Why Pantry Pests Are A Big Problem In The Winter

A woman cooking on a stove in her kitchen

Now that winter is here, it’s time to brush off that crock pot and start making some of your favorite slow cooker recipes. You open that bag of lentils that’s been sitting in the pantry for a few months--not sure how long... and a moth flies out! Yikes! A sealed bag? How did bugs get into a sealed bag?!

Congratulations, your pantry has been selected by Indian meal moths as a breeding ground, possibly for months to come. Here’s what you need to know about these harmless but annoying pests, as well as cigarette beetles and sawtoothed grain beetles, other common pantry pests, and what to do when you find them in your flour.

Indian meal moth larvae feed on a wide variety of dry goods including grains, flour, cereals, dry pet food, bird seed, spices, dried fruit, dried flowers, and chocolate. Adult moths do not feed, but are attracted to light and tend to fly in a zigzag pattern. An infestation of any of these insects typically starts at a food-processing plant or storage facility where a female lays her eggs inside a food source. When the food product is brought into a home and the eggs hatch, the food is contaminated with silk webbings from the larvae along with fecal matter and cast skins. Moths then lay eggs inside other food product packages in your home, and the contamination continues.

Identify Common Pantry Pests

  • Indian meal moths are small - 1/4” -3/8” in length. Their front wings are bi-colored and their hind wings are a solid, pale gray. The young caterpillar is cream in color with a brown head.
  • Cigarette beetles are smaller, no more than 1/8”, with serrated antennae, brown coloring, and a humped appearance.
  • Saw-toothed grain beetles are 1/8” and have a long, narrow, brown body with six saw-like teeth on each side of their prothorax. They have wings but are not known to fly.

It is important to note that Indian meal moths, cigarette beetles, and saw-toothed grain beetles are not dangerous to humans, but they contaminate food products. Never cook with foods that contain larvae, eggs, or live insects.

So what can you do to prevent these bugs from getting into your food? Here are a few tips:

  • Seal all entry points into your home, such as cracks and crevices.
  • Discard old or expired foods regularly.
  • Only purchase items in packaging that do not have holes, rips, or damaged seals. Examine foods at the store before you purchase them, and again as soon as you bring them home.
  • Keep dry goods in securely sealed containers with tightly-closing lids, not in plastic or cardboard containers.
  • Rotate pantry goods, using older foods first before newly purchased ones.

If you have pantry pests, you need the expertise of a professional pest control company for efficient and effective control of these insects. Even one contaminated package of food can keep a population going with no end in sight. If you are experiencing pantry pests or want to avoid any in the future, your first choice should be American Pest Solutions. We are experts in the field of pest control and have the experience, technology, and knowledge to take care of your pest problems. Call us today for a free inspection!