fact, they probably should have as over the ensuing 24 hours I did thousands of utterly merciless murders (sorry-not-sorry, once again, to the man who called me speciesist when I wrote about killing clothes moths).
Food moths – Mediterranean flour moths, Indianmeal moths, Ephestia kuehniella, Plodia interpunctella, whatever you want to call them – no thank you, strictly not welcome here, and I will do everything I can, armed with vacuum cleaner, hot soapy water and bin bags, to rid myself of them. By the powers vested in me by Kilner and Ziploc, be gone from this place.
If you find even the merest hint of an infestation (you may see the tiny moths fluttering about, too), don’t waste a second. Start by taking everything out from the cupboards. Next, give cupboards – and shelves and drawers – a thorough vacuum, then toss the bin bag or empty the cylinder contents into the outside bin. Give everything a thorough wash with hot, soapy water, paying close attention to any dark, hidden places. I thought I had got rid of them all and then found some taking a nice rest cure inside the drawer runners.
Next, inspect everything before you put it back. Look carefully for webbing, larvae and pinprick holes in packaging. Examine under paper labels and packet seals, and around the rims and lids of jars. They love flour, cereals, grains, nuts, dried fruit, some dried herbs and pasta particularly, so pay close attention to them. Toss anything that shows signs of infestation into the outside bin. If you have dried goods such as flour that don’t appear to be infested but which you’re worried about, seal them in a plastic bag, and put them in the freezer for a week to kill any larvae, before decanting them into Kilner or other glass jars, or plastic tubs with tight seals.
When everything is soothingly moth-free and order is restored, stick some food moth pheromone traps up in your cupboards (Demi Diamond Food Moth Traps, £6.99 from stopmoths.co.uk). These work by attracting the male moths, which stick on to the paper and then can’t mate. They also provide a good way to monitor whether you still have an infestation –