4 Common Pantry Pests to Watch Out For

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‘Tis the season! December has rolled around and it’s time for holiday shopping, hanging the Christmas lights, and of course, baking lots of delicious holiday goodies. This Christmas, we want to help you keep your holiday treats pest-free by giving you a guide to the most common pantry pests to look for. Nothing can ruin a cookie baking session faster than discovering an unwanted visitor in your flour!

Fortunately, the most common pantry pests aren’t a serious threat to your home or your family’s health. However, they can quickly become a problem because of how quickly they can invade and multiply in your food supplies. Here are four of the most common pantry pests, where to find them, and what signs to look for.

Red Flour Beetle

Red Flour Beetle

Many flour beetles make their way into your home because they are common pests in flour mills. They are scavengers and will only eat whole grains that other insects have already damaged. They feed on flour, dried nuts, tobacco, cake mix, cornmeal, stored pet food, spices and dried fruit.

Adult red flour beetles are 3/16 of an inch, and have a joint between their thorax and abdomen. They can fly, and will continuously reproduce when living indoors. They have a life cycle of about two years. You may see adults or their larvae in infested food items, but the adult beetles might wander away from their original food source to infest other parts of your home.

dermestid

Dermestid Beetle

The dermestid beetle is a common household pest, and it doesn’t infest pantry items exclusively. While they typically are scavenger insects, feeding on dried animal matter and natural fibers, they can invade stored food sources if they can’t find enough of their preferred food source. They typically feed on candy, spices and dried fruit.

Dermestid larvae are light brown and are covered with long hairs. Adults are small, dark brown, oval-shaped and covered with hairs. Larvae like to hide in dark places, and fully developed adults typically mate and lay eggs near a suitable food source. You may find larvae in dark areas of your cabinetry, or find cast-off larval skins in and around food sources. Adults are usually found near light sources, such as on your windowsills.

Sawtoothed

Sawtoothed or Merchant Grain Beetle

These pests have a penchant for processed food, and usually feed on cornmeal, flour, oats, spices, cereals, herbs, and dried pet foods as preferred food sources. They also enjoy sugar, chocolate, dried fruits and meat.

Sawtoothed grain beetles can reproduce up to seven generations per year if they are living indoors, and adults can live more than one year. Larvae are 1/4 –inch long, and are tan in color with a dark head. Adults are 1/4 -inch long, slender and dark red-brown in color. Sawtoothed grain beetles have wings, but do not fly, while merchant grain beetles can. They get their name from the six saw-like teeth on the edge of their thorax. Merchant grain beetles are very similar in appearance, without the tooth-like projections on the thorax. The flat shape of their bodies makes it easy for them to penetrate packaged foods. You may notice these pests or their larvae in stored food products, or you may see the adults crawling around on kitchen surfaces. These are an important pest to catch, as they usually lay their eggs in cracks or cervices of food pantry areas.

meal moth

Indian Meal Moth

Indian meal moths are the most common pantry pest in the world, in part because they have such voracious and varied appetites. They will infest dry pet food, bird seed, nuts, dried fruits, grains, cereals, flour, spices, candy, and even powdered milk.

The larval stage of the Indian meal moth is the stage when the insect does damage to food products. They have a light, cream-colored body with a dark head, and can grow up to 2/3 of an inch in length before developing a cocoon in crevices or cracks in the pantry area. Adults are a dull brown with bronze wings, and are about 3/8 of an inch long. They live about one week as adults, and you may find them flying in a zig-zag pattern around your home as they look for places to lay their eggs. Signs of an Indian meal moth infestation include finding larvae in stored food products, and infested food products will be webbed together in clumps. You may notice meal moth larvae crawling on walls or other flat surfaces as they search for a place to spin their cocoons.

If you’ve seen any of these common pantry pests in your home, give us a call – we would be happy to help! Also, stay tuned to our blog for some great DIY tips on how to prevent and treat pantry pests in your home.

Resources:

Utah State University Extension

Iowa State university Department of Entomology

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

PestWorld