Pantry Pests,

Know the Enemy



Pantry Pests, those little moths and other insects that get into your cereals, pancake mix, crackers and nuts.

These insects find their way into your house in bird feed and sometimes dry pet food.

They are very capable of chewing through boxes and bags to find pay dirt.

Discovering “bugs” in your breakfast cereal may be disgusting, but it isn't unusual, because many insects like to eat what we do.

Foods commonly infested include flour, cereals, cracked grains, baking mixes and processed foods, crackers, macaroni, cured meats, powdered milk, dried fruits, nuts, popcorn and spices.

Insects that feed on these products may also infest other grain-based items such as pet foods, birdseed and ornamental corn.

Dried flower arrangements may also be attacked by these Pantry Pests.

Granary and Rice Weevils (Sitophilus spp):

Weevils aren't common Pantry Pests, but can occur

These insects damage whole grains or seeds. They generally do not feed on flour or cereals unless it has become caked.

Adult weevils are very similar. Both are dark reddish-brown and range in size from 1/8 to 3/16-inch long. They have a long snout projecting from the head and wing covers with distinct ridges.

Females lay eggs on seeds, kernels or other suitable foods. These pantry pests chew into the seed and feed on the inside of whole kernels/seeds.

Pupation normally occurs within hollowed-out kernels or seeds. There can be as many as three to five generations each year. Weevil-damaged grains are typically hollow and have small round emergence holes.

Because they feed on whole grains, these pests are more likely to be a problem in grain bins and warehouses, but it is possible to have infestations in homes.

Most common sources are popcorn, birdseed, decorative Indian corn and nuts

Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella):

The Indian meal moth is the most common food-infesting pests found in homes, grocery stores and any place where dried pet foods are produced or stored.

It feeds on a large variety of stored food products, but home infestations often get started through dried pet food or birdseed.

Nuts are a favorite breeding source.

The larva of these insects prefers coarse grades of flour, whole grains, cereal, dried fruits, seeds and spices.

Foods infested with these insects will have silk webbing present, especially near the food surface.

Adult pests are moths, nearly 1/2-inch long and have distinctive wing markings. The base of the forewing is pale gray and the outer two-thirds is reddish-brown with a coppery luster.

They have a distinctive way of “resting” on the wall at an angle with their wings folded.

The larvae are generally dirty-white in color with shades of yellow, pink, brown or green. Mature larvae, which are about 1/2-inch long, usually move away from the feeding site before pupating within silken cocoons.

When female Indian meal moth’s are ready to breed, they emit a sex pheromone which only the male moths can smell.

This pheromone has been identified and synthesized and made into a lure that can catch male moths in a sticky trap marketed for pantry pests.

This is an ideal, non-toxic method of detecting the earliest signs of an Indian meal moth infestation and help pinpoint areas of activity.

These lures attract males 25 to 50 feet away and last eight to 12 weeks.

In a typical home environment, only one trap is often needed. The pest sticky traps are available at many retail locations.

Several stages (egg, larva, pupa and adult) of these pests may be present at the same time in infested products.

Because we keep our houses warm, these insects may continually reproduce and many stored product infestations can be found nearly any time of the year.

The first indication of pantry pests is often the presence of small brown beetles, moths or worms in cupboards or on counters.

Upon closer inspection, insects may also be found in opened packages or containers of food and in the cracks and crevices of cupboards.

Unopened packages may also become infested because some of the Pests can readily chew into cardboard and foil packaging.

Insects can be brought into the home along with infested food products.

They can multiply and spread to other stored foods.

Once an infestation is suspected, identify the pest and try to locate the source.

Occasionally, the source of an infestation can be very hard to find.

It may be in an unopened package from the store.

Consider the possibility food may have been spilled next to or behind hard-to-move appliances.

Mice will sometimes collect seeds or dry pet food and hoard them in walls, under cupboards or dishwashers where the pantry pests are nearly impossible to find.

Pantry Pests Come in Bird seed, Proper Storage is Needed.

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