Pantry pests, also known as ‘Stored Product Pests” are a group of pests with an appetite for dried and processed food products that are stored in your home.
Products can include: flour, cereal, dry pasta, dry pet food, powdered milk, cornstarch, crackers, spices, bread, bird seed, dried nuts, fruit and more.
Although pantry pests include a variety of insects, the Indian meal moth, saw-toothed grain beetle, and the cigarette beetle are most commonly found in kitchens and homes.
Pantry pests can breed almost continuously as they tend to live in the food products they thrive on. These insects can produce several generations of their kind in the course of a single year.
Their presence in the home is not necessarily an indication of the quality of the housekeeper.
Indian Meal Moths Are A Common Pantry Pest
Indian meal moths (Plodia interpunctella) are small moths with reddish brown forewings. They have a coppery luster on the back half and are whitish gray on the front half.
The larvae are responsible for all the food damage and they attack a wide variety of dried food products in the house.
They are notoriously difficult to get rid of and can crawl on ceilings and spin cocoons in rooms other than the kitchen or pantry where they hatched.
Saw-toothed grain beetle
Saw-toothed grain beetles (Oryzaephilus surinamensis) are slender-bodied, flat, brown beetles that are about 1/10 inch long with six saw-like tooth projections on each side of the thorax (the section between the head and abdomen).
Both the larvae and adults feed on dried food products.
These scavengers feed on loose or open products like flours, cereals, candies, dried fruit and more. It’s not uncommon to find them infesting pet food, bird see and rodent bait.
Cigarette beetles (Lasioderma serricorne) are light brown, around 1/8 inch long, have a “hump-backed” appearance, smooth wing covers and body hairs that give it an almost “fuzzy” appearance.
Although known for feeding on cured tobacco, cigarettes and cigars, in the home this beetle is most commonly found in pet foods, cereals, nuts, and candy. It may also infest dried pepper arrangements, wreaths, and spices such as chili powder or paprika.
They are most often brought into the home through packaged food products that have already been infested, however, they can also enter your home from outside. Infestations can start with just a few insects, but their numbers can quickly grow if they have easy access to food sources and a place to reproduce. They breed almost continuously as they tend to live in or near their food source and can produce several generations in a single year.
Infestations are easy to overlook because the insects are quite small and often resemble the color of their food.Often the first sign of an infestation is the appearance of small moths flying around or the presence of beetles in or near food packages. They are attracted to the light which is why you will see them flying apart from their food source.
Indian meal moths, saw-toothed grain beetles, and cigarette beetles are not in themselves dangerous. The biggest threat they pose is of infestation and spoiling food – creating waste and increased living costs to the homeowner. If the insects themselves or their eggs are ingested, don’t panic. Indian meal moths, saw-tooth grain beetles, and cigarette beetles do not spread any known diseases, they don’t carry any known parasites nor do they carry any harmful pathogens.
Always store dry pantry foods in tight-fitting, sealed containers. The larvae can easily chew their way out through paper and cardboard to access other food, or simply enter containers that are not tightly sealed.Clean your pantry shelves regularly. Removing the small bits of food that pantry pests thrive on helps eliminate their food source.Never combine old and new dry food products unless you’re absolutely sure both products are pest free.If you’re not sure if something is infested, you can test it. Simply place the product in a clear plastic bag. If it is infested you will see the pest accumulate in the bag. To ensure the product is pest-free, keep it in the bag for at least a month. Clean old containers before filling them with fresh food. This prevents any existing pests from contaminating the new product.
Getting rid of pantry pests can be a difficult task. Even though they are not particularly fast moving, agile or wary, they naturally blend in with their environment, making them difficult to identify. Do-it-yourself methods are not always successful unless you can identify the source of the infestation.
Discard any items that appear to be infested, sealing them in a plastic bag before disposing.Remove all items from the pantry shelves and use a vacuum to remove any pests, eggs, and pupae that may be hiding in the crevices. Place the vacuum bag in a sealed plastic bag before disposing to avoid a re-infestation. Wash the shelves, walls, and corners thoroughly before returning any items to the pantry. Be aware that not all over-the-counter pesticides and other pest control products are effective and can even be harmful to people and pets if misused or mixed improperly – especially around food items in your pantry. If you think you have a problem, contact Presidio Pest Management. We will provide you with a free inspection and, if there is a problem, we can eliminate your pantry pest problem safely and effectively.