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Mullen's Musings™

Insect of the Month

Indianmeal Moth
Plodia interpunctella (Hubner)

"One female, in less than two months, can produce 6,750,000 larvae. At 1/2 inch per larvae, that translates to 53 miles of larvae. Imagine their food consumption if all survive!"

Description
It seems only fitting that our first featured insect is the Indianmeal moth, the most destructive of all stored-product pests. The Indianmeal moth is a cosmopolitan feeder and occurs throughout the United States and in much of the rest of the world.

Adults
The adult is a small moth with a wingspan of about 16 mm with a copper colored band on the distal end of the forewings. The males generally emerge before the females and mating will occur shortly after the female emerges.

Eggs
Its life begins as a small egg about 0.3-0.5 mm in length. The eggs are laid in clutches that can vary from as few as one to as many as 40. The typical female lays from 300 to 500 eggs in its lifetime of about seven days. The adults generally do not feed; however, if a female is given nectar it can live longer and lay as many as 1,100 eggs over a two-week life span. Depending on temperature the eggs can hatch in three to four days.

Larvae
The larvae are voracious feeders. The larval stage can be as short as six days at about 30 degrees C, but may be as long as 28 days at low temperatures. The pupal stage lasts about seven to 14 days before the easily recognized adult emerges. When conditions are unfavorable for development, late larval stages are capable of diapause until favorable conditions return.

Pupae
The pupal stage lasts about seven to 14 days before the easily recognized adult emerges. When conditions are unfavorable for development, late larval stages are capable of diapause until favorable conditions return.

Host
The Indianmeal moth feeds on most grain-based products as well as chocolate, beans, spices, cocoa, nuts, oil seeds and dried fruits.

Damage
Eggs are often deposited directly on food or on packages. When laid on packages, the newly hatched larvae can enter through small openings in the seams and closures. Later, instar larvae are capable of penetration through some package materials. While the larvae are feeding they produce a silk-like webbing that can cause food particles to clump. Insect frass can become entangled in the webbing resulting in food contamination and, in severe cases, can clog motors and augers.

Prolific Progeny
The entire life cycle can range from 18 to 60 days with two to eight generations per year. Indianmeal Moth and its cousins have huge reproductive potential which can lead to big problems.

Pheromone
Shortly after emergence the female moths release a potent sex pheromone that attracts males. Males are excited by the calling of the females and will flutter around until they locate her. This pheromone is our most important tool in monitoring this pest.

The pheromone, (Z, E)-9, 12-Tetradecadien-1-ol acetate) has been artificially produced and is an effective monitoring tool for male Indianmeal moths. Unfortunately, no effective female attractants have been identified that will attract enough females to have a significant impact on pest populations.

Attractive Bonus
The major component of the Indianmeal moth pheromone is also the major component of its close cousins: the almond moth, raisin moth, tobacco moth and Mediterranean flour moth. Lures such as the STORGARD® IMM + 4 are used in sticky traps and are effective for all these species.

 

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