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Pantry Pests…an unpleasant surprise

The holidays are here and everyone is making their favorites cakes, cookies and confections.  But just as you went into the pantry…you came across bugs.  No need to panic!  More than likely the bugs you encountered are just pantry pests. These bugs may cause some alarm to you as they are usually found within cabinets or pantry food items but don’t worry, they won’t cause any harm to you, your family or your home.

Where are they hiding?

As with many pests, pantry pests tend to harbor near their food source.  For these pests that includes the food in your cabinets. There are a few different types of pantry pests that might be lurking in your cabinets, but the most common ones are moths and small beetles, including weevils.

  • Insects infesting stored foods such as flour, cereal and other dried goods, is one of the most common household insect problems. The many different kinds of insects that infest dried foods are often called “pantry pests.”
  • You can find pantry pests when they leave infested foods to crawl or fly around the house.
  • They often gather in pots, pans or dishes or on window sills.
  • They do not bite, or sting people or pets and they do not feed on or damage buildings.
  • Pantry pests contaminate more food than they eat.
  • Throwing away contaminated food and thoroughly cleaning cupboards and surfaces where the food was stored are the best ways to get rid of these insects.

Some of the more common foodstuffs where you’ll find them

  • Cereal products (flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, and cookies)
  • Seeds such as dried beans and popcorn
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins and other dried fruits
  • Spices
  • Powdered milk
  • Tea
  • Cured meats

Other items include: birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental corn, dried flowers and plants, garden seeds, potpourri and rodent baits.

While pantry pests are most likely to infest products that have been opened, they can get into unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane-wrapped packages.  Commonly, they may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams.

Once a package is infested, these pests can multiply and spread to other stored foods, both in the same cabinet and elsewhere throughout the home.  From a life cycle perspective, all insect stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present at the same time in an infested product.

How do I get rid of these Pantry Pests?

  • First find the source. Only then can you take steps to control and remove the problem
  • Do you have an infestation? One or two beetles found distant from stored food areas may not be an infestation.  However, once you find them near a food storage cabinet, you’ll need to investigate further.
  • If you have an infestation, you must locate it and remove the infested food.
  • Once you’ve discarded the food, the numbers of bugs should decrease dramatically. Make certain that any stray bugs seeking alternative food sources are unsuccessful by making sure all other foods are stored in air-tight plastic or glass containers. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) has tips to ensure against panty pests invading your home.
  • Pesticides are NOT recommended when dealing with pantry pests. Sanitize the areas with standard cleaning supplies; don’t forget vacuuming is an easy way to reduce large numbers of bugs (but don’t forget to empty the vacuum carefully).
  • If you continue to have a problem, EcoChoice is here to help – we offer FREE Estimates too – click here to get started

Tips to Reduce Bring Pantry Pests Home

  • Avoid shopping in stores if you notice moths or beetles on shelves or in the air, especially in dry good, cereal and flour-related product aisles.
  • Pay attention to potential infestations when making bulk purchases of grains, spices, pet foods, birdseed, etc.
  • Be careful when buying specialty items from the store such as international foods, holiday specialty items as they often reside on shelves for long periods of time and are prone to infestation.

Common Pantry Pests…Have You Seen Any of These Pests in Your Home?

Indian Mealmoth

Highlights: The most common moth infesting food in homes, the Indianmeal moth has a wingspan of 1/2 to 5/8 inch. When at rest, they fold their wings behind themselves, over their bodies. The base of the front wing is pale gray or tan and the rest is reddish-brown with a coppery luster. Indianmeal moths may be found inside infested products or flying around homes. The larvae are whitish worms with shades of yellow, pink, green or brown and grow to 1/2 inch long. Only the larvae feed in stored products, which can be any dry stored food or whole grain. Foods infested with these insects will have silk webbing present on the surface of the product.

Sawtoothed grain beetles

Highlights:  These beetles are about 1/10 inch long, slender, flattened, and brownish-red to almost black. They are identified by the saw-like teeth on each side of the thorax.  Larvae are cream-colored, slender, and about 1/8 inch long.  They are found in many different food items, including dried fruit, cereals, nuts, dried meat, macaroni and seeds.

Granary, rice and maize weevils

Highlights:  A slender insect with a snout projecting forward from the head. They are dark brown, sometimes with four orange-ish spots on the wing covers, and less than 3/16 inch long.  Larvae are white, legless and wrinkled and only found inside whole kernels or seeds.  They eat only whole grains or seeds, leaving small round exit holes in infested kernels. They rarely are found in nuts, dried fruits, macaroni, and caked or crusted milled products such as flour.