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Pantry Pests

Pantry Pest Control

Although they are more likely to attack products which have already been opened, pantry pests can also infest unopened papers, cardboard and foil packages. These pests can chew through packages and crawl into seams. The insects in the infested packages can multiply infected food and spread to other foods in the home. Infested products may contain all stages of the insect life cycle (eggs, larvae, pupa and adults).

Here are some quick facts

  • Some of the most common products where you can expect pantry pest problems is dried foods like flour and cereal. Many insects infest dry foods can be called “pantry bugs” because there are so many kinds.

  • Pantry pests can be defined as those that leave the food they had infested to fly or crawl around your house.

  • They gather often in pans, pots or dishes, and on windowsills.

  • They don’t bite, sting or inflict injuries on pets or people.

  • Pests from the pantry can contaminate far more food than just the food we actually eat.

  • The best way to eliminate these pests is to throw away any contaminated food and clean all surfaces and cupboards where the infected food had been stored.

Insect infestations can occur in most dried food products

  • Cereals (flour; cake mix, cornmeal; rice; spaghetti, crackers, and cookies)

  • Dried beans, popcorn, and other seeds

  • Nuts

  • Chocolate

  • Raisins, and other dried fruits

  • Spices

  • Powdered milk

  • Tea

  • Sauteed meats

  • Birdseed, dry pet foods, ornamental corn and dried flowers, as well as garden seeds and potpourri are all possible sources of infestation.

Although they are more likely to attack products which have already been opened, pantry pests can also infest unopened papers, cardboard and foil packages. These pests can chew through packages and crawl into seams.

The insects infested packages can multiply infected food and spread to other foods in the home.

Infested products may contain all stages of the insect life cycle (eggs, larvae, pupa and adults).

They come from where?

From the time it is produced, a stored food product may become infected even before it arrives at your house. However, it is more likely that food stored in your home or at the grocery store will become infested. Many pantry pests like to infest stored grains and are typically found outside.

If food products are kept in storage for too long they can become infested, however, foods of all ages can be infested.

Most pests that can be found in stored products are introduced to homes in packages of already infested food. It is easy to not notice these infestations in the beginning, as the size of the pests involved in an infestation, particularly the eggs and larvae, are very small. Infestations are usually first noticed when you see small moths that fly around or tiny beetles near food packaging.

Identification and life cycles

Moths, or Lepidoptera, along with beetles, or Coleoptera, are two of the most prevalent insect groups that invade food at home. While adult moths are easily distinguished from each other, it is difficult to spot their identical-looking larvae. The legs of larvae can be examined with a lens by hand. A beetle larvae is either legless and grublike, or has only three pairs. They are all found close to their heads. The moth larvae are equipped with three pairs of real legs and additional leg-like structures further down their abdomen. While both larvae and adult beetles consume food, the larval stage of moths only eat stored products.

Meal moths

Plodia Interpunctella is one of the most prevalent species. These larvae can cause extensive damage to a range of food products like cereal and cereal products, dry fruit, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and candy. Due to their ability to move very far, larvae from heavy infestations can be found in places outside of the source.

Indianmeal moths can be distinguished as a small, distinctive moth. At 1/3 to 2/5 in long, they have wingspans of around 3/5 in. The eggs of the female moth are laid on only one food item. In a few days the eggs become small, yellow caterpillars.

Indianmeal larvae make a web when they grow. They leave behind silken threads whenever they crawl. A fully mature larva will measure about 12 inch and be white. This larva creates a silken cocoon from which it transforms into the pupa. Later, the adult moth emerges. To complete the Indianmeal stage, including egg, larval (and pupal) stages, it takes approximately six to eight week in warmer weather.

You should not mistake Indianmeal moths for clothes moths. Clothes moths have smaller hair and are more common than pantry moths. 

Pantry Beatles

There is one main species of moth that goes after pantry foods, but these are several types of beetles to worry about:

  • The warehouse beetle (Trogoderma variabile)
  • The sawtoothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis) and the merchant grain beetle (O. mercator)
  • The confused flour beetle (Tribolium confusum) and the red flour beetle (T. castaneum)
  • The drugstore beetle (Stegobium paniceum) and the cigarette beetle (Lasioderma serricorne)
There are also beetles that eat whole or seed crops, such as the Rhyzopertha dominica (the lesser grain borer), Acanthoscelides ortectus (the bean weevil), S. oryzae (the rice weevil), and S. granarius (the granary weevil). The management of these seed beetles is the same as that for other pantry beetles, although they are not covered here in great detail.

Warehouse Beetle

The warehouse beetle eats a range of food, including cookies, cereals, cocoa, honey, sugar, cocoa, cakes, cornmeal and fish meal.

Adult beetles possess oval bodies measuring about 1/8-inch in diameter and wing covers that have a brownish or yellowish color. Infested food can contain as many 90 eggs, which are laid by females. Larvae will then hatch and begin to eat it. Fully grown larvae measure about 1/4 in diameter. The setae are the hairs of the beetles. These hairs emerge from darkened plates along the ends of its abdomen. Each has a tail that is long and thin that extends to the tip. They are active and look for food to infest in new areas. Warm temperatures can make the entire cycle, from egg to adult, in as little as 45 days.

If swallowed, the setae from this beetle can be irritating to your mouth, throat and digestive tract.

Merchant Grain Beetle and the Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

Slender and flat brown beetles of about 1/10 in. each, the merchant grain beetle as well as the sawtoothed beetle, are thin, flat, brown ones. Each beetle has six tooth projections that look similar to saws. These are the sections between the abdomen and head. The merchant grain beetle’s eyes are larger than that of the sawtoothed one, with smaller eyes and more area around the eye. The larval stage and the adult are able to eat any plant food.

Because they share the biology, it’s not difficult to identify the species. An adult beetle lives an average 6-10 month life expectancy, although some individuals could live to 3 years. The females of the species drop eggs randomly among food, or hide them within a kernel. Once the egg is laid, it hatches and is white and small. The larvae then crawl around, eating wherever they are able. In summer, the larvae reach maturity within two weeks. They then make delicate cocoon-like coatings from small fragments or grains with a sticky secretion. From this stage, larvae transitions to the pupal stage. From egg to adult, development can take up to three weeks.

Red flour beetle and confused flour beetle

Both the red and confused flour beetles look very similar. The antennae of both species are different though. While the red flour one’s ends abruptly and is only three segments,  the antennae ending on the confusion flour beetle gradually grow toward the tip and become a four-segmented clubs. These beetles are approximately 1/7 inches long and have flattened oval bodies. They can eat a wide variety of foods, including grains, cereals, processed grains, nuts, and dried fruits.

These two species have very similar biologies. Their average life expectancy is approximately one year. However, some individuals can live up to four years. Females lay small, white eggs in flour and other foods. They are covered in a sticky substance that makes the eggs stick to containers, boxes and sacks. The larvae are small, wormlike, and cylindrical in shape. Each larva grows to 3/16 inches in length and is white with a yellow tint. It then becomes a tiny pupa. The pupa is initially white but soon becomes yellowish and brown. It then transforms into an adult beetle. Summer averages six weeks between egg and adult.

The Cigarette Beetle and the Drugstore Beetle

Although the drugstore and cigarette beetles are very similar, the latter is much more prevalent. The beetles measure about 1/8 inches in length, are cylindrical and light brown. It is easiest to tell the difference by looking at the covers on the wings. The wing covers for the drugstore beetle feature longitudinal grooves while those from the cigarette beetle’s wing cover are flat.

Cigars, cigarettes and cured tobacco are the mainstays of the cigarette beetle’s diet. The beetle also eats dried herbs, spices and nuts, cereals, cereal products, fruits, seeds, animal products like dried fish, meats, hair and wool. This beetle can often be found in household foods such as pet food, candy, cereals and nuts. This beetle can also infest dry pepper arrangements and wreaths as well as spices like chili powder or garam masa.

Food substance is where the cigarette beetle typically lays eggs. When fully grown, the small, yellowish-white grubs have a 1/6 inch length. Pupae live in a closed cell made up of tiny particles of food and secretions from larvae. It takes approximately six weeks for the egg to mature.

Drugstore beetles are general-feeders. They eat a wide variety of foods and seeds. The name of the drugstore beetle comes from its tendency to eat almost any medication found in pharmacies. The most frequent materials that this beetle invades in the home are cereals, pet food, and drugs. The drugstore beetle can lay eggs in any organic material. The small, white grubs hatch from these materials and tunnel into the material. Once fully grown, they pupate in tiny cocoons. In less than 2 months, the entire lifecycle may be completed.

Damage

Food is contaminated by pantry pests, which they can infect with their own bodies as well as their by-products. Indianmeal moths produce frass and webbing in their larval stages. Some beetle larvae also secrete secretions which can cause unpleasant smells and tastes to food. People who have eaten infested food can be irritated by setae (hairs) of the warehouse pest. Additionally, food pests could introduce microbes that can cause high-carcinogenic compounds to food. This is especially true if food is stored in humid, warm conditions.

Management

It takes a lot of effort and persistence to get rid of pests that infest food, particularly if the problem has been there for a long time. Certain pests have the ability to live for up to a week without eating, which means that there is a risk of reinfestation until they either die or are eliminated. For at least several months, store infested foods in refrigerators or freezers. As a rule of thumb, you can store food that is not used often (e.g. pancake flour, grains and spices) in the freezer to stop infestations.

You can purchase pheromone traps in most retail outlets to capture and monitor Indianmeal and other pantry pests. None of these pantry pests should be treated with insecticides since they are stored in a food area.

Look for small moths, beetles and other pests in your home. If they are found crawling around or flying about, you should remove them immediately. Controlling the problem is possible if you find it before it spreads. Commonly, the source is either a broken or unopened package that was left at home or one that is rarely used. Seal the package and get rid of it immediately.

Infestation Clean-up

Most insects spread quickly to food packaging before they are even discovered. Take care to inspect any packages that may have been open or exposed. All packages that show signs of infestation must be destroyed. Signs of an infestation include tiny holes or webbing inside the containers. While they are less likely than to infest packages with their original seal, insects will more often attack those opened and left unattended for too long. For eggs and pupae removal, you should wash the shelves thoroughly with soapy water.

Pheromone Traps

Although pheromone traps can be used to attract many different pantry pests (e.g., the Indianmeal moth), pheromone traps designed specifically for Indianmeal will not attract beatles. Pantry Patrol, for example, attracts several pantry pest species such as the Indianmeal moth and confused flour beetle.

To detect any pests left behind after the original source has been eliminated, you can use pheromone traps. A pheromone is a chemical that an organism produces to alter the behavior of members of the same species. A sex hormone attracts male Indianmeal moths and traps them in the trap. The traps don’t attract any female moths. However, they could reduce the ability of these moths produce eggs. The aggregation and mixed pheromones which attract both the male and female flour beetle species of pheromones, are what is used. Some traps also contain food oil lures.

Placing the traps where the infestation occurred is a good idea. Make sure to check the traps every week. Traps usually last for around three months. You should inspect the food package again for any infestations once you have caught a new group of beetles or moths in your traps.

Prevention and Sanitation

Pests that infest homes are most likely to be pantry insects. They live in food containers, drawers, and crevices. You can avoid potential issues by following these guidelines for storing food products.

  • Avoid putting food that is exposed to the elements on shelves. Placing it on shelves is not a good idea.
  • Make sure that shelves, bins and other areas where flour, or any other food particles, cleaned regularly. Pests require very little food for survival and reproduction. You can clean flat areas with soap and water. Use a crevice attachment to vacuum cracks, corners, and edges.
  • Do not mix different types of food. Infested old materials will rapidly infest new.
  • Be sure to clean any containers you have before filling them up with new food. These containers could have been contaminated, which can lead to a new infection.
  • Avoid buying food items in damaged and broken packages. You are at greater risk of them becoming infested.
  • Make storage units compact so they can be cleaned easily.
  • You can store bulk material, like pet foods in tightly-fitting containers.
  • Keep storage units dry because moisture encourages pantry pest development. Dryness will discourage them.
  • Many pantry insects may breed in the nests created by insects or rodents, then move into your home. Remove nests from the vicinity of your home.
  • Rat baits may also be used to attract pantry pests. You should dispose of infested baits as soon as possible.

Pesticides: Warning

Pesticides have a poisonous effect. Certain pesticides have a higher level of toxicity than others, which can pose a greater risk to the environment, people and non-target organisms. Pesticides are any substance, whether organic or synthetic, that is used to prevent, kill or suppress pests. The broad term pesticide can refer to insecticides as well as rodenticides, miticides or weed killers, molluscicides. Other materials such growth regulators or antimicrobials like bleach, or sanitary wisps that kill bacteria, are all considered pesticides.

Make sure you read the label and follow any instructions. It is illegal to use pesticides if you don’t follow the label directions. Place all chemical containers, including those labeled, in a secure cabinet or shed. Do not place pesticides inside food containers or beverage containers. You should consult the pesticide label for information about active ingredients and locations.

In your garden or landscape, pesticides can easily move with water, soil, and other substances away from their original location. Pesticides should be kept on the treated property and not allowed to flow into creeks or rivers. Do not spray pesticide on neighboring properties, especially if you have plants that are ready for harvest.

Place pesticide containers in trash and don’t pour them down your sinks, outside drains, or toilets. Use all pesticide as directed on the label, or return any pesticides you don’t want to household hazardous waste collection site. To find out more about container safety and where the Hazardous waste collection site is located closest to you, please contact the county agricultural commissioner. You must follow all instructions for disposing of empty containers. You should not use, dispose of or reuse the containers.

Contact Shield Pest Control for professional ant removal services in Wayne, NJ or the surrounding areas. Our goal is to make your home feel safe and comfortable.

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