What Causes Pantry Pests? What You Must Do To Stop Them?

There isn’t any home that’s free from bugs or pests—neither the White House nor the Buckingham Palace.

If you think that only getting rid of roaches, silverfish, or ants from your home is enough, then think again.

Some pests live and thrive in your kitchen and especially in your food.

They’re known as Pantry Pests.

Also known as pantry bugs, food bugs, or stored food pests, these common kitchen insects pests are most likely to infest dry and processed food in your kitchen pantry.

Pantry pests don’t like to hide anywhere far away from their food source.

So, you can easily find them in your kitchen cabinets, baker’s rack, and even inside your jars. Their food source is – what you eat.

In this post, we’ll answer the fundamental question about pantry pests – what causes pantry pests?

It doesn’t stop there. We’ll also tell you –

  • The food pantry pests contaminate.
  • The most common pantry pests you’ll find in your kitchen.
  • What are the signs of pantry pest infestation?
  • And how can you stop pantry pests from infesting your kitchen?

Let’s dive in on each of them.

What Causes Pantry Pests?

What Causes Pantry Pests

There are two leading causes of pantry pests in your kitchen –

  • The first cause is that you don’t keep your pantry clean and organized. You unintentionally invite pantry pests by keeping the food that attracts them exposed. These pests enter your home through open windows or cracks on your walls or doors.
  • The second cause is pantry pests enter your home through the food or grocery that you buy. Infestation in food storage facilities of grocery stores by pantry pests is common.

Pantry pests infest food products stored in production units and storage facilities before it arrives at your home.

The likelihood of pantry pests invading your food in storage facilities is more than your home.

But that doesn’t mean that food products infested by pantry pests are stale.

Pantry pests can infest any foods irrespective of the storage duration.

We’ll talk about how you can eliminate the possibility of bringing pantry pests into your home later in the post.

What Kind Of Food Products Do Pantry Pests Infest?

Pantry pests most commonly infest dry and processed food products.

Here’s the list of most common food products that pantry pests infest –

  • Cereals
  • Rice
  • Wheat
  • Flour mix
  • Cornmeal
  • Spaghetti
  • Noodles
  • Biscuits and cookies
  • Any kind of beans like kidney beans or gram beans
  • All sorts of spices, excluding chili powder
  • Powder Milk
  • Tea and coffee
  • Dry pet food
  • Processed meat, fish, and chicken
  • Dry bird food
  • Dry fruits like almonds, raisin, cashew, etc.
  • Chocolates
  • Fruits

Pantry pests can infest these foods when they’re kept open.

But they can also access these foods if they’re kept in a thin container like a light cardboard box or wrapped around by a foil.

They can quickly drill through these flimsy layered containers and infest the food kept inside them.

Pantry pests also multiply and lay eggs in the infested food, causing them to spread out in other areas of your kitchen.

It’s not surprising to spot food bugs of all ages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) in one infested container.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Pantry Pests?

The three most common types of pantry pests infest your kitchen. They are Indian meal moths, beetles, and weevils.

Let’s have a look at each of them.

Indianmeal Moths

Indianmeal Moth
Indian Meal Moth

Indian meal moths are the most common kitchen invaders.

But the surprising part is that they don’t invade your pantry to feast on. They raid your pantry to lay their eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, the larvae feast on the food that they were born upon.

Indian meal moth’s larvae infest foods like dry pet food, rice, flour, dry fruits, and nuts.

These larvae shed their skin and poop on the food.

Food infested by the larvae will have small clusters of dense webbing on the food’s surface.

These webbings contain their excrements and dead skin.

So, if you ever see the web cluster on your food, throw the food away.

To keep Indianmeal moths from laying eggs on your stored food, keep your food in airtight jars or containers. And if you see these moths flying around in your home, kill them.

To know more, check our post on how to get rid of Indianmeal or rice moths.

Another pantry pest that infest rice is booklice. Booklice also feed on molds, fungi, and the starch on the book binding glue.

Beetles

Six types of Beetles infest your kitchen – sawtoothed grain beetles, drugstore beetles, cigarette beetles, flour beetles, warehouse beetles, and spider beetles.

The most common beetle found in many homes is the flour beetle.

As the name suggests, they infest all kinds of flour.

They can also infest shelled nuts, grains, and other foods.

If your food smells decayed or pungent, and if you see molds on your food, then it’s plagued by flour beetles.

Flour Beetle
Flour Beetle

All six beetles infest dry fruits, cereals, nuts, processed meat, flour, seeds, herbs, grains, and chocolate. But drugstore beetles harm books and tobacco products too.

Weevils

Two types of weevils infest your pantry – Rice Weevils and Bean Weevils.

Rice weevils look like beetles, but they’re a bit slender and more prolonged than them.

Weevils also have a prominent snout with two antennae-like outgrowths from the base of the nose.

Rice Weevil
Rice Weevil

They eat the grains and nest and lay eggs on it, causing multiple larvae to feed on the infested grains.

Larvae of rice weevils are white, legless, wrinkled, and reside inside the kernels of grains of seeds.

It makes it impossible to spot them. If you see any holes in the grains, then there’s a high probability of rice weevils’ larvae inside the grain.

Rice weevils infest rice and corn, wheat, cereals, dried fruits, and fruits like apple and pears.

When you buy big bags of grain from grocery stores, do check for rice weevils in them.

Chances are rice weevils had already infested those bags.

Bean weevils are smaller than rice weevils, and they look like beetles. They are light brownish, oval-shaped, and don’t have a visible snout like the rice weevils.

Bean Weevil
Bean Weevil on Peas

Bean weevils infest mostly dried beans and peas. Their small blackish spotted wings expose a little bit of their abdomen, and their legs are quite visible.

Other Types Of Food Bugs That Infest Your Food

We had a look at the most common pantry pests. But it doesn’t end there.

There are chances of other types of food bugs infestation.

These food bugs target foods to eat and contaminate rather than for nesting.

The cause of these food bugs is when your pantry is unhygienic and dirty, with lots of uncovered food splattered around.

Here are the three most common food bugs –

Meal Worms

Mealworms
Mealworms on Bread

Mealworms look like yellow caterpillars. But they’re smaller and thinner than the caterpillars.

They don’t have any hair, and you’ll immediately get a nauseous feeling when you see them.

They are larvae of the mealworm beetle that lays eggs on the uncovered food.

Where do you find these mealworms?

You can find them in any boxes or bags of food lying at the corner of your pantry or kitchen cabinets for months.

You can also find them in uncovered food or any trash bin with food wastes.

How does a mealworm beetle get inside your kitchen?

They enter from the small cracks on your walls or floor. So, if you see any damages on the walls or base of your kitchen, seal them up.

Mealworms beetle love wet foods, meat, and fish to lay their eggs.

Some people have also complained that mealworms infest dry foods like flour, pet foods, bird seeds, and grains.

Ants

Ants are a nuisance in many homes, and yours is not an exception. They love to eat.

They have a sweet tooth that makes them consume not only the sweet stuff in your home but also dry stuff like biscuits, cookies, and even dried fruits.

The most common ants are carpenter ants (black). They show up mostly during the beginning of the summer or at the end of the spring.

Cockroaches

Cockroaches are infesting foods and the kitchen since the beginning of time. Classified more as pests than bugs, cockroaches are one of those pests that are easy to attract, but it’s hard to get rid of them.

They’re nocturnal, and they put their mouth on to any food they can. It doesn’t matter to the roaches if the food is dry or wet.

You can check out our post on getting rid of cockroaches to know more.

How Can You Be Sure That Your Kitchen Has Pantry Pest Infestation?

Here are the signs of a pantry pest infestation –

  • You spot tiny beetles in pet food. People forget to cover pet food and if beetles will infest them first.
  • You spot the bugs that we mentioned in the post on your kitchen walls or windows.
  • Clusters of webbings in food.
  • Molds on any flour.
  • Caterpillars are crawling on the walls.
  • Your dry food or spices are smelling decayed.

What Can You Do To Keep Away Pantry Pests?

You can easily take some steps to stop pantry pests from infesting your kitchen and food.

Here are the steps that are proven to be sufficient to keep away pantry pests –

  • Buy packaged foods like cookies, grains, flour, etc., in limited quantities good enough to meet 3-4 months usage.
  • Don’t stuff your pantry so that there’s no space to breathe between jars and packets. Making your pantry crammed makes the bugs hard to spot.
  • Use packages in ascending order of their dates. It means that use the older packages before the new ones.
  • Finish off the opened packages before you open a new package.
  • Check for holes and unbroken seals on the packages before buying.
  • Always store your food in thick, heavy, and airtight containers and jars. Foods meant to be in the refrigerator don’t keep them outside of the refrigerator for days.
  • Clean your pantry daily. Don’t let food crumbs or droppings lying on the floor for extended periods.
  • Don’t keep stale food products in your pantry for long. Stale food attracts pests. Throw away stale food from your pantry.
  • Seal any cracks on the walls, cabinets, and floor. They’re the entry point for pantry pests.
  • Keep pet food, including bird seeds, covered. Keep the place where your pet eats clean.

Are Pantry Pests Harmful To Humans?

Pantry pests don’t bite or sting humans. So, in a way, they’re harmless.

But they present severe infestation and contamination threat to food. The larvae, which grow on the infested food, are also not dangerous if you consume them intentionally or by mistake.

Many bugs have high nutritional value, and they’re also considered a delicacy in many countries.

Pantry pests don’t carry any diseases that can cause you health issues. The worst that can happen is some form of allergy, but that too in the rarest of rare cases.

In a way, it’s unfair to call them pests. They come to our homes to have some food. And to spoil them. The term pest is most used for those creepers that spread diseases and pathogens.

But cockroaches, mealworms, and ants, these food bugs are certainly pests.

Conclusion

The leading causes of pantry pests are two – dirty kitchen or pantry and bringing food in your home that already has pantry pests.

Apart from the causes, you’ve also got to know the most common kitchen insects and the types of foods they infest.

On top of it, we’ve also told you the types of food bugs and the steps you can take to prevent pantry pests from infesting your food and kitchen.

Pantry pests are not lethal, and they don’t pose any risk to your health. The only threat they pose is the damage they cause to your food.

To know more about how to get rid of Indianmeal moths, the most common pantry pest, you can check it out here.