It’s the start of a joyful time of the year when homes fill with delicious smells of holiday cooking and the sound of laughter among family and friends. Unfortunately, pests can stealthily become uninvited guests to your holiday events, creeping out of your cupboards and pantry, spoiling the day. These critters are often referred to as “pantry pests” and include moths and beetles – all of which can be attracted to food stored in the kitchen.
Pantry pests can quickly contaminate batches of cooking and baking ingredients, such as flour, grains, spices, chocolates, pricey nuts and dried fruits. To help keep your holiday season delicious and surprise-free, read the tips below to identify pantry pests and help prevent them from making your kitchen their next home.
Common Pantry Pests:
If you see small moths flying around your pantry or notice webbing along the corners of packages, you may have a problem. Pantry moths’ (most often Indian meal moths) sticky webbing can cause food items to clump together into clusters.
Products they prefer – Pet food, cereal, rice, grains, some medications, nuts, dried foods, chocolate and many other dry stored items.
Weevils, a type of beetle, are internal feeders—burrowing into the kernels of stored grains and seeds to lay their eggs inside. These small, black and brown critters can be identified by their long head and a protruding snout.
Products they prefer – Whole kernel barley, rice, wheat, soy beans, sunflower seeds and corn.
The drugstore beetle is named for being found feeding on items commonly found in drugstores or pharmacies. These brown, oval-shaped pests fly and sneak their way into packages before laying their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the larvae begin feeding on nearby food sources.
Products they prefer – Spices and medications
Flour beetles are scavengers who feed on processed foods, or food that has already been damaged. Flour beetles are reddish-brown in color with antennae, and their small bodies allow them to easily fit into many small packages.
Products they prefer – Flour, cereals, cornmeal, bran, rolled oats and pasta.
Merchant Grain Beetles
Grain beetles are one of the more common insects found in processed grains, oats and seeds. Their small, skinny bodies make it easy for them to climb through even the smallest cracks, and their strong mouths, like all other stored product beetles, allow them to easily chew through cardboard boxes and plastic bags. Infestations are often widespread throughout a room or area.
Products they prefer – Foods high in oils or fats (birdseed and peanuts), flour, cereal, pasta, spices and pet food.
Steps to Help Prevent Pantry Pests
- Examine all incoming packaging for damage or other evidence. Even the tiniest tear is easy access for pests. Throw away any products with any evidence that they may already be infested with pantry pests.
- Glass containers are your friend. Choose airtight containers with sealing lids and be sure to close them when not in use. Cardboard and paper containers can be easy for pests to sneak into.
- Use products before they expire. Try buying smaller quantities of pantry staples so products spend less time sitting open on your shelf. Also be sure that you’re properly rotating products – using the older first.
- Organize and deep clean your pantry. Thoroughly eliminate stray crumbs, flour and sugar in every crack and crevice. You can do this by vacuuming and wiping down your pantry regularly. Even small messes can attract pests.
- Throw away the entire supply of contaminated food. This is the most important step in leaving your pantry pest problem behind you. One pest could leave near-invisible eggs and larvae behind, contaminating your entire supply. When in doubt, toss it out!