Preventing Pantry Pests
This article was originally published on December 6, 2018 and expired on March 1, 2019. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Bakers in the family, and everyone else who enjoy their benefits, really like the holidays. Lots of cookies, cakes and pies are baked during the season. Pantry pests are those tiny grain beetles and flour moths that use the leftover flour to feed on and live in. This phenomenon is common, as many homes do not routinely bake during other times of the year. The leftover flour is pushed to the side or to the back of the pantry or cabinet, and forgotten over time.
The most common and easily discovered pantry pest is likely going to be the Indian meal moth. As the name suggests the adult moth flies and is often, found near windows or more often flying around light fixtures in the kitchen area. If you find the moths, then for sure leftover flour has been supporting these pests. If the meal moth has been in your white flour, the color becomes a dingy grey and there will be webbing found in the container. That webbing is easy to see in the round container of oatmeal too. You will see larval stages in the product actively feeding. Once the larvae have grown to full-size, they will crawl out of the infested product and find a crevice to pupate and turn into the adult moth. Once mated, the adult will return to a food source and lay more eggs to repeat the cycle.
Management of the Indian meal moth and the flour beetles means finding the source of the infestation. If caught early, this could be just that leftover flour. If left for a while, pantry pests could be in any product that contains a flour or grain. Any highly processed product would not be the initial source, but could easily become contaminated later. When the outbreak is substantial, every product becomes suspect, and it will require a lot of time and effort to deal with the moth. The remedy for the moth and beetle is to inspect all packages in the cabinet and throw away any clearly infested products. Any products left should be considered suspect, and placed in a tight-sealing container in the pantry until used again. Birdseed and dry pet food also will support these insects. There are no insecticides to spray. Cleaning and vacuuming the pantry shelves and removing any shelf paper will expose areas where pupation can occur. Be sure to clean the entire cabinet, including the cabinet cracks and crevices above your head too! This will lessen the adult populations that would be emerging later.
As you buy new products for the pantry, only buy the amount you will use in a short time.
Do not buy products in a broken or damaged bag or box. Other considerations would be to remember to use older products first and to keep the pantry free of spilled food and crumbs. If you are going to keep ground flour products after the baking season, consider putting them in the refrigerator or freezing them until you bake again. It is always easier to prevent these insects now than having to clean up their messes later.
Source: Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator, Horticulture, firstname.lastname@example.org
Pull date: March 1, 2019
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