Pantry Pests 101

A guide to identifying common stored product pests 

During the holiday season, families and friends across the country gather in the kitchen to create favorite treats. However, nothing ruins a day full of baking fun quicker than opening up a bag of flour to find it has been taken over by pantry pests.

These stored product pests tend to gather around food stored in pantries and cupboards such as grains, dry cereals, spices, candies and chocolate. They breed quickly, which can allow small infestations to grow out of control in short periods of time.

Keeping pantry pests out in the first place is vital to preserving kitchen ingredients along with holiday memories! Here is a guide to help you identify and prevent the most common pantry pests.

Merchant Grain Beetles

  • Region: Merchant grain beetles are found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: These beetles are typically found year-round in pantries, food processing areas and warehouses where any accessible food can quickly become a buffet. Despite their name, merchant grain beetles prefer cereals, cake mixes, macaroni, cookies and chocolate to grains.
  • Threats: Merchant grain beetles can quickly take over food products and contaminate them. Their body shape allows them to crawl in to packaging where they eat, live and reproduce, allowing infestations to grow quickly.
  • Prevention tip: Add one bay leaf to canisters and packages of dry goods - the herb's pungent scent repels many pests.
  • Unique fact: Merchant grain beetles have six saw-like teeth on each side of their flat bodies.

Indian Meal Moths

  • Region: Indian meal moths are found throughout the United States.
  • Habitat: These moths are attracted to light and any area where food is stored, including pantries and cabinets. They prefer to feed on dried fruits and vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, chocolate, candies, pet food and powdered milk.
  • Threats: Indian meal moths will infest available food sources, rendering them unfit for future use.
  • Prevention tip: Always store food in thick plastic or glass containers with airtight, secure lids to keep Indian meal moths from sneaking their way inside.
  • Unique fact: The Indian meal moth was given its name after a scientist found one feeding on cornmeal, also known as Indian meal.

If you suspect an infestation, contact a licensed pest professional. Pantry pests can reproduce quickly to take over your kitchen, and what may initially seem like a small problem can quickly turn in to an infestation. To learn more about how to prevent merchant grain beetles and Indian meal moths inside the home, watch this video on keeping pests out of the kitchen.

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