Preventing Pantry PestsDr. Jim Fredericks
Friday, December 7, 2012
Tips make sure your holiday baking is pest-free
cutout cookies to gingerbread houses, holiday baking is a fun
tradition for many families. But there is one thing that can
ruin the holiday cheer, and it’s not the Grinch. Pantry pests, or
product pests that tend to gather around food stowed in
pantries and cabinets, can quickly become a hassle for homeowners
during the holidays.
A variety of critters fit into the category of pantry pests
including beetles, ants, earwigs, weevils and
pillbugs, but the
most common species are the Indianmeal moth and merchant
grain beetle. Fortunately, neither of these pests pose serious
health or property threats, however, they can become major
nuisances to homeowners due to their quick ability to infest an
area in a short amount of time.
Pantry pests can infest common baking ingredients such as flour,
dried fruit, nuts, chocolate and more. In some cases, they are also
attracted to dried flowers and potpourri, which make decorations
another susceptible breeding ground for home infestations. Merchant
grain beetles are typically not found in grain products, but
instead like to attack cake mixes, macaroni, cookies and chocolate.
Indianmeal moths like to feed on dried fruits, grains, seeds, nuts,
chocolate, birdseed, dog food, powdered milk, dried red peppers and
Now, as the holiday season kicks into full swing, people across
the country will begin running to the grocery store and digging
into pantries for baking ingredients to make their favorite holiday
treats. But, before rummaging through to find the spices and flour,
consider inspecting all of the pantry items to ensure they are pest
free. Here are some other tips to guard against pantry pests and
help the holiday baking plans run smoothly:
- Purchase proper
storage: Invest in some Tupperware-type containers with
secure lids. These will not only keep your pantry looking nice, but
will also protect your food from pantry pests and even small
rodents that may be looking for an extra meal. Anything made of
plastic or glass works well, as long as the storage item comes with
a tight-fitting lid.
- Store seasonal
décor: Dried foliage, potpourri and Indian corn should be
kept in airtight containers during off seasons and unpacked outside
prior to displaying them inside the home for the holidays.
- Use a bay
leaf: 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.
- Inspect the
groceries: Most pantry pests are brought into the home from
items that are already infested such as food in paper grocery bags,
cardboard or plastic bags. On your next shopping trip, make sure to
inspect the packaging of all items before tossing them into the
cart. If a package is opened or shows the slightest sign of damage,
do not purchase it. For products already in the home, visually
inspect and sift through ingredients to ensure they remained
pest-free while in storage.
- Check the
date: Remember to check expiration dates on baking
ingredients before use. Occasionally sort through old items in the
pantry and toss out anything that’s been stored for a long period
- Practice good
sanitation: Do not let spills sit for a long period of time.
Immediately wipe up any crumbs or spills from countertops, tables,
floors and shelves, and dispose of garbage regularly in sealed
receptacles. Also, consider periodically emptying the cupboards and
cleaning them with soap and water to get rid of any bugs that may
be hiding inside.
- Seal cracks:
Look for any cracks or holes where pests might be coming into your
home especially around the stovepipes and water pipes. Also,
eliminate all moisture sites, including leaking pipes and clogged
drains with a dehumidifier.
If you find pantry pests in your kitchen, discard the infested
foods in outdoor trash bins and clean all of the shelves in the
cupboards with a vacuum. If an infestation has already taken root,
consult with a
licensed pest professional to inspect and treat the problem. A
pest control professional can keep these pests from multiplying and
contaminating other foods in your home.