Pantry Pests


Insects infesting stored foods are one of the most common household insect problems, the many different kinds of insects that infest stored dried foods are often referred to as "pantry pests.

Discovering "bugs" in your breakfast cereal may be disgusting, but it isn't unusual, because many insects like to eat what we do. Stored foods commonly infested include flour, cereals, cracked grains, baking mixes and processed foods, crackers, macaroni, cured meats, powdered milk, dried fruits, nuts, popcorn and spices. Insects that feed on these products may also infest other grain-based items such as pet foods, birdseed and ornamental corn. Dried flower arrangements may also be attacked.

Pantry pests contaminate more food than they consume, and most people find the contaminated products unfit for consumption. Pantry pests are often discovered when they leave infested foods to crawl or fly about the house. They often accumulate in pots, pans or dishes or on window sills. Fortunately, they do not bite or sting people or pets nor do they feed on or damage the house structure or contents.

Insect pests most often encountered in stored food products are:

  • Indian meal moths
  • Dermestid beetles
  • bean weevils
  • spider beetles
  • flour beetles
  • sawtoothed grain beetles
  • cigarette and drugstore beetles
  • granary, rice and maize weevils

What do they eat?

Nearly all dried food products are susceptible to insect infestation, including 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; and cured meats. Non-food items that may be infested include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental seed and dried plant displays, ornamental corn, dried flowers, garden seeds, potpourri, and rodent baits.

Where do they come from?

A stored food product can become infested anywhere during the process from production until it arrives in your home. However, stored food is most likely to become infested in stores or in homes. Most of the stored food insects also are pests of stored grain or other commodities and may be relatively abundant outdoors. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods are particularly susceptible to infestation. However, foods of any age can become infested.

Where do they come from?

  • When purchasing any bagged or boxed food, especially pet foods and birdseed, check package for damage or pest evidence, and ensure seals are intact.
  • If you have any doubt, open package outside or place in freezer for 3 or 4 days before opening. Instead of stocking up on susceptible items, such as flour and milled products, buy smaller packages that will be consumed within a few months.
  • Repackage susceptible items, or those you will not use in a short time, in pest-proof glass or metal or thick plastic containers.
  • Keep pantry and stored food areas clean, sweeping, vacuuming and/or mopping regularly to prevent build up of spilled foods.
  • Keep storage units dry. This is important because moisture favors the development of pantry pests, while dryness discourages them.
  • Store bulk materials, such as pet foods, in containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • lean old containers before filling them with fresh food. They may be contaminated and cause a new infestation
  • If you do see any sign of these pests, act as soon as possible to keep the infestation from spreading, reduce the need for food disposal and decrease the need for chemical control.

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