Pantry Pests

Posted: December 28, 2011

There are a variety of different insects that attack your cereals, flour and other dried products while stored in your kitchen or pantry.

When a homeowner finds unwanted insects in their home it is extremely upsetting to them.  In the Extension Office we hear from many distressed homeowners who are extremely upset over the appearance of little insects in and around their kitchen cabinets.  There are a variety of different insects that attack your cereals, flour and other dried products while stored in your kitchen or pantry.  It is not uncommon for most homes to have a few of them. Usually they are unnoticed, but when they become abundant most people panic.


The most common insect found in Pennsylvania pantries is the Indian meal moth.  It likes chocolate, dried fruit, bird feed, and cat and dog feed.  Another pest commonly found in the kitchen area is the saw-toothed grain beetle.  This pest is readily found in infected flour products, pasta and cereal.  Two pests that like dried herbs are the cigarette beetle and the drugstore beetle.


“How did I get them? I keep a clean house!”   These two small sentences are what come next after they tell me about the plaque of insects that have taken over their kitchen and pantry.  Sometimes these pests can enter your house from outside, but the majority of infestations are in food products brought into your house.  During plant processing or while in storage in a warehouse are the two most common locations for infestation.  It is also not uncommon for a product to become infested at a retail store; the longer it is stored in the same location the higher the likelihood of infestation.  


The beetles and moths that you see in your home have four stages in their life cycles; egg, larva, pupa and adult.  All four of these stages can be present in the food.  At the egg stage they are so tiny you cannot see them in the product. The most destructive stage is the larva stage; this is when the pest is eating the products.  However, most concerned homeowners panic when the adult stage is found.


The most important thing to do when you have an infestation is to locate the source.  Until you pinpoint what product is producing the infestation you cannot get a good handle of its control.  Many of these pests can fly in their adult stage, so just because you see them in one location of the house doesn’t mean your contaminated product is in that location. The breeding site may be elsewhere in the house.  When searching for the breeding site, make sure you check all edible products. These pests will feed on anything including: cereals, crackers, spices, dried fruit, macaroni, chocolate, candy, nuts, dried beans and peas, bird feed, fish food and cat and dog food.


Once you have identified the infected breeding site, get it out of the house.  Completely clean the cabinet and place all remaining products that might be a food source in air-tight closed containers.  Don’t overlook your cake mixes, they can also become infected.  If you do a good job of vacuuming, washing and thoroughly cleaning all shelves and cupboards insecticide will not be necessary.