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Identifying and Eliminating Pantry Pests

Pantry pests can be a disgusting problem in your home. This article looks at some of the most common pantry pests and how to eliminate them. They fall into about 3 groups - the Cockroach, Beetles, and Weevils.

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The Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska has been kind enough to let us use the photographs by Jim Kalisch to help identify those "little critters" that you find in your flour, your pasta, dog food and many other foods stored in your pantry.

The Cockroach

The cockroach is one of the most invasive pantry pests, and one of the hardest to get rid of. They are usually associated with "dirty" kitchens, but this is not always the case. Every home, even the cleanest, can be invaded with roaches. They can move in with used furniture or hitch a ride on groceries you bring home from the store. It only take one female with eggs to lay for the problem to start.

German Cockroach

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Although there are several different roaches, but the German Cockroach is the one that usually is found in the home. Since roaches usually come out in the dark, if you are seeing them in the daylight, you probably have a very heavy population.

It is possible to eradicate them, but not so easy. They have become resistant to insecticides. The first step is to keep all crumbs, etc. cleaned up. Clean under counter top appliances like the toaster and microwave. Clutter, like stacks of newspapers, also attract them.

Sticky traps will sometimes work to eliminate them. At the very least, you can set these in several places such as under the microwave, under the refrigerator, behind the wastebasket, in the cabinet under the sink. Then you will get an idea of where they are hiding by the amount that get into your traps and concentrate your efforts in those areas those areas.

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You will also notice "roach specks" where they spend a lot of time. Place bait traps in these areas. Gel baits seem to work well. Boric Acid dust seems to help in some cases. If the roaches walk through it, it sticks to their body and feet, and they ingest this slow-acting poison as they groom themselves.

Another remedy is to mix flour, sugar, a little boric acid (even Twenty Mule Team Borax will work here) and enough water to make a stiff dough. Take bits of the dough and roll into tiny balls. Let these harden and stick them in dark places where roaches might be hiding.

Moths and Beetles

Warehouse Beetle

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Flour Beetle

Moths and beetles feed on and contaminate many food products such as cereals, nuts dried fruits, flour, cake and quick bread mixes, pasta, rice, spices, candy, etc. They can also be found in Dog food and bird seed. Some of these products are already infested when we buy them. I have seen moths flying around the birdseed bags in the store at times. My worst Indian Moth infestation began with a large bag of in-the-shell Pecans at Christmas a few years ago.

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Rice Weevil

It is common to find beetles and weevils in the same infested food as the moth larvae. The means to eliminating them are pretty much the same. And the same precautions are necessary to avoid re-infestation.

Granary Weevil

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I could tell you about all the things I have read, but the best information is always first-hand, so this article is about what I personally have done to get rid of my pantry pests. And some of the changes I had to make to my storage area. My storage area is not as attractive and pretty as it used to be. But it is nearly bug-proof. I used to have all these cute vintage canister sets that I picked up at yard sales. You know the kind. Metal canisters with lids that set on top or pressed into place with cute decals and labels. They were covered, but not sealed. How convenient for the bugs! . I cannot guarantee that everything I am doing is foolproof, but I have not had to start from scratch with this job since I first began my War on Bugs.

Yellow Meal Worm

My War on Bugs

The first thing I learned is that a cake mix (or any boxed food for that matter) is not bug proof. They eat right through the bag. The second thing that I learned is you must seal everything....not only to keep the bugs from getting in, but also to keep the bugs from getting out. Many products have insect eggs in them when we buy them. Flour is one that usually does. I know, it doesnt sound very appetizing, but it is a fact of life. If you leave it in the sack in your pantry, and it is contaminated, you have those pests into everything else that is not sealed. If you seal it in a container, and it is contaminated, you can dispose of it before anything else is affected.

When I buy flour, or cornmeal, I store it in my freezer for 3 days before I pour it into my flour bucket. Since I do a lot of baking, my flour is stored in a 2 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid. I find many of the containers that I will mention here, by checking restaurants, donut shops, and delis. Sometimes they are even FREE. Of course you can buy many of these type containers at Wal-Mart. In fact, I have purchased a couple of the plastic storage tubs they sell and store all unopened cereal, crackers, chips, etc in the tubs.

Meal Moth

Once I open a box of cereal, I pour it into a gallon jar with a screw on lid. These are also available for free some places. Hey, if you know a restaurant employee, ask them if they will save some for you. They are see through, so you can easily find what you are looking for. Once you get your containers ready, check everything in your cupboard, including your spices. Weevils love Paprika. Throw out anything that is buggy, and seal everything else up. Once this is done, be vigilant at all times.

All it will take is one time of putting half a bag of flour on the shelf, or a box of cornbread mix or package of hot chocolate mix. Oh, yes, I have found weevils there, too. Nothing is safe. Another thing that I did was purchase a couple Moth Traps from Gardens Alive. I set them on the pantry shelves for the hungry moths that were hanging around. It took a few weeks before I stopped seeing them flying around my pantry. But have not seen a single one in 3 years.

Ironically, a few days ago, just after I decided this was a topic that needed discussing, I got down my box of oatmeal. Now this is a cardboard box, but it is sealed with a plastic lid. I have saved it to store my oatmeal, since I have begun to buy my oatmeal in bulk. But have not had a problem with it and have been using it several years. It was full of weevils! It took me a minute to realize that they had not gotten into this container, they couldnt get out! Guess I will now add Oatmeal to the products that I freeze before storing. Good luck with your project, and I hope these methods work as well for you as they have for me. I am sure there are other tips out there, that I have not thought of, and I would love to see them as feedback.

About The Author: Harlean Greathouse is a mother of three who has been married for over 50 years. Long time readers of ThriftyFun will probably recognize her as Harlean from Arkansas, the name she has posted under as a valuable member of the ThriftyFun community.


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May 13, 20050 found this helpful

Wonderful pictures to identify with!

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 13, 20050 found this helpful

Bay Leaves keep bugs out of flour, they keep moths off your clothes too.

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May 14, 20050 found this helpful

We had the meal moths for a long time...we used traps, etc. They came in a bag of dogfood. We didn't know they were there or what they were until we looked them up on the internet. Once they were out, they got into everything that wasn't sealed in plastic or tins. We even found them between our paper napkins. We did finally get rid of them.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 14, 20050 found this helpful

PANTRY MOTHS----The only effective method I have found has been to containerize everything as she says and to use "Hot Shot Flying Insect Spray". It is in a blue can with the Raid at WalMart. It does not have a lingering odor at all. I sprayed it in my cupboards and along all the woodwork in my home. The moths were everywhere at first--even flying into your face as you watched TV. I used a can or two a week, every week for about 4 or 5 months until they finally all died off. I did not find the sex lure moth traps to be effective at all. I have been moth free now for about a year. My cupboards are clean and organized now with Rubbermaid and Tupperware containers!! My infestation appears to have started with a 50 lb bag of birdseed. Best of luck to anyone that has to deal with these pests!! They are very hard to eradicate and you must stick with the spraying program religiously!!!

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 14, 20050 found this helpful

Hi....Jane with the guest post had it right. I have used bay leaves for years in all my flour and never have had a problem...even when I've quit baking for awhile and had flour sitting for some time.
Not that it's exactly a pest as such but another remedy for food products is to put a sugar cube in your cheese--the brick type, and seal it up in your fridge. You won't be scrapping mold off for a long time...in fact, for me, I now seldom if ever find myself having to do so.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 14, 20050 found this helpful

I have also had a problem with the pantry moths and everthing I have is in containers and I still cannot find why I'm still seeing them. The original source was an unopened box of Bisquick. I still see about 10 of them in the house each week and not just in or around the kitchen. I found 4 in my daughter's room and am thinking maybe they are in the stuffed animals? Before I pitch all of the stuffed animals -- has anyone ever experienced that? I know she doesn't have food in her room, she's only 3 and there are no diaper bags, etc. in her room....

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 15, 20050 found this helpful

German Cockroaches are not officially a pantry pest. You will also find them around the sink, microwave and refridgerator motor housing before they get to the pantry. Also, that they come in grocery bags is very, very rare these days with legislation on grocers and the use of plastic bags. They usually come from another house, a friend, family member, a used electronic device you bought second hand. It doesn't matter-you've got them now (but if you know it is a kid you babysit or a common visitor to the house that has them and brought them address that issue. They will bring more).

First have a "roach hunt one night around 10:00 with the lights off, a flastlight with red cellaphane covering the lense (they can't see the color red, and a vacuum hose. Suck as many as possible up and root in all cracks and crevices. Next have some Maxforce bait in a syringe looking tube to place every 6" under the lip of the counter tops, all hinges, electronics, electrical outlets, etc.. Do this every two weeks until you go 2 months without a live sighting.

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 15, 20050 found this helpful

Nextly, Carolyn, don't throw out you kids Stuffed animals unless they are stuffed with food. If mothes are indeed starting there there is something with a food base. Maybe, a bean bag with actual beans in it, or a glue with a wheat base, birdseed and peanuts are big time offenders. Instead look for the cocoons. If you initially found some mix with them breeding I suspect you found webbing and cocoons in the top of the package. Go to the pantry, look up in the corners. See those old cocoons up there. The problem isn't the mothes, it's the caterpillars that feed and then emerge, crawl upward until they find a corner or crevice and cocoon. Find the epicenter of cocoons and work your way down, examine everything and imagine if it is realistic that it has a grain or seed base as a key ingredient. If so throw it out of the house or microwave it if that can be safely done and is a cherished item. I doubt any of the moths originate in the babies room unless you store birdseed in the closet. Instead I believe you leave the babies door open to hear her cry at night and leave a light on for her. The rest of the house is dark so, at night, when the moths fly around they are attracted and unimpeded from traveling to her room, the brightest spot in their vision.

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By guest (Guest Post)
August 25, 20060 found this helpful

I have tiny little dead bugs all over the inside of my freezer. This keeps happening in cycles, even after I get rid of all the food in the freezer! Does anyone know what they could be and how to get rid of them? Thanks!

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By guest (Guest Post)
September 5, 20060 found this helpful

I cannot find a picture that looks like the very very tiny dark bug i find in my cupbords :(

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By guest (Guest Post)
November 19, 20060 found this helpful

Hi,

I'm assuming these are pantry pests(warehouse beetle). We found them burrowing through a pad of manilla paper and leaving mulched paper behind, resembling sawdust.
I've vacuumed and cleaned, should I spray an insecticide? The are dark brown topside and almost whit on the underside. Larvae and wormy looking. HELP! tadmorse AT comcast.net

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By guest (Guest Post)
May 17, 20080 found this helpful

Hey I have the weevel problem/beetle problem in my room. They are the Beatles in the the top picture, if they like flour and grains, what are they doing in my bedroom?

ps I don't keep anything food like in my room..

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By guest (Guest Post)
December 20, 20080 found this helpful

Hello,
I have found numerous pantry larvae around my house (bedroom wall, clean laundry hamper, baby car seat and swing that were stored in the basement for 10 months, pot and pyrex cabinets). I have NOT found any in the actual pantry where food is stored. I have thrown away all grains that were being stored and have bought new items as well as glass storage for the items. I had not seen one of these bugs in about 2 weeks but am now finding them surface again around the laundry and spare bedroom. The bug is an exact image of the pantry larvea you have on the site. Is there something I could be missing? What else can I do? Are they harmful to me ( I am pregnant), my infant, or my toddler?

My husband sometimes cooks with the pans before washing them out and I have found on of these on my plate with supper. Are they harmful to be ingested? Do you have any thoughts for why I am finding them around my home? (We live in a 120 yr old house which was vacant for 30 years, but I have it professionally cleaned every week). Though they look like the pantry larvae, the description of feeding off of wool would be more accurate to what I have read about beetles in regards to the locations I find them.

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April 19, 20131 found this helpful

Hey! Quick note in response to the original article, in regards to the cardboard oatmeal container - this is absolutely not safe, and it is more than possible that they migrated into the container. Flour beetles are known to bore through cardboard, tinfoil, or thin plastic (including ziplock bags), leaving just a tiny pinprick hole. They are built to efficiently make their way into containers you wouldn't expect.

If you want to really protect your food, you need to select containers made from glass, thick plastic, or metal, and which seal well when closed.

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February 3, 20151 found this helpful

The best treatment for bugs in the pantry is bay leaves. Place whatever you have in a plastic bag toss in several bay leaves and you will never be bothered with bugs or worms again Been doing this for years.

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February 7, 20150 found this helpful

We ended up with moths in our pantry cupboard. I think they came home in some food I purchased in a bulk barrel at the grocery store. I now store grain items like flour and oatmeal in my freezer when I first bring them home. This seems to kill anything them off. I will try the bay leaf suggestion. Thanks everyone!

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In This Guide
Preventing Pantry Pests
Preventing Pantry Pests
Categories
Home and Garden Pest Control Pantry PestsMarch 7, 2017
Guides
Clear glass jars inside of a pantry.
Keep Pests Out of Your Pantry
Cans of Food in a Pantry
Organizing Your Pantry
Stored food in a jars in a pantry.
Keeping Weevils Out of Stored Food
Bugs that have infested a flour jar.
Bugs Appearing in Airtight Flour Jars
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