Pantry pests are beetles, moths, and other insects that infest stored foods. Pantry pests invade food stored in granaries, food-service establishments, and private homes. Here are some facts about identifying, preventing, and treating pantry-pest invasions.
Types of Pantry Pests
Dozens of pantry pests invade stored foods. Identifying the pests infesting your flour, cornmeal, and other stored foods is a key component of managing pantry-pest infestations.
Types of pantry pests include the following:
- Grain weevils
- Grain borers
- Grain moths
- Flour moths
- Gran and flour beetles
- Dermestid beetles
- Spider beetles
- Grain mites
The most common pantry pests found in homes and commercial kitchens are red beetles, flour beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles, drugstore beetles, cigarette beetles, and Indian meal moths. If you aren’t sure which type of pantry pest has infested your stored foods, your pest control company can identify the culprits for you.
Foods That Are at Risk of Pantry-Pest Infestation
Some pantry pests prefer whole-grain kernels, while the majority of pantry pests are partial to processed grains. Corn, wheat, and rice are common targets of pantry pests, but grain moths, beetles, and mites can also infest oats, barley, and rye.
Whole and processed grains aren’t the only food products that can be infested by pantry pests. Beetles and moths also invade food products like dried spices, bread, and breakfast foods.
Stored foods that may be invaded by pantry pests include the following:
- Candy bars, cocoa, and chocolate
- Dried meats
- Dried fruits
- Nuts and dried legumes
- Powdered milk
- Paprika and dried red pepper
- Dried pet food
Non-food items are also at risk from pantry pests. Tobacco, drugs, dried flower arrangements, and leather products are also attractive to pantry pests.
Ways That Pantry Pests Invade Stored Foods
Some pantry-pest problems begin in the field before grains are harvested. After harvest, pest may infest the grains if the bins holding them have not been properly cleaned. Grains transported via train or trailer are often infested from pantry pests that grow in the dirty, grain-packed corners of unclean box cars and transport trailers.
Used feed sacks can also spread pantry pests to fresh grains. When freshly harvested grains are added to older stored grains, the new grains can become infested.
Home and commercial pantry pest problems usually start when a contaminated food product is brought into the food storage area. For example, a sack of flour, box of breakfast cereal, or container of cake mix could be infested with eggs or larvae of pantry pests.
Home and professional cooks may not spot the tiny insect eggs or larvae. The undiscovered eggs hatch, the larvae reach adulthood, and the mature pantry pests set out to invade other stored foods in the vicinity. If left unchecked, a pantry-pest invasion can impact a large portion of stored food products.
How to Prevent Pantry Pest Infestations
Keep your food storage areas as clean as possible to limit food opportunities for pantry pests. Even a tiny spill of flour in the corner of a cabinet can be enough to sustain pantry pests until they can invade a brand-new bag of flour or corn meal.
Other pantry-pest prevention tips include:
- Store all foods in airtight containers.
- Thoroughly wash all containers between uses.
- Maintain cleanliness of kitchen floors, counters, and trash bins.
- Never add new food products to old food.
- Avoid buying products in damaged packaging
- Rotate foods so older products are consumed first.
Store flours and other dry foods in the refrigerator or freezer when those products are used infrequently. If you choose to buy bulk quantities of dried foods, don’t store the products in the pantry, but use clean, airtight containers to hold the products.
Methods to Treat Pantry Pest Problems
If you find an infestation of pantry pests in your home or commercial kitchen, thoroughly inspect all other food packages for signs of infestation. Pantry pests can cause foods to taste bad and may also cause illnesses in humans, so it’s vital that you locate and dispose of all affected products.
Signs of pantry-pest infestations include:
- Small flying moths and beetles
- Silken threads and webs on or in foods
- Small larvae crawling in foods
Pesticides can kill pantry pests, but many types of pesticides are not safe for use in food-storage areas. Your pest control professional can explain all of the available insecticide options to you. Be aware that application of pesticides will not prevent future pantry pests from invading your food products.
Your pest control professional can place pheromone traps to monitor the types and numbers of pantry pests invading your food-storage areas. However, the pheromone traps can’t trap all of the insects in a serious infestation. Cleanliness and vigilance are your best options to manage and prevent pantry pests.
When you have a pantry-pest problem in your Chicago-area residential or commercial kitchen, contact Chem-Wise Ecological Pest Management right away. We’ll inspect your premises and advise you on appropriate pesticides and other methods to control and prevent future stored-food contamination issues.