Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Nothing prepared me for the flock of little moths that came pouring out of my pantry. After all, I keep my house clean, and I have regular visits from the exterminator.
So, where did all these little bugs come from? And what could I do to get rid of these gross little bugs in my food? I decided to investigate and figure out how to keep pests out of food storage.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the kinds of pests that can get into food storage. We’ll also talk about how to keep those pests out of your food storage and what to do if there are already signs of pests. But first, let’s talk about the bugs and what they can get into.
The bugs you find in your pantry or long-term food storage aren’t out to get people – they just want your food. They aren’t going to bite or sting, but they are gross and a few can make you sick. You might find the adults or larvae in just about anything you have stored:
- Cookies or crackers
- Beans and peas
- Cornmeal or corn kernels
- Teas or sugary drink mixes
- Powdered milk
- Cured meats
- Seeds and Nuts
Just because you find pests in your food storage doesn’t mean your house is dirty. Oftentimes, bugs and pests come home in infected groceries and are undetectable until they begin to multiply.
They can also sneak into your home through tiny cracks and crevices, fly in from your yard, or sneak in through holes around your foundation.
What Kinds of Pests Can Get Into Your Food Storage?
Indian Meal Moth
These are the little bugs that came flying out of my pantry, and they are probably the most common to find and the most difficult to get out of your food.
If you find them in your pantry, it’s probably because they came home from the grocery store in your flour or pasta. A single female can lay more than 300 eggs in its short lifetime, either in or near your food, and especially in unsealed pantry products.
These little oval-shaped beetles are brown or black. You’ll probably find them in packaged goods like grains and cereals. It isn’t a big deal if you find one or two in your home, but if you find them in your food, toss it out.
These little scavengers can chew holes in your packaging. They’ll eat your food and leave behind cocoons and webs in your grains and flour. They most likely come from the grocery store in infested food.
Pharaoh ants are about 1/16 of an inch long and have a serious sweet tooth! They can be anywhere from yellow to red in color. They can be quite a pest if they get into your home.
Saw-Toothed Grain Beetle
These little guys will happily dine on anything in your pantry such as flour, cereal, pet food, and even candy. They have six saw-like teeth on each side of their thorax, giving them their name.
They probably came home with you from the grocery store. Don’t be too worried if you eat one or two by mistake. They don’t carry germs.
One of the worst pests to find is cockroaches. They will flock to trash and can contaminate your food. In addition, some people are allergic to their droppings.
Infestations usually require insecticides or professional help, but you can prevent them by keeping your house clean and dry and keeping tight lights on all your trash.
You might find spiders in your pantry, especially if there are infestations of other bugs that they enjoy eating. Keep your pantry as clean as possible and vacuum up any spiders and other bugs.
Adult mealworms look like run-of-the-mill beetles and can grow up to an inch long. As larvae, they look like worms. They love damp, moldy food, so if you find them, your item was probably already expired anyway. Don’t be too alarmed if you accidentally ingest one because they don’t carry diseases.
There are a number of different types of beetles that can infect your pantry, such as drugstore beetles, confused beetles, warehouse beetles, and flour beetles.
They’re most likely going after the flour and grains in your pantry. If you find infested food, toss it out. Larvae from warehouse beetles shed hairs that can cause allergic reactions when ingested
Cigarette beetles are named because they feed on tobacco products, but they also love your cereal, pet food, and nuts. They are about 1/8 inch long and a little bit humpbacked. They can sneak into your home through cracks or open windows or arrive in infested goods.
Weevils are tiny pests, but adult females can lay up to 4 eggs per day. They are little, dark-colored bugs that love your rice, barley, corn, and oats. They may come in from your yard or come home with you from the grocery store in infested foods.
Accidentally ingesting a few probably won’t harm you, but you’ll probably want to get rid of any infested food anyway.
Bad weather can send rodents into your home in search of better conditions. Unfortunately, once they’re in, they can multiply rapidly. Since rodents can carry all kinds of diseases, you’ll want to get the problem taken care of immediately and dispose of any infested or chewed-on food.
How to Keep Pests out of Your Food Storage
The best thing to do is take a few steps to prevent pests from getting into your food storage before they ruin it. Unfortunately, some pests can chew through plastic, cardboard, and waxed paper, and rodents can even chew through plastic. But there are a few steps you can take to keep your food safe.
- Keep storage areas clean. Clean up spills and moisture immediately before bugs can find them.
- Rotate your long-term storage food often.
- Store long-term storage items in mylar bags in 5-gallon buckets.
- Keep items sealed and only open them when you are ready to use them.
- Check items periodically for signs of pests and rodents.
- When possible, store pantry items in glass containers.
- You can store cornmeal and many types of nuts in the freezer.
- Keep your dried fruits and powdered milk in the refrigerator.
- When possible, make sure the food you bring home from the store is not already infested with bugs.
- Seal up any cracks around windows and doors to keep out bugs and make sure there are no holes that rodents can enter.
- Freeze flour for four days when you bring it home to kill any beetle eggs or larvae that may already be in there.
- Garlic cloves, bay leaves, and even mint can help ward away bugs.
What to Do If There Are Signs of Pests in Your Food Storage
If you notice pests in your food, you’ll want to check other items in your pantry to ensure the infestation hasn’t spread. Look closely because some pests can chew through boxes and bags. Also, look for rodent droppings, dead bugs, webbings, or other signs of debris.
Check all opened items for signs of bugs. Then, get rid of any infected food in well-sealed trash bags so the bugs don’t return or infect other food, especially in your long-term storage.
Vacuum your food storage area and wash down walls to get rid of webs, eggs, and dead bugs. You may need to remove all of the items from your pantry to clean it thoroughly. If the infestation is severe or recurring, you may want to consider hiring a professional to take care of it.