Tis’ the Season to Be Wary of Household Pests

When the holiday season approaches, families across the country will begin pulling out boxes of decorations and digging into pantries for baking ingredients. But with these annual traditions comes the risk of bringing a variety of pests - from mice, rodents and spiders to a group of insects known as "pantry pests" - into homes. The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) encourages homeowners to use caution to prevent unwelcome pest guests this season. 

"Mice, rodents, spiders and other pests find their way into homes by hiding in boxes of holiday decorations that have been stored in attics, basements and garages since last season," says Missy Henriksen, vice president of public affairs for the NPMA. "They create homes in these undisturbed items and then find new places to infest once these boxes are moved into family living quarters such as dens and kitchens."

To prevent such pests from hitchhiking into homes, NPMA recommends that homeowners keep holiday decorations - especially items like dried foliage, potpourri and Indian corn - in airtight containers during off-seasons. Decorations should be unpacked outside and inspected carefully. Similar caution should be taken to inspect live foliage that is brought indoors during the holidays, including Christmas trees, wreaths and garlands that can harbor pests. 

Pantry pests, meanwhile, earned their name because of their tendency to be found in pantry foods including flour, cereal, dry pasta, spices, dried nuts and fruit. They can also be found in decorations that contain dried flowers or potpourri. The most common pantry pests include beetles, ants, weevils and Indian meal moths.

"Pantry pests are often brought into homes through infested packages of food from the store," says Henriksen. "It is important to carefully examine pantry items before use - especially items that haven't been used since the past year. If you do find pantry pests, consult with a pest professional to keep them from multiplying and contaminating other foods."

The NPMA also recommends the following tips to keep pantry pests away:

  • Store food items in insect-proof containers such as glass or plastic, with tightly sealed lids.
  • Do not mix old and new food items, as this can spread an infestation.
  • Never purchase groceries if the packaging is broken.
  • Keep cabinets, pantries and countertops clean and free of crumbs.
  • Dispose of any food that is expired or shows signs of a pest infestation.
  • To remediate pest infestations, contact a licensed pest professional.