Recognizing pantry pests and preventing an infestation

With the holidays around the corner, many homeowners are pulling out baking supplies to create seasonal goodies. Nothing can dampen the spirit of fun in the kitchen quite like a pantry pest infestation. Bugs can invade flower, sugar, cereal, rice, nuts and other packaged foods commonly brought out of the cupboard during the holidays..

To avoid inviting these pests into their pantries and cupboards, homeowners should learn to identify infestations and have them treated by a professional immediately.

According to the University of California Davis' Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, pantry pests are often brought into the home in infested packages of food. Homeowners should examine their groceries to ensure they are not bringing pests into their homes and pantries.

Meal moths
The Indian meal moth is the most common species found in pantries, states UC Davis. Larvae attack cereal, flour, cornmeal, dried fruit, pasta, candy and other stored products. A grown indian meal moth is recognizable by reddish-brown and whitish-gray wings. Their eggs hatch within a few days into white caterpillars.

Because these bugs travel far to pupate, or transform, they may found be outside the kitchen and infest other areas of the home.

Pantry beetles
There are several species of beetles that are commonly found in dry foods. Warehouse beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles and the drugstore beetle are just of a few of them.

These critters attack a variety of products and most lay eggs in packages of pasta, cocoa, nuts, dried beans and more. Some species have short life cycles, while others can live up to three years.

Infestation dangers
In addition to being troublesome, the presence of bugs in the kitchen can be extremely dangerous. UC Davis explains pests contaminate food with their bodies and byproducts. Secretion, webbing and excrement created by moths and beetles in their larval phases give foods disagreeable odors and taste. Meanwhile, warehouse beetle setae, or hair, can irritate the mouth, throat and stomach if ingested. Pantry pests can also bring microbes into food, which produce highly carcinogenic compounds.

Taking a stand
To avoid opening their pantry and cabinet doors to these bugs, homeowners can take precautionary measures to keep food safe.

It's a good idea to inspect all food storage space periodically to ensure it's not infested. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) advises residents to seal up any cracks or crevices around the home to avoid any kind of infestation.

The NPMA also highly recommends investing in airtight containers for all dry foods and checking expiration dates of ingredients before using them to bake or cook. Placing a bay leaf in dried foods can help to keep beetles away. 

When shopping for goods, residents should inspect the packaging thoroughly. If bags or cardboard show any sign of even slight damage, homeowners may consider alerting the grocer.

Good sanitation goes a long way in preventing visits from unwelcome bugs. Spills and crumbs should be cleaned up immediately and cupboards and shelves should be wiped down frequently. Not only can this help to keep pests away, it can also help a homeowner discover an infestation in a timely manner.

When preparing for festivities, homeowners should inspect decorations made of dried plants, like potpourri and Indian corn to ensure they aren't home to any pests that could invade their pantry. These festive items should be stored in sealed containers and unpacked outdoors before bringing them in the home.

If pantry pests continue to be an issue after infested food is disposed of, homeowners should contact an exterminator.


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