As you dig through their pantries in search of ingredients to bake pumpkin pie and cookies for the holidays, keep your eyes peeled for insects that could be hiding in the bag of flour, chocolate or spices. These insects are known as stored product pests or pantry pests due to their tendency to gather around food products stored in pantries and cabinets.
It’s not uncommon for homeowners to encounter merchant grain beetles, Indian meal moths, flour beetles and other stored product pests this time of year as holiday baking is in full swing. These insects are often brought into the home unknowingly in items stored in paper packaging and unsealed bags. For this reason, it’s important to inspect all items for signs of damage before bringing them indoors.
Merchant Grain Beetles
Merchant grain beetles are (surprisingly) not commonly found in raw grain products. Instead, they prefer to devour processed cereal, cake mix, cookies and chocolate. Merchant grain beetles are brown with flat bodies and have six saw-like teeth on either side of their bodies.
Indian Meal Moths
The Indian meal moth was given its name after an insect scientist found it feeding on cornmeal, also known as Indian meal. They like to feed on dried fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, chocolate, candies, bird seed, dog food, powdered milk, dried red peppers and candy.
Flour beetles consume wheat and other grains, have adapted to survive in very dry environments, and can withstand even higher amounts of radiation than cockroaches. Their larvae are mealworms, and can be devastating to large stores of cereal and other grains.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) also recommends the following tips to keep from bringing pantry pests home for the holidays.
- Shop smart: Most pantry pests are brought into homes through products that are already infested. If an item shows any signs of damage, opt for another bag or box.
- Seal items: Proper food storage can go a long way in preventing an infestation. Once packages are opened, move ingredients into a sealed glass or Tupperware-type container with a secure lid before storing them in the pantry or cabinet.
- Use bay leaves: Add a bay leaf to canisters and packages of dry goods like flour, rice and other grains. The herb’s pungent scent repels many pantry pests.
- Check dates: Remember to check expiration dates on ingredients before use. Periodically sort through old items in the pantry and toss out anything that has been stored for a long time.
- Clean often: Immediately wipe up any crumbs or spills from countertops, tables, floors and shelves. Occasionally empty the cupboards and clean them with soap and water to get rid of residue and anything that may be hiding inside.
If you spot a pantry pest in your food, immediately dispose of it in a sealed, outdoor trash can. A licensed pest control professional should be called in for assistance in eliminating a full-blown infestation.
If you suspect that your pantry has unwanted residents, contact Dodson Pest Control today. Our team of expert technicians will provide a free inspection and work to create a plan to eliminate your pests.