Pantry Pests

Pantry Pests

There are many types of insects that can infest food and other organic products stored in kitchen pantries. Infested products may include grains, dried dairy items, pet foods, bird seed, dried fruits, nuts, candy, spices, herbs, dried flowers, potpourri or even tobacco. Most pantry pests are either beetles, like the saw-toothed grain beetle or moths, like the Indian meal moth. Both beetles and moths undergo a four stage life cycle of egg, larva (immature stage), pupa, adult. Adult pests deposit their tiny eggs usually on or near grain products. After a few days, the eggs hatch. The larvae are either shaped like caterpillars or small grubs. Some larvae may have long hairs while others appear smooth. Pantry pests can pupate in the items they are infesting or away from the items in protected cracks and crevices. Several pantry pests, especially moths, will crawl up walls to pupate on ceilings.

In most infestations the larvae are the stage that causes damage to stored products. Many adult beetles can also damage items. Although no diseases have been associated with these insects, their presence is undesirable and makes food unfit for human consumption. Often, when damage is seen, the insects that cause it, or signs of them, will be present.

When examining damaged food products, there are some signs to look for to know what kind of insect is responsible. If beetles did the damage, the adults and larvae will most likely be present. There may be small insect skins or pupal cases left behind. Adult beetles may be seen crawling on the shelves and floor of the pantry.

If moths did the damage, adults may be seen flying, especially around windows or lights. The damaged food may have larvae present along with some silken webbing which they used to construct pupae (cocoons).