kitchen pantry with food

Getting rid of pantry pests

Pantry pests invade food storage areas – crawling through all types of dried goods. They’ll readily infest bags of flour, packages of sugar, boxes of rice, jars of spices, and more. Although these pests do not pose serious health risks, they’ll quickly infest pantries, closets, and cupboards where food is stored, becoming a major inconvenience for homeowners.

bagged flour

Common pantry pests

A variety of pests are considered pantry pests, including beetles, weevils, grain borers, and moths, but the most common species are Indian meal moths, merchant grain beetles, confused flour beetles, and red flour beetles. These insects are attracted to food sources that can support their lifecycles.

The Indian meal moth is the most common pantry pest to infest homes. Adults can be seen flying around kitchens, often the first indicator that you have an infestation. Their larvae will feed upon a wide variety of foods, including seasonal favorites like chocolate, dried fruit, crackers, nuts, seeds, cereal, and just about any other dried goods served during the holidays.

Sawtoothed and merchant grain beetles are tiny brown beetles. These pests can become a menace, feeding upon a variety of ingredients, such as dried fruits, sugar, chocolate, nuts, seeds, and dry dog food. Their small size allows them to squeeze into tight crevices where they can remain undetected and easily access your stored goods.

Red and confused beetles, part of the flour beetle family, are frequent scavengers of flour and grain meals, a common ingredient used in making seasonal cakes, breads, and cookies. These reddish-brown beetles also feed on spices, dried fruits, and cereal products.

A close up photo of a sawtooth grain beetle infestation.

Pantry pest life cycle

All four growth stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) of a pantry pest’s development may be present in food. Both adults and larvae are capable of chewing through stored food packages, depending on the species you may notice small holes in the packaging or webbing on the outside. Otherwise, pests may crawl in through seams, or other packaging imperfections, to lay their eggs. For example, very young larvae of Indian meal moths, confused flour beetles, and sawtoothed grain beetles only require a gap of .01 millimeters, or .004 inches, to get through.

Don’t buy in bulk

Buying large quantities of dry goods that sit in cupboards for a long time is an open invitation for pests. Industrial sized bags of flour, beans, sugar, and rice are the most desired places for these bugs to congregate. Buy smaller quantities of these items and replace them as needed. When you store them, keep them in clean, airtight containers to keep pests out. If you have multiples, ensure the older products are used first.

Inspect your groceries

Quite often, pantry pests enter your home in, or on, products that were infested prior to you purchasing them. Check packages before you put them into your shopping cart. Ripped boxes of cereal, cake mixes, dried beans, and powdered milk provide easy access to unwanted pests. You should also be aware of rips and tears in pet food bags. Pantry pests love your dog’s food even more than he does. It pays to be proactive in controlling pests before they enter your home.

food storage containers

Purchase proper storage

Storing snacks, baking ingredients, and other foods in air-tight containers is one of the best ways to prevent a pantry pest infestation. Invest in quality plastic or glass containers with secure lids to protect your food from these pests.

Practice good sanitation

Make sure you regularly clean up spills and crumbs from countertops, tables, floors, and shelves. Keep your garbage sealed and dispose of it regularly. These efforts will also help to prevent other pest invasions like ants, cockroaches, and rodents. It may be a good idea to periodically empty your cabinets and clean them with soap and water.

Act quickly

If you find pantry pests in your kitchen, get rid of infested foods in outdoor trash bins and clean all of the shelves in cupboards with a vacuum and soap and water. Depending on the level of infestation, you may need to have a pest control professional inspect and treat the problem to prevent future infestations. Western Exterminator can help – contact us today!

Oleg Latyshev, SHRM-CP, ACE

Technical Services Manager

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