The Pain of Pantry Pests
You head to the kitchen, grab a box of cereal from the pantry, and start to pour, only to find…bugs! Pantry pests infest whatever they can, including grains, dried fruit, and even pet food. The best way to prevent pantry pests is to make sure all food is kept tightly sealed. But even if you store all your staples in a picture-perfect collection of airtight canisters, never let your guard down. There’s always a chance that one of these eight common pests will catch a ride home to your pantry on your next grocery run.
Indian Meal Moth
Notoriously difficult to get rid of, Indian meal moths are small insects with two-tone wings. The front half of the wing is light gray or cream, and the rest is a coppery color. These pests typically enter your home in packages of flour, pasta, and other staples that you bring home from the grocery store. In its brief life (less than a week), a female moth can lay more than 300 eggs on or near your dried food and in any unsealed products in your pantry or cupboard.
Small but mighty, the weevil grows to only about 2 millimeters, but adult females can produce four eggs per day during their four- to five-month lifespan, according to the National Pest Management Association. These small, dark-colored pests hang out in rice, oats, barley, and corn, and they usually make their way into your home from your yard or through infested foods from the grocery store. If you find weevils in any of your packaged foods, it’s best to dump the product out. Eating a few weevils (and their feces) probably won’t do you any harm, but it’s an unpleasant prospect, and why put other food in your pantry at risk?
Don’t let the name confuse you. While cigarette beetles are known for feeding on tobacco products, they also gravitate toward pantry items like cereals, nuts, and pet food. They can even find their way into dried herbs and spices, such as paprika. These beetles are light brown in color and only about 1/8 inch long, with a humpback shape. They get into your house through open windows, gaps under doorways, or cracks in your home’s foundation, although they can also come in with infested products.
Warehouse beetles are small, oval-shaped pests that are brown or black and found mostly in packaged pantry goods such as grains, cereals, and pet foods. These beetles not only eat your food but contaminate it, so toss any infested products. They find their way into your home by hitching a ride in infested food or by entering through any open doors or windows. If you do see a warehouse beetle in your home, don’t be too alarmed. The National Pest Management Association notes that adult warehouse beetles can fly fairly well, so finding one doesn’t necessarily indicate an infestation.
While not a threat to your health, spider beetles are scavengers that are drawn to the types of foods commonly stored in pantries and cupboards. These pantry nuisances chew holes in food packaging and then not only eat the contents, but also leave behind webbing and cocoons. Spider beetles have long legs and a spider-like appearance and tend to lay their eggs in items such as flour and grains. Like many pantry pests, spider beetles typically make their way into your home through tainted groceries.
Katja Schulz via Wikimedia Commons
A common pest for homeowners everywhere, pharaoh ants are known for their sweet tooth and their broad tastes that include sweets, fats, and proteins. Pharaoh ants are only about 1/16 inch long and range from yellow to red in color with black markings on their abdomen. These ants like to nest in warm areas, and colonies can grow to be quite large.
Saw-Toothed Grain Beetle
As the name implies, the saw-toothed grain beetle feasts on popular pantry staples such as flours and cereals, although they are also happy to dine on dried fruits, candy, and pet food. These pests have a slender body that is only about 1/10 inch long and have six saw-like teeth on each side of the thorax. Like most of the pests on this list, this beetle usually gets into your pantry inside food that you brought home from the store.
Lovers of damp or moldy foods, yellow mealworms may turn up when you open a long-forgotten box in the back of your pantry. Their mere presence is an indication that whatever foodstuff they’re living in is probably past its prime. As adults, yellow mealworms look much like typical beetles. They have a hard shell and can grow up to an inch in length. If you accidentally ingest a yellow mealworm, you may end up with some gastric discomfort, but they don’t transmit disease. In fact, mealworms are used in some countries for animal feed, and they’re being explored as a source of protein for humans.
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