Flour and other stored foods in your kitchen pantry are vulnerable to bug infestations.
These bugs are tiny and they use sneaky ways to invade your kitchen. The most common food that these pests attack is your flour.
This guide will reveal 5 common little bugs in flour. One of these flour bugs is microscopic and can be difficult to spot during the initial stages.
These food bugs also attack other stored foods and grains like rice, cereals, packaged foods, and even baked foods.
You’ll find out where these flour bugs come from, how to identify them, and how you can get rid of them.
And a lot more. Keep reading.
5 Little Bugs In Flour And In Dry Stored Food
The five most common types of flour bugs are –
- Flour weevils
- The confused flour beetle
- Red flour beetle
- Flour mites
- Indian meal moths
These bugs infest all types of flour like rice flour, wheat flour, and corn flour. But that’s not all.
These tiny bugs can infest a range of stored dry food products like cereals, grains, rice, pasta, cake mixes, dry fruits, and spices.
Let’s check out what these bugs are, their behavior, and why on earth do they get into your flour and in stored food.
The Flour Weevils
There are different types of weevils. There are over 90,000 species of weevils in this world.
But the most common ones that infest stored food are the rice weevils and flour weevils.
Both these weevils grow only up to 1/8th of an inch long with six legs. They’re metallic reddish-brown or blackish-red.
Both flour weevils and rice weevils are beetles. The distinctive feature in weevils that sets them apart from other beetles is the snout or beak on their mouth.
And the snout is visible when you see them crawling on the flour and infested grains.
Rice weevils primarily infest grains like rice, wheat, and nuts, beans, and corn.
In contrast, flour weevils infest flours of all types which includes wheat flour and corn flour.
So, how do flour weevils and rice weevils infest stored food in your kitchen?
There are two ways they invade your kitchen pantry.
The first way is by flying inside your home and the second way is by being present in the grain bags that you buy from the grocery stores.
Weevils have developed wings and they can fly. During the spring, when these pests are active, they look for a place to lay their eggs.
Outdoors, weevils feed on the roots of fruit trees and plants, seeds, and ripe fruits. So, in your yard or garden, they’re plant damaging pests too.
The female flour weevils will fly inside your home and lay eggs in the flour that you store in your kitchen pantry.
Why? It’s because the larvae of these weevils feed on the flour and grains.
Not surprisingly, the larvae of these weevils can also be present in the food bags that you purchase from the grocery stores.
The adult weevils can chew through the cardboard boxes that contain oats and cereals, paper bags and packets that hold flour, and plastic packaging that has dry goods.
Flour bugs and weevils always infest grain bags and dry food packets in big grocery stores and grain houses.
The flour weevils and rice weevils will chew through the packaging to lay eggs.
And when you buy those packages, you bring weevils home.
Flour weevils and rice weevils can also chew through thin plastic jars that store your food.
Sightings of these weevils inside your kitchen cabinets, pantry, and kitchen cupboards are a clear indication that there’s a weevil infestation in your stored food.
The flour weevil larvae look like tiny off-whitish worms crawling on the flour and infested food grains.
On top of feeding on the flour, these larvae will also defecate on the flour. Hence sightings of fecal pellets, and clunks of tiny flour balls on the flour are common.
After 2-3 weeks from hatching out of the eggs, the larvae of these weevils will spin themselves into a cocoon, which is known as pupae, three weeks from hatching out of the eggs.
And it takes only ten days for an adult weevil to emerge out of the cocoon. The adult weevils are ready to mate and lay eggs, again, within a couple of days of turning into adults.
Hence, if you don’t get rid of them, these weevils become a nuisance all over your home within a span of few weeks.
Once their numbers shoot up, sightings of weevils in the bathroom are also a common occurrence.
The Confused Flour Beetle
The confused flour beetle damages and infests dry stored food like grains and flour.
They’re tan, quarter of an inch long, and have a pair of antennae.
Confused flour beetles cannot fly. So, the confused flour beetle’s source lies in the grocery store and warehouses from where you buy your grains and flour.
Like the weevils, the confused flour beetle can also chew through the plastic bags, food packages, and cardboard boxes..
Once they’re inside the packet, they’ll feed on the flour and will lay eggs on it too.
The eggs are microscopic, and if you’ve got good eyesight, then you’ll observe tiny lumps of flour on the surface.
Those are eggs of the confused flour beetle.
Upon hatching, the larvae from the eggs will feed on the flour. If the eggs are on other stored grains like rice and cereals, then they’ll feed on them too.
The worst part?
These larvae will also defecate on the flour and the grains they infest.
The larvae of the confused flour beetle are creamy yellow or whitish brown with tiny bristles of hair on the body.
Before reaching adulthood, these larvae form a cocoon that they hide before emerging out of it as an adult.
The cocoon is known as the pupae. And they look like a whitish-yellow capsule with horizontal scales on them.
Adult confused beetles will emerge out of the pupae in 40 to 90 days.
And the first thing they do after breaking out from their cocoon is mate.
The confused flour beetle can mate all through the year. So, unless you eliminate them, their population go over the roof inside your kitchen pantry.
An adult confused beetle can live up to three years under normal conditions.
The confused flour beetle is quite adventurous.
When they sneak out of the food storage jars, you’ll find them walking randomly in a drunkard fashion on the kitchen cabinets and the countertops.
That’s why they’ve got their name as the confused flour beetle.
The adults look like tiny brown bugs in the kitchen moving in an erratic fashion in your kitchen cabinets, cupboards, and on the kitchen floor and countertops.
These beetles don’t bite, and they don’t carry any diseases. They also don’t cause any structural damage to your home.
But the confused flour beetle can cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to bugs.
The Red Flour Beetle
The red flour beetle is similar to the confused flour beetle in its looks and infestation habits.
But there are some minor differences.
The first and the most significant difference is that the red flour beetle can fly, and they’re attracted to light.
So they can fly into your kitchen and home from outside.
The second difference is the color. Red flour beetles are reddish-brown to red.
The third difference, which is very subtle, and most people don’t know, is that you can see the head of the red flour beetle with its tiny mandibles from above.
In the confused flour beetle, it’s not visible.
And the fourth difference is that the red flour beetle infests kitchen pantries in the southern US, where the weather is warmer.
In contrast, the confused flour beetle is more common in the northern states with cooler climates.
The Flour Mites – The Microscopic Flour Bugs
Another common, yet often ignored because of its microscopic size, are the flour mites.
Flour mites are off-whitish tiny flour bugs that infest flour and grains in the pantry and the grain storages.
They’ve got brownish or pinkish legs. And they look like white lint, which camouflages them with flour.
Flour mites are so tiny that you, even with normal eyesight, can easily overlook them.
If you observe a brownish layering on the flour, there’s a high possibility of flour mites infestation.
To confirm, take a pinch of flour and smell it. If there’s a minty smell coming from the flour, then that’s for sure there are flour mites in the flour.
Flour mites, like the weevils, can be present inside the flour packets even before you bring it home.
Flour mites will feed and lay eggs on the flour. The food made from flour infested with flour mites develops a sweet taste.
Dampness is the reason behind the flour mite infestation. A kitchen with leaky pipes and damp floors and walls, will attract these flour mites.
Flour mites are a type of mold mites. And they can infest anything from books, stored food, and wooden furniture.
Hence, these flour mites are known as paper mites when they infest books and wood mites when they infest wooden furniture.
These mites can cause allergic reactions in sensitive people like the children and elderly.
The Indian Meal Moths
Another pest that infests flour and stored grains are the larvae of the Indian meal moth.
As per the University of Florida, the Indian meal moth larvae is the most common and widespread pest of stored food products in American homes, especially in Florida.
Apart from stored food grains, the larvae of the Indian meal moth also feed on pet food, spices, chocolate, and even on seeds.
It got it’s name come from it’s widespread presence in meals made of “Indian Corn” or maize. It’s also known as grain moth or rice moth.
Like all the flour bugs, the Indian meal moths enter homes to lay eggs.
The eggs of these moths are 0.3 to 0.5 mm in length and the female moth lays it in clusters.
The larvae of these moths, which are ½ an inch, length are off-white. But their colors can be brownish or green depending on the food they’re eating.
The larvae of Indian meal moths can travel considerable distances from their food source. So, it’s quite common to see them climbing on the walls, kitchen countertops, cupboards, and cabinets.
That can mislead you to thinking that these are worms. But they’re larvae of moths and their source of infestation is the food stored in the kitchen.
The larvae also pupate before it emerges out of the cocoon as an adult.
The adult Indian meal moths enter homes by flying in through open doors and windows. Lights from the light bulb attract these moths. So, glowing lights play a major role in attracting these moths indoors.
Indian meal moths are strong fliers. And they can fly into different rooms of your home. That’s the reason people confuse these moths with the clothes moths that damage fabric in closets and wardrobes.
The Indian meal moths do not feed on anything inside your home and pantry. Their sole purpose is to lay eggs and move out.
The adult Indian meal moth grows up to ½ an inch length with fully developed wings covering its entire abdomen.
The wings have multiple colors. The broader lower portion of the wing is reddish-brown and the wing area at the thorax is gray.
The head of the adult moth is also reddish-brown and there’s a pair of antennae too folded backwards towards its body.
A single female Indian meal moth can lay up to 400 eggs in the food stored in your home. These eggs hatch within 7-8 days and within three weeks the larvae from these eggs turn into adults.
7 Signs Of Damages Caused By Flour Bugs
There are seven signs of damages that are a telltale sign of flour bugs infestation in stored food.
- Odor from the stored food
- Formation of silken balls on the flour and stored food
- Fecal pellets
- Egg shells
- Maggot like worms, which are larvae of flour bugs, crawling on the flour and stored food
- Formation of cocoons, which are the pupae
- And light brown spots developing on flour and on the surface of grains
When flour bugs infest stored food, grains, or flour, you’ll find all or some of these damages.
The most compelling signs of damage are the fecal pellets, odor, and sightings of larvae on the flour and stored food.
When these signs show up, it’s high time that you immediately start the process of getting rid of these little bugs in flour.
Let’s find it out.
How To Get Rid Of Flour Bugs? 10 Steps That Anyone Can Follow
The best part to eliminate these tiny bugs in flour is that it’s no rocket science. You can do it on your own without hiring a pest controller.
Flour bugs and pantry pests don’t leave your kitchen after eating the dry goods. They’ll continue mating and spreading in your home and kitchen.
In this section you’ll find out how to get rid of these little bugs in flour and how to keep them from coming back.
Let’s dive in.
#1- Clean Your Kitchen, Kitchen Pantry, Kitchen Cabinets And Cupboards
Before you even start using any measures like sprays and insecticides, it’s critical that you clean your kitchen.
Clear the clutter and vacuum clean all the food storage areas. Keep the food storage jars aside, you’ll deal with them in the next step.
For now, focus on cleaning the cabinets, cupboards, drawers, countertops, and the kitchen floor.
Use a disinfectant to wipe off the food stains on the hard surfaces of the kitchen countertops, pantry shelves, and cabinets.
These food stains play a big role in attracting these pantry pests, including ants and roaches.
Ensure that there’s no trash laying in the trash bins. Empty the trash bins and do not let food wastes to accumulate for days.
#2 – Check The Food Storage Jars For Flour Bugs And Other Pantry Pests
Now that you’re through with cleaning, check the food storage jars for damages.
Do you see any signs of damages in the food stored in the jar?
If yes, keep those jars aside.
#3 – Freeze The Infested Flour And Grains To Kill The Flour Bugs
Extreme heat and cold kills the flour bugs, their eggs, and their larvae.
Put the food storage jars with flour and grains damaged by flour bugs inside the freezer. You should keep the infested food for at least four days at a temperature of 0°F (-18°C).
That’ll kill all the flour bugs and their eggs and larvae.
If there are small quantities of damaged food, then you don’t need to keep them in the fridge.
Keep it in a shallow pan and heat the flour or grains for 20 minutes. Do not use oven, as it can damage the grains and flour.
#4 – Spray A Mixture Of Vinegar On The Food Storage Areas Of Your Kitchen
Now that you’ve cleaned the kitchen and killed the flour bugs, you’ve to do your bit before you start to put the storage jars back to where they were.
You don’t want the flour bugs to come back and reinfest you stored food and flour.
So, to ensure it you need to follow certain.
First, is spray a mixture of white vinegar and water. Prepare the mixture by adding one part of vinegar and two parts of water.
Pour the mixture in a spray bottle. And spray it in the cupboards, drawers, and kitchen cabinets, and in the nooks and corners of your kitchen.
If the smell of vinegar is too acidic for you then you can use a peppermint spray to keep those bugs away.
Peppermint spray and vinegar both repel insects and bugs. And they’re a great way to keep your home and kitchen pest-free.
#5 – Seal Gaps And Cracks On The Kitchen Windows And Walls
These flour bugs, and other pantry pests like moths and beetles that damage food can also crawl inside your kitchen through the thin crevices on the kitchen windows.
So, seal those gaps and cracks with a quality sealant.
Silicone-based sealants are the best for this purpose. They’re sturdy, last for a decade, and bugs can’t chew through them.
#6 – Install Window Shields With Fine Meshes On The Kitchen Windows
Spring is the time when all the female flour bugs, moths, and other pantry pests are active and fertilized.
They all look for places to lay their eggs. And that’s the time when they fly inside your kitchen and home.
To stop them, install window screens with fine mesh on window panels so that the bugs can’t fly inside your kitchen.
These window screens are a great tool that keep flying bugs away and many homeowners ignore it.
So, act smart, and install these cheap window screens in your kitchen windows.
#7 – Store Flour And Other Dry Foods In The Right Containers
Most of these flour bugs and pantry pests can chew through thin plastic covers of food jars. They can even chew through paper packaging and cardboard boxes.
So, use thick airtight food storage jars to keep your dry foods, cereals, and grains.
Also, you can use 3.5-gallon buckets with lids to store your flour.
If you need a smaller one, you can use the 1-gallon bucket with lids.
These are great in keeping huge quantities of whole grains and flour. They’re thick, keeps the flour under airtight conditions, and you can easily refill them too.
You can check the video below on how to store flour so that pests don’t infest it.
#8 – Keep Bay Leaves And Cinnamon Sticks In The Food Storage Cupboards And Cabinets
Both bay leaves and cinnamon repel insects and flour bugs. They hate their smell.
And you don’t need to put a whole bunch of them. Just one or two in each shelf will do the job.
#9 – Fix Leaking Pipes And Control Dampness Inside Your Home And Kitchen
This step is specifically directed towards controlling flour mites.
Flour mites thrive on dampness and leaking pipes underneath the kitchen sink and in the other plumbing areas of your home increase the dampness.
Hence, fix any water leakages. If the walls and floors are damaged by high moisture, then repair them.
Because moisture attract bugs. And the damp walls and floors can be a magnet for these bugs.
Additionally, check for any mold formation on your kitchen walls, floors, and cabinets. If you find any, remove those molds with a mold remover.
These molds are food for the mold mites, which then infest stored food including flour in your kitchen pantry.
#10 – Keep the Food Jars Back To Where They Belong
Congratulations, you’re through. You’ve not only eliminated the little bugs in flour, but also killed their chances of reinfesting your stored food in your kitchen pantry.
Now keep the food jars back to the cabinets and shelves.
To doubly ensure that moths and bugs don’t invade your kitchen, and to catch any potential food-infesting bug, keep pantry pest traps inside your kitchen cabinets, in the corners of your kitchen, and in your food pantry.
Is Flour Infested With Flour Bugs Safe To Eat?
In a word yes. But no one wants to eat dry food and bread and stuff made out of flour damaged by the tiny flour bugs.
So, you may choose to discard the damaged flour if it has a nasty odor or it has developed brownish spots.
However, if it’s not that bad, then just following the step#3 in the previous section will make your flour and dry foods good to consume.
The best part is that none of the flour bugs transmit any diseases nor do they bite.
This guide reveals five common types of little bugs in flour. These flour bugs are – the flour weevils, the confused flour beetle, the red flour beetle, flour mites, and the Indian meal moths.
Flour bugs are pantry pests that infest food stored in the kitchen pantry.
Keep in mind that the larvae of these flour bugs is the main culprit behind damaging the flour and other types of dry stored food.
The adults enter homes and kitchen to lay their eggs on these dry foods. The larvae of these bugs feed on the flour and other dry food items.
Unless you get rid of them, the population of these flour bugs will skyrocket as these bugs are ready to breed as soon as they mature into adults.
This post also has a 10-step instructions on how to get rid of flour bugs without using pesticides and without hiring professional pest control services.
That’s not all. There are also hacks and prevention techniques in this guide that ensure flour bugs don’t infest food stored in the kitchen pantry.
Dr. Thomas Orbert, the Microbial Maestro, dances with the tiniest of creatures as an entomologist extraordinaire! With a PhD in entomology, his passion lies in unraveling the secret symphonies of insect-microbe interactions. From minuscule marvels to captivating complexities, Dr. Orbert unveils the hidden world of bugs, igniting curiosity one buzz at a time!