You may have unwanted visitors this fall. These visitors are nibbling on your food, multiplying, and slowly taking over your home. They’re known as pantry pests. These pesky insects can be hidden from view for quite some time in your pantry and in your food. The dried foods they often infest include flour, cereal, pasta, baking mixes, grain products, cookies, crackers, powdered milk, dried fruit, nuts, seeds, popcorn, spices, pet food and cured meats.
Eventually, these pests get really comfortable and decide to let their presence be known. Some will chew their way out through paper, plastic and foil storage bags, and expand their living quarters by accumulating in pots, pans, and dishes. They may even take a stroll along your windowsills or fly right by you as they roam the interiors of your home.
Common types of pantry pests
Your most common pantry pests are certain types of beetles and moths. Four types of pantry pests that frequently appear include:
- Anobiidae Beetles, specifically the “Drugstore Beetle” and “Cigarette Beetle” species: Their nicknames should give you a clue about their preferred food choices. They have curved, reddish brown, oval shaped bodies that can even bore into wood. They will eat up every dry food in your pantry as well as your pet’s food. They will show up in your kids’ macaroni art, attic, pet food storage, garage, or utility room. They are strong flyers, and since they seek light, you’ll find them along your windowsills.
- Dermestid Beetles: If you come across cast-off skins with tiny little hairs or larvae that’s a bit fury, you’ve got them. The black and rust or solid black-colored species show up in the pantry, kitchen, garage, or utility room. These beetles eat anything that’s organic.
- Flour Beetles: These are usually reddish brown in color, and they’re not necessarily great flyers, you’ll likely find them crawling around in your flour.
- Indian Meal Moths: You’ll know them by their webbing and cocoons. They have pale gray, reddish brown and coppery wings. They eat everything and their larvae are found in cracks and crevices.
Since you didn’t invite them in, you may be wondering how these insects ended up in your home. Well, some have traveled a long way. They may have hitched a ride inside or on top of your food product as it was transferred from the food processing plant to your home. They could have crept into the food package through its folds and seams as it sat on the store shelf. Some grain-loving insects clung on for dear life when the grain was plucked from the plant. However, one thing to keep in mind is that these insects don’t like to be alone. They will reproduce, especially in food products that are left undisturbed on the shelf, and thrive for months.
Government limits for insect parts and rodent hair
Believe it or not, the Food and Drug Administration lets insect particles and rodent hair enter food, but the amount is miniscule and poses no health hazards. Some defects in food are unavoidable. The FDA sets extremely low limits, but it does happen.
How you can secure food products
Don’t let a pantry pest infestation surge. You can cut the length of their stay. Here are five tips we suggest for protecting your pantries from these types of pests:
- When you’re purchasing grain-based foods at the store, take a moment to inspect the food packaging for any insect activity.
- Keep foods in a tightly closed containers, but also determine which pantry foods can survive in the freezer or refrigerator if possible especially if you have experienced a recent infestation.
- Make it a habit to use older foods first and don’t let them stay in your pantry for longer than two months. Remember to stock your food pantry first in, first out.
- Wiping down or vacuuming the pantry shelves as part of your weekly cleaning routine is key to keeping pantry pests out. This way you can keep an eye out for any unusual activity, clean out food spills, discard infested food products and paper etc. Wipe down any crumbs and food particles that may have built up in the shelves.
- Use caulking to seal the cracks along the cupboards and pantry shelving to prevent easy access into cupboards and pantries.