11 Tiny Brown Bugs In The Kitchen That Destroy Your Food

Tiny brown bugs in the kitchen are a nightmare for your stored foods. I found it the hard way when I noticed them crawling inside my kitchen cabinets and stored food jars.

The stored foods were emitting a stench. Flour, cereals, and rice developed a yellowish stain, which made them look yucky.

I investigated further and discovered those little brown bugs were food beetles. However, there were different types of them. 

My research led me to conclude that 9 types of harmful brown food pests or pantry pests can damage stored foods. 

In this guide, I will share how I identified them and the hacks I used to reclaim my kitchen from these invading pests.

Let’s dive right in.

Cigarette Beetles

Cigarette beetles - tiny brown bugs in the kitchen

Cigarette beetles are tiny reddish-brown beetles that grow between 2-3 mm in size. They have oval-shaped bodies with fine yellowish hairy bristles, giving them a fuzzy appearance. 

They have a pair of saw-like antennae, and their bodies have a humped appearance, making their heads challenging to spot. 

Cigarette beetles infest your kitchen when you buy infested food items from the grocery stores. 

Their larvae, eggs, and adult beetles can be in the food bags.

They can also migrate from neighboring homes where they’ve established a breeding population. That’s why these beetles can be a common problem in apartment complexes.

Cigarette beetles are not fussy eaters. They can target a wide range of foods.

They have a particular penchant for tobacco products, such as cigars and pipe tobacco, which is where they get their names. 

Spices and dried herbs such as paprika and bay leaves are also a part of their appetite. 

But that’s not all. Grains such as rice and cereals, dried fruits such as raisins and apricots, flour, dry pasta, dry pet food, and bird seeds are also their food sources. 

Sawtoothed Grain Beetles

Tiny brown bugs in the kitchen - Sawtoothed grain beetles

Sawtoothed grain beetles are flat, slender beetles with long bodies that grow between 2.5 mm and 3 mm. 

They got their names because of saw-like teeth on each side of the prothorax (the area right behind their heads). These beetles do not fly, and they only infest stored foods.

The source of these beetles is the infested items that you bring home. They can also spill over from neighboring homes if they have an infestation. 

Homes near grain storage facilities or granaries face the brunt of sawtoothed grain beetles the most because they’re abundant in these areas.

Sawtoothed grain beetles target foods like rice, cereals, flour, almonds, sunflower seeds, and peanuts.

These beetles have a sweet tooth as well. They’re common pests in cookies, candy, and chocolate.

Dried meat such as jerky, bacon and dairy products are vulnerable to sawtoothed grain beetles. 

Drugstore Beetles

Drugstore beetle

Drugstore beetles are brown or reddish-brown with oval-shaped bodies, growing up to 3 mm in size.

They have a visible elytra (wing cover) on their back. You can see it as there’s a longitudinal divide running vertically on their back. 

Under the wing pads, they have fully developed wings. And they can fly. 

But you’ll notice these tiny brown beetles crawling on the food they infest. 

Another noticeable feature of a drugstore beetle is their three-segmented clubbed antennae.

Drugstore beetles target all the common foods that food beetles infest. However, they’re infamous for damaging stored medicines in pharmacies. 

Like all food pests, drugstore beetles also lay their eggs in the food they infest. These eggs produce larvae which feed on the food and also leave behind their fecal matter on the food.

Larvae in stored foods

These beetles feed on books, leather, and other stored foods such as processed foods (flour, bread) and dried botanicals such as tea and herbs. 

Drugstore beetles enter kitchens by being present in the food bags you buy from the grocery stores. 

They’re also a menace that can fly inside the kitchen from a nearby infested area.

Drugstore beetles are also known as biscuit beetles because they are common pests in biscuits and cookies.

Indian Meal Moths

Indian meal moths

Adult Indian meal moths, including their wingspan, are 16-20 mm in size. These moths aren’t entirely brown but have a mix of pale gray and reddish-brown coloration. 

The rear half of the wings is notably darker than the frontal half, giving them a two-tone appearance. 

Indian meal moths have slender bodies with broad wings. The adults enter homes only to lay eggs on the stored foods in the kitchen pantry and cabinets. 

So, these moths are damaging pests in their larval form. 

The Indian meal moth larva is 12 mm (0.5 inches) in size, a legless white grub with a brown head. The larva feeds on the stored foods and can remain in them until it becomes a pupa and emerges as an adult. 

Adult Indian meal moths fly in from the outdoors from the open doors and windows. Like most moths, Indian meal moths are attracted to light. 

So, the glowing light bulb from your home and kitchen can also attract these moths. 

The larvae of the Indian meal moth will feed on all foods that food beetles eat. But they’re a significant threat to stored grains and processed foods such as flour and cereals. 

Indian meal moths are not clothes moths. Clothes moths are beige with a fuzzy appearance. And they target clothes made from natural fibers such as wool, fur, and silk. 

Confused Flour Beetles

Confused Four Beetle

Confused flour beetles are reddish brown, slender, long beetles with flat bodies. They grow to 4 mm in size, including their antennae, which enlarge towards the tip

These beetles look similar to red flour, which I’ll cover in the next section. 

But the difference lies in their species and antennae’s shape. The red flour beetles have a clubbed antenna. 

These beetles enter kitchens and pantries by being present in the infested food packets. 

As their name suggests, they primarily target flour of all types. But they’re a menace to grains, bread, pasta, nuts, dried fruits, and spices. 

Like all food beetles, the confused flour beetles lay their eggs in the stored foods. The larvae that hatch out of these eggs continue feeding on the stored foods, causing further damage.

Confused flour beetles have a zigzag or “confused” crawling pattern, distinguishing them from the red flour beetles. 

Red Flour Beetles

Red flour beetles

Red flour beetles are of similar shape and size to the confused flour beetle. But red flour beetles are darker, and their antennae are clubbed. 

Also, their crawling pattern isn’t as haphazard as the confused flour beetles.

Red flour beetles also infest the same foods that confused flour beetles do.

Granary Weevils

Granary Weevils

Granary weevils are shiny reddish-brown to black weevils that grow between 3 and 4 mm. They have elongated and cylindrical body shape with long snouts and clubbed antennae. 

Their thoraxes are densely pitted, except for a smooth, narrow strip midline, distinguishing them from the rice weevils.

Another noticeable difference between granary weevils and rice weevils is that rice weevils can fly, and granary weevils can’t.

As usual, infested food products you bring inside the kitchen are the source of these weevils. 

They infest a wide variety of foods such as wheat, barley, corn, cereals, seeds, and foods made from whole grains. 

The long snout helps them to bore inside the food grains and suck out the nutrients. That’s why holes form on the grains, a sign of infestation. 

They can also use the holes to lay their eggs. The eggs produce larvae when they hatch.

And these larvae further damage the foods by continuing to feed and defecate on the grains. 

Rice Weevils

Rice Weevils

Rice weevils look like granary weevils. But there are subtle differences that you can notice upon close observation.

The primary difference is the spots on the back. Rice weevils can have four yellowish spots on their reddish-brown to black bodies. The granary weevils don’t have those spots.

Another difference is that rice weevils are able flyers. So, they can also fly inside the kitchen from neighboring established populations. 

Rice weevils are tinier than granary weevils. They grow up to 3 mm in size. 

The body shape of rice weevils is like granary weevils, elongated and cylindrical with a visible snout. 

Rice weevils infest the same range of foods that granary weevils do. You can find rice weevils in field crops, too. 

Granary weevils limit themselves only to stored foods in kitchens and granaries. 

Rice weevils breed pretty fast and they can spread to other areas of the house such as bathroom and living room.

Spider Beetles

Spider Beetles - Tiny bugs in bed that are not bed bugs

Another intriguing kitchen pest that I found in my stored foods is the spider beetle. To my shock, they looked so much like spiders that I thought what spiders were doing in my cereal jar.

Spider beetles are dark brown to black and have a bulbous body shape with a humped back making them look like spiders.

They are 1.5 – 3.5 mm in size with a shiny appearance. Six longs make them more confusing with spiders, but they also have a pair of antennae.

On top of infested stored food grains, spider beetles can feed on stored meats and other protein-rich foods such as cheese and butter.

Plant materials such as herbs, flowers, and stored fruits also form a part of their diet. 

And they can also target non-food items such as paper, book bindings, and even cardboard boxes.

Spider beetles are scavengers. They don’t limit themselves only to the kitchen. 

They can spill over to other home areas from your kitchen, such as the bedroom and bathroom, looking for food. 

Spider beetles can also feed on pet hair and human hair on the floor and carpets. And they’re quite capable of surviving on a sparse diet. 

Grain Mites – Tiny Brown Mites In Kitchen

Grain mites in kitchen - Kitchen Mites

Grain mites are tiny brown mites that infest stored grains, flour, cereals, and even baked goods.

These bugs are microscopic and they’re impossible to spot when their numbers are low. Grain mites are one of the most common mites in the kitchen that target stored food.

Grain mites, growing only up to 0.017 inches, have eight legs and look like a tiny humped bug under a microscope.

Their source is the grocery store from where you buy your packaged food and grain bags.

Grain mites are already present in grocery stores and gain bags and when you buy them, you bring grain mites home.

Initially, you might not even know that your stored grains have grain mites.

They start to show the signs of their presence when their numbers increase.

Grain mites spill over from the stored food jars and start to appear as thin layer of dust on the kitchen and pantry shelves.

Their numbers quickly increase if there’s a moisture problem in your kitchen and home.

The moisture spreads to the stored grains. That leads to the formation of molds on the grains which attract grain mites and psocids mites too.

Grain mites are harmless. And you can consume the food they infest.

You don’t need to throw away the grains or stored dry foods they infest. To eliminate grain mites from the stored grains, put the grains inside the freezer for a couple of hours.

And then wash the grain in hot water.

The cold temperature inside the freezer kills the grain mites. And washing the grains in hot water will wash off the dead grain mites form the grains.

You can use this technique to remove bugs and their larvae from grains like wheat, corn, and rice.

But extended presence of grain mites can damage to flour of all types. Also known as the flour mites, grain mites will appear as a thin brown layer on the white flour and the flour will also emit a minty smell.

Grain mites presence in the flour for long can make the flour stale. And the stench from the flour can make you even discard the flour.

Psocids Mites Or Booklice

Booklice looks like baby roaches

Psocids mites, also known as booklice, are tiny brown bugs that feed on the molds that form on the food grains and on the damp surfaces.

Booklice are oval and their brown color makes many people to trick into thinking that they’re either baby roaches or bed bugs.

These are not typically mites or lice. Booklice are harmless nuisance bugs that enter homes from the outdoors when the weather becomes too hot or dry.

They’re not microscopic like the grain mites. Growing anywhere between 0.5 mm – 5 mm in size, it’s easy to detect the psocids mites even when their numbers are low.

These are moisture bugs that needs damp places to live.

Excessive moisture in kitchen leads to formation of molds. That attracts the booklice, and mold mites too, to your kitchen.

The moisture spreads to the food grains and that causes molds on the grains.

Booklice in kitchen will primarily target those food grains that has developed moisture.

They’ll sneak inside the food storage jars through the cracks and openings on them. Psocids mites will also lay eggs on the stored grains in addition to feeding on the molds of the food grains.

But the best part is that booklice are harmless bugs. And their presence in the food grains doesn’t contaminate the food.

Wash the food grains with hot water to eliminate any booklice in the grains.

How To Get Rid Of Tiny Brown Bugs In The Kitchen?

So, now that you know how to identify the little brown bugs in the kitchen, it’s time to get rid of them. 

I specifically used natural methods. I didn’t use any chemicals. And I’ve found that it was effective.

But I was vigilant about any signs of their signs and repeated the steps till I was sure that I had evicted these pantry pests from my kitchen and home for good. 

Here’s how I did it.

Thorough Cleaning of the Kitchen and Kitchen Storage

These food pests make them visible when they spill over from the stored food jars and appear on kitchen counters and shelves. 

That’s how I found out that I’ve brown bugs in the kitchen. 

So, I first emptied all my kitchen shelves and thoroughly cleaned them, and my entire kitchen, with a vacuum cleaner. 

It removed the brown bugs in the pantry shelves, cupboards, cabinets, and countertops.

Treat The Infested Foods

I had to throw away some of the foods, such as flour, which were stinking and became stale.

However, some grains, such as rice, were not severely damaged. 

So, I put them in the freezer for 24 hours to kill any beetles and their larvae. 

Then, I washed the stored grains in hot water and removed the dead insects and larvae. 

Sticky Traps

After I cleaned the food storage sections and rearranged the food storage jars, I kept sticky taps in the kitchen storage. 

These sticky traps entrapped a few beetles, which escaped during the cleaning process. 

Sealing Gaps and Cracks

I caulked the gaps and cracks on the kitchen countertops, pantry shelves, and other storage. 

These crevices can be hiding places for these pantry pests, so sealing them was essential.

I also sealed the gaps and cracks on the windowsills, which helped me prevent any bugs and insects from entering outdoors.

Using silicone-based sealant is your best bet. These sealants are rugged waterproof, and bugs can’t chew through them. 

Not Buying Infested Food Items

You know by now that the source of these brown bugs is the food packets that you buy from the grocery stores.

Big grocery stores and granaries are not immune to these pests. These pests don’t bite humans, so the overseers of these establishments don’t care much. 

But you should. Don’t buy food packets or grain bags with holes in them. 

Also, check for any dusty layer on the packets. If you find a dusty layer, those are grain mites. 

Storing foods In Airtight Containers

The storage containers you choose to store your food make a difference. Thin plastic containers don’t protect your foods from these pests.

These beetles have strong mouth parts that help them to chew through weak storage jars and food packaging.

So, I replaced all the weak and poor-quality storage jars with robust, airtight containers. And I ensured that I tightly closed the lid every time.

Install Window Screens With Fine Mesh

Many flies, moths, and flying beetles are active during the spring and summer months.

They invade homes, either attracted by the light or the food waste in the kitchen trash bins, to lay their eggs.

That leads to an infestation. 

So, I installed window screens with fine mesh in the home’s and kitchen’s windows to prevent these bugs from flying inside the house.

That significantly reduced the annoying flies and kitchen pests in the home.

Controlling Moisture Inside The Kitchen

Moisture plays a significant role in keeping pantry pests alive. All these brown bugs are also dependent on humidity to survive. 

The higher the humidity and dampness in the kitchen, the more the chance there will be roaches, ants, and psocids infestation. 

So, fix the leaky pipes underneath the kitchen sink. Check the faucets if they’re leaking. If they’re, then fix them too.

It’ll be best to install a dehumidifier in the kitchen to control the humidity if you live in a humid region.

Follow The Proper Cleaning Schedule

Keeping your kitchen clean prevents brown bugs and many other pantry pests. 

Ensure that your kitchen has no food deposits on the counters, kitchen sink, and appliances. 

I always use a citrus-based cleaning agent that breaks down tough food stains on the utensils, sinks, and counters. These food stains are food sources for many insects.

Use Repellents To Keep Bugs Away

Bugs hate the scent of repellents like peppermint oil. I use peppermint oil spray thrice a week to repel any pests that may intrude on my kitchen. 

White vinegar is also a proven insect repellent; you can use it if you’re comfortable with the smell.

Hire a Pest Controller

Following these steps and repeating them till the kitchen is bug-free will get rid of bugs of all types in the kitchen.

But if you’re short on time or, despite your best efforts, these bugs are returning, you need professional help. 

Conclusion

The tiny brown bugs in the kitchen are primarily food beetles such as drugstore beetles and grain beetles.

Moths like Indian meal moths and the microscopic grain mites can also infest stored foods in the kitchen.

The beetles and moths lay their eggs in the stored foods. The eggs produce larvae which also cause damages to the food.

They even leave behind their fecal deposits and molted skin that can cause food contamination.

Eliminating these food pests and taking necessary steps to prevent them from coming back secure your kitchen from their invasion.

If you’re struggling to get rid of these brown bugs, then follow the instructions laid out in this post and share the results in the comments sections below!

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