Pantry pests are the pests that infest stored food in your kitchen.
Also known as pantry bugs, food bugs, or stored food pests, these common kitchen insects show up out of nowhere and soon become a nuisance.
However, not all pantry pests infest your kitchen for the sake of eating your stored food.
There are other reasons too.
In this guide, you’ll find what causes pantry pests and why do they target stored food.
You’ll also learn how to get rid of pantry pests and the steps you need to take protect your kitchen and home from a re-infestation.
What Causes Pantry Pests? – 4 Reasons Revealed
There are four reasons that cause pantry pests in your kitchen –
- A dirty kitchen and kitchen pantry attract pantry pests.
- You don’t store your food properly
- You buy food packs that already has pantry pests and you bring them home
- There are entry points in your home that allow pantry pests use to sneak inside
Food wastes, food stains, and food crumbs make your kitchen dirty.
That makes your kitchen a magnet not only for pantry pests but also for invasive bugs like ants, roaches, and flies.
Poorly stored food in thin containers and jars makes it easy for pantry pests to access the food in them.
That’s why the pantry pests can show up straight on the kitchen pantry shelves without you ever noticing their intrusion.
Grain houses and large grocery stores always have pantry pests.
Some of these pantry pests, which you’re about to find out, can chew through the plastic packaging and the cardboard boxes and access the stored.
When you buy those food packets, you introduce pantry pests to your kitchen.
Some pantry pests are active during a particular period in the year. Most of them are active starting from the spring months.
In this period, the adults breed and lay eggs.
They enter your home through the cracks and gaps on your home’s walls, doors, and windows.
And when they’re inside, they invade your kitchen.
So, what are the most common pantry pests?
Before that let’s find out what types of food pantry pests infest.
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 –
- Flour mix
- 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.
Pantry pests can infest these foods when they’re improperly stored in your kitchen.
It’s easy for kitchen bugs to access these foods when you keep them in flimsy and thin food storage containers, in partially opened boxes, or wrapped in a foil.
Pantry bugs will drill or chew through these layers and infest and lay eggs on the food.
They can quickly drill through these flimsy layered containers and infest the food kept inside them.
When the eggs hatch, the larvae from the eggs becomes noticeable.
All the pantry pests that you’re about to find out will lay eggs in hundreds in your stored food.
And within a span of few weeks, a severe pantry pest infestation grips your kitchen.
Let’s find out what are the most common pantry pests that invade kitchen and spoils your food.
What Are The Most Common Types Of Pantry Pests?
Pantry pests can be categorized into three types -beetles, moths, and worms.
In each of these categories there are specific pantry pests.
Let’s have a look at each of them.
Indianmeal Moths Or Pantry Moths
Indian meal moths, also known as pantry moths and rice moths, are the most common kitchen invaders.
But the surprising part is that they don’t invade your pantry to feast on your food.
They raid your pantry to lay their eggs.
Once the eggs hatch, the white larvae feast on the grains they’re born on.
Indian meal moth’s larvae infest foods like dry pet food, rice, flour, dry fruits, and nuts.
In the larval stage, the Indian meal moth larva, eat the food that it infests. It also discards it’s feces on the food.
Before turning into an adult moth, the larva weaves a cocoon around itself and remains inside it for a few days.
This life stage is known as the pupae stage.
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 use spray like raid on the moths to get rid of the adult moths.
Pantry Beetles That Infest Kitchen
There are eight types of beetles that are categorized as pantry pests. They’re –
- Sawtoothed grain beetles
- Drugstore beetles
- Cigarette beetles
- Red flour beetles
- Warehouse beetles
- Spider beetles
- Carpet beetles
- Larder beetles
All these beetles infest stored food in your kitchen, grocery shops, and in big grain warehouses.
Some of them eat the food they infest.
While beetles like carpet beetles and larder beetles lay eggs in the stored food so that their larvae can feed on it.
The larvae of carpet beetles and larder beetles look like tiny brownish worms with hairy bristles on their bodies.
The adult carpet beetle don’t eat the stored food. It only lays eggs on it.
Whereas, the adult larder beetle and it’s larva eat stored food including meat and fish.
The flour beetle is the most common little flour bug. It infest flour of all types including corn flour.
The flour beetle walks randomly like it’s drunk. So, it’s also known as confused flour beetle.
They can also infest shelled nuts, grain products, and dry fruits.
Drugstore beetles infest tobacco products and drugs stored in your medicine cabinets. They’re harmful for books too.
Food infested by beetles get stale and reeks of a stench. Both indicate that you need to discard the food.
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.
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.
These bugs are the most common bugs in rice. And they either fly in from the outdoors or they’re present in the rice and grain bags that you buy from the grocery stores.
There’s another tiny bug known as booklice that infest rice and grains too.
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 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
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 –
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 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 ants). They show up mostly during the beginning of the summer or at the end of the spring.
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 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.
- Avoid buying unsealed food packets and food packets with holes on them.
- 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.
- Vacuum clean your kitchen at least thrice in a week. Don’t let food crumbs, food stains, and garbage in the kitchen trash bins in your kitchen to get stale. They’ll attract bugs.
- Clean the kitchen countertops, oven, floor, and kitchen furniture with things like bleach, ammonia, or soapy water.
- 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 crevices on the walls, cabinets, floor shelves, and food storage areas in your kitchen. They’re the entry points and hiding places 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 invade homes to lay their eggs and to feast on our stored food.
However, if you don’t get rid of them they become more of nuisance bugs than pests.
The term pest is most used for those bugs that spread diseases, carry pathogens, and bite humans.
But cockroaches, mealworms, and ants, these food bugs are certainly pests.
There are four reasons that cause pantry pests –
- A dirty kitchen and kitchen pantry
- Improperly stored food
- You buy food that has pantry pests in the packets and you bring them home
- There are entry points in your home that allow pantry pests to sneak inside
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.
You also don’t need an elaborate pest control to get rid of them.
You can easily eliminate pantry pests with home products and methods mentioned in this post.
Nang Chen is an Entomologist and Arachnologist who is associated with Vienna’s museum of natural history. He’s also a consultant with real estate groups, insecticide conglomerates and law enforcement groups as a forensic entomologist. Nang Chen holds an M.S. from South China University and he’s a regular contributor to our site.