Pantry Pest and Stored Product Pest Control
"Stored food pests" or "pantry pests" are terms that exterminators use for insects that specifically infest stored food products. Also included in this category are insects that eat things that we don't usually consider food, such as woolen clothing and other natural-fiber textile products.
In practice, this category of pests includes certain species of beetles, weevils, and moths. Although many other insects have adapted to eating stored food intended for humans, the ones described here account for the bulk of stored food pest calls responded to by exterminators in the St. Louis area.
Indian Meal Moths
Indian Meal Moths are very common pests of plant-based foods, including corn meal, flour, and other milled grain products. They also will infest other dried plant products including potpourri, dried flowers, etc.
Adult Indian Meal Moths are about half an inch in length and are gray, black, and brown in color. The larvae are cream-colored and can be found in and around the foods that they are feeding upon.
These moths can be very difficult to control. Effective Indian meal moth control usually involves identification and destruction of infested products (which may include non-food products), the judicious use of insecticides when needed, and the use of specie-specific pheromone traps.
Sawtoothed Grain Beetles
Adult sawtoothed grain beetles are small, reddish-brown insects that are reddish-brown in color. They have a distinct sawtooth pattern on the sides of their thorax. Their larvae are cream-colored.
Sawtoothed grain beetles closely resemble merchant grain beetles, but the sawtooth pattern is not as pronounced on the merchant. In addition, adult merchant grain beetles can fly, but sawtoothed grain beetles cannot. Other than that, their behavior and control are very similar.
Elimination of sawtoothed grain beetles can be difficult and involves identifying and destroying infected food products, applying insecticides to cabinets and cupboards if needed, and sometimes using specie-specific pheromone traps.
Drugstore Beetles and Cigarette Beetles
Adults drugstore beetles (also known as "bread beetles" or "biscuit beetles") are brownish in color and are good fliers. They average around 1/8" in size.
Cigarette beetles are quite similar in appearance to drugstore beetles, but lack the longitudinal lines found on the wing covers of the drugstore beetle. In addition, the drugstore beetle's antennae end in a distinct, three-segmented "club," while the cigarette beetle has serrated antennae. Adults of both species can fly and are attracted to light.
The larvae of both drugstore beetles and cigarette beetles are cream-colored. They'll eat almost anything, but commonly infest cereals, cookies, crackers, cocoa, tobacco, various spices, and animal feed.
Confused Flour Beetles and Red Flour Beetles
Confused flour beetles and red flour beetles are about 1/8" in length as adults. Adult red flour beetles can fly, but confused flour beetles cannot. The antennae of the confused flour beetle increase gradually in size from the head outward and end in four clubs, while those of the red flour beetle end in three.
The larvae of both species are similar in appearance and are yellowish in color.
Both confused flour beetles and red flour beetles will readily eat almost any killed, grain-based food. They cannot feed on whole, intact grain. They're most commonly found infesting flour, cookies, crackers, pasta, pet foods, dried fruit, and cereals. They are among the most destructive of stored-product pests, contaminating untold quantities of food with their carcasses, feces, and secretions. They also impart very foul tastes and odors to the food they infest.
Rice Weevils and Granary Weevils
Granary weevils (shown here) and rice weevils bore through the outer shells of whole grains during their larval stage, and eat the grain from the inside out, often leaving little but the shell by the time they're done. They spend their entire juvenile lives inside the grain, pupating there before emerging as adults.
Both rice weevils and granary weevils commonly infest whole-grain, seed foods such as rice, wheat, bird seed, oats, rye, barley, nuts, and so forth. But if necessary, they can also survive on milled grain products, processed cereals, or other non-seed, plant-based food.
Control of rice weevils and granary weevils primarily consists of identifying and discarding infested food products, and thoroughly cleaning the cabinets and cupboards to remove any spilled food products. This is usually all that is necessary.
Dermestid beetles are primarily meat-eaters whose species include larder beetles (shown here), carpet beetles and cabinet beetles.
Dermestid beetles commonly infest meat-based foods such as beef jerky, dried sausage, dog and cat foods, and dried soup bases. They'll also eat things that we don't typically think of as "food," such as wool, furs, cashmere, and feathers.
Many infestations of Dermestid beetles can be tracked to a mouse, bird, or other animal that died somewhere inside a house, with the beetles feeding on the carcass, fur, or feathers.
As with most stored product pests, control of dermestid beetles in food begins with identification and destruction of the infested product. With textile-infesting beetles (such as carpet beetles), sometimes a cleaning or shampooing of the infested product is all that's needed, but more serious cases usually require professional pest control.
Pantry Pest Control
Proper control of stored food pests begins with non-chemical methods. These include:
- Closely inspecting stored foods and discarding infested products.
- Thoroughly cleaning cabinets and cupboards, including the removal of any larvae or pupae.
- Sealing all susceptible food products in insect-proof containers such as tight-sealing plastic containers or freezer-grade Ziploc bags.
The next step is professional control. At Buckingham Pest Control, we use a variety of treatment methods to treat stored product pest problems. These may include the use of sticky traps, pheromone attractants, insect growth regulators, and precision application of residual insecticides when necessary. Once the immediate problem is taken care of, continued monitoring may be needed for a time period that varies according to the insect species.