How-To: Safe DIY Pantry Pest Control

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The winter months have moved in, and while it rarely gets bone-chillingly cold here in Phoenix, most of us are spending more time indoors and tidying up our houses in preparation for holiday company. If you’re getting a little wintertime cleaning in, there is one place you won’t want to overlook: the pantry.

Chances are, you’ve seen a pest or two in your home over the years, but few things seem to give our customers the chills more than finding pests in their food. While pantry pests don’t cause hazardous damage to your home, or to the health of your family, it can be quite disconcerting to find larvae hanging out in your breakfast cereal.

In a previous post, we outlined some of the most common pantry pests you might encounter, as well as what they like to eat and how to tell if they’ve infested your food. This time around, we are going to give you some tips for keeping your food safe and secure, and what to do if you discover pantry pests in your home. The good news: controlling most pantry infestations doesn’t require harsh chemicals or pesticides, and you can effectively manage them using the tools you have at home!

Pantry Pest Prevention

  • Use air-tight containers to store your food products instead of keeping them in the easily-infiltrated packaging they were in when sold. Foods to store in containers include dried fruits, nuts, flour, cornmeal, pasta, and dried pet food. Purchase heavy plastic or glass containers with lids that seal tightly. This also keeps your kitchen looking neat and organized!
  • Rotate all stored food, and use older food first.
  • Avoid buying and storing susceptible products like cereals, grains and flour or cornmeal in bulk.
  • Inspect purchased food for infestation as soon as you get it home – many pantry pests invade food products at the packaging source. If something looks, smells or tastes “off,” or you notice the presence of larvae or cast-off larval shells, discard it immediately.
  • Check food items at the grocery store. Look for unsealed containers, or containers with holes in them. If the packaging looks like it has been compromised, don’t buy it.
  • Immediately clean up spilled food or grain products. Don’t let spilled flour, crumbs or ingredients to build up in the areas where you store or prepare your food.
  • If you’re doing a major kitchen clean-up, remove all the food products from your cabinets and pantry, and vacuum the shelves. Empty the vacuum cleaner immediately in an outdoor dumpster to ensure that any pests you’ve sucked up don’t re-enter your home.
  • Don’t leave food sitting out in other areas of your home, like bedrooms and living rooms.
  • Use caulking to seal any cracks in your panties and cabinets to prevent entry points and discourage pests from laying eggs.
  • Add a bay leaf to stored containers of dried goods. The leaf’s strong odor will repel many pests without impacting the flavor of your food.
  • Check the expiration dates and visually inspect all packaged dry goods and ingredients prior to use.

Pantry Pest Treatment

  • In general, proper sanitation and cleanliness will clear up infestations and prevent pantry pests from returning.
  • In most situations, disposing of infested foods and vacuuming out storage areas will allow you to control the infestation.
  • Cleaning infested areas with harsh detergents or bleach is not recommended, as they are typically no more effective than simply having good sanitation. Plus, you want to keep those harmful products away from food and food preparation areas.
  • You can save some infested food products by freezing them (at zero degrees for 4-7 days) or heating them in the oven (30-60 minutes at 130-140 degrees). These processes will kill pests at all stages of insect development. Remember – this will only kill the insects that are present, and will not remove their bodies, larvae or larval casings from the food.
  • Eliminate moisture sites like leaking pipes or clogged drains. Consider placing a dehumidifier in your kitchen.
  • If your pantry pest situation is too much for you to manage, contact us for help. One of our pest professionals will visit your home, help diagnose the problem, and discuss your treatment options.