Extension Educator, Horticulture
At first you notice these annoying small brown moths flying around the television at night. You know, those moths that just turn to powder when you squish them. Or at 10 pm just as you are measuring flour for the cookies for the bake sale tomorrow, you notice funny little brown beetles doing the flour float.
A variety of beetles and moth larvae can be found in stored foods such as flour, corn meal, whole grains, peas, beans, nuts, dried fruit and spices. Some pantry pests can bore through commercial wrappers or containers. Many are capable of flying and may enter homes that way. Some may enter homes in infested food or its packaging. An adult female can lay more than a hundred eggs, so it doesn't take long to get large infestations that destroy large quantities of food.
A food label on a caterpillar might be a nutritionist's dream–high in protein and low in fat. Although in our culture, insects are rarely listed on menus except at the U of I's insect fear film festival. Many cultures rely on insects for their diet. The concern in stored food are the microbes and fungi that may come in with the insects which may not be killed by cooking the product. People are strongly urged to destroy products infested with pantry pests.
Indianmeal moths are 3/8 inch grayish brown moths that infest food in the caterpillar or larval stage. The larvae are white and spin silken threads throughout and over the surface of the food. Sometimes the larvae can be seen crawling in cupboards and across ceilings and walls. Indianmeal moth larvae are general feeders on dried fruit, seeds, crackers, nuts, powdered milk, candies, bird seed and dried pet food. Some people may think they are clothes moths since the moths are often attracted to the lights and televisions in bedrooms.
Several small beetles may infest stored food. Beetles may be seen in cupboards, on counters and around windows. They can infest spices especially paprika, dried foods, dog food, leather, cloth, books and even the kid's insect collection.
To prevent infestation by pantry pests:
If pantry moths or beetles are seen:
The Idea Garden Workshop on Saturday, May 15 at 10 am is Window Box Gardening. Josh Schneider, Master Gardener and owner of Mourning Dove Farms, will share his tips on plant selection, soil mixes and different styles of boxes. For information, contact the U of I Extension at 217-333-7672.