Dealing with storage bugs and pests is something every homeowner dreads. Sadly, everyone can get an infestation regardless of their level of cleanliness.
There’s nothing as disappointing as opening a can of flour in your pantry only to be met by uninvited guests. Pantry pests are not only disgusting but can also cause food contamination, leading to diseases like dysentery.
Common storage bugs and pests include beetles, moths, and weevils that like to feed on dried flour, grains, cereals, and nuts. You can protect food from these pests by storing it in tightly sealed containers, discarding expired food, cleaning out the pantry, and working with a pest professional.
Different pantry pests and bugs feed on dry foods and stored products. Why do you have a pantry pest problem, and is there a way to permanently eliminate them? Read on to learn more about these stubborn pests and how to identify them.
Here’s what we discovered having carried out our research from authoritative sources like National Pest Management Association and Pest World.
14 Types of Storage Bugs and Pests
The first step to eradicating pantry pests is to identify them. Some of the common storage pests include:
1. Indian Meal Moths
The Indian Meal Moth is a common pantry pest found in American homes. It loves infesting cornmeal made of Indian corn or maize. Infestations occur when you bring a package home that’s already been infested with Indian meal moth’s eggs. Adults can quickly spread and invade other nearby foods.
An adult meal moth is close to half an inch long and has scales on its swing. The upper part is grey, while the lower has a reddish-brown color. Their wings also have a unique pattern, which helps you differentiate them from other types of moths.
The pest has a complete lifecycle of 30 days, but adults can only survive for some weeks. A female Indian meal moth can lay close to 400 eggs over 30 days.
You can tell that you have an Indianmeal moth problem if you notice their presence, egg shells, fecal pellets, and cast skins.
The best way to prevent an Indianmeal moth infestation is to inspect your food before bringing it into the house. Ensure your pantry is clutter-free and that the storage areas are clean. Store your cereals, grains, and other food items in tightly-sealed plastic or glass containers to minimize infestation.
2. Angoumois Grain Moth
The angoumois grain moth is identifiable by their narrow pointed wings and yellowish-brown color. Their larva is white with a yellow head.
Also referred to as grain moth, Angoumois grain moth infests maize, barley, paddy, and jowar. You can tell if you have a grain moth infestation when you notice hollowed-out grains. These pests feed on the inside of the grains and remain in them. They can also attack stores and fields.
Angoumois grain moths don’t form any surface web, but their infestation can leave an unpleasant taste and smell on the grains.
3. Granary Weevils
Granary weevils, also known as wheat weevils, have a long snout and are reddish-brown. They also have pitted marks on the prothorax and ridges on the abdomen. These bugs are tiny, about 0.2 inches long.
Their larvae look like worms and are white. Granary weevils are common in packs of dried cereals and grains.
4. Rice Weevils
The rice weevil was originally from India, but it has now spread out due to the shipment of food items and other goods.
Rice weevils thrive in tropical climates, but you can find them anywhere food is stored. These pests love to feed on beans, nuts, corn, pasta, cereal, and wheat.
Unlike other large weevils that are identifiable, rice weevils are tiny, measuring about 1/16th of an inch in length. They have red or yellow spots on their back but have a black or brown body color.
Although adult rice weevils can live up to five months, their infestations can quickly spread as the females produce up to four eggs per day. The eggs mature in one month. You can tell that you have rice weevils present if there’s a single round hole in your storage area.
The only way to prevent rice weevils is to store your food and other goods in tight plastic or glass containers.
5. Cigarette Beetles
Like sawtoothed grain beetles, cigarette beetles have a brown color. However, they have a humped appearance, while sawtoothed grain beetles have a flat body type.
These beetles are tiny and can be challenging to spot. The only identifiable features are two serrated antennae and fine hairs. Cigarette beetles like to feed on flour, cereals, sage, and tobacco.
The beetles are attracted to light sources and like to fly around.
6. Red Flour Beetles
Red flour beetles are about 4mm long and are red, with some variation of brown. Their win cases have punctured lines.
These pests love to attack dried flour, and you’ll also find them on groundnuts, cereal products, spices, nuts, and dried fruits. Unlike other beetles that are hardly noticeable, a red flour beetle infestation is evident in unpleasant odors.
7. Drugstore Beetle
The drugstore beetle is common in stored beans, seeds, teas, and spices. These pests have a creamy-white head and hairy grubs with a brown color. You’ll also notice their fuzzy wings and segmented antennae.
It’s also common to find drugstore beetles on prescription drugs, but they can also chew on dry pet food, wool, and books.
Getting rid of drugstore beetles requires thoroughly identifying the source and cleaning any infested surfaces.
8. Sawtooth Grain Beetle
If you’ve noticed small beetles with sawtoothed projections lining the side of the thorax, you might be dealing with sawtooth grain beetle.
The sawtooth grain beetle is tiny, brown beetle 1/10th inches in length. Another identifiable feature is their segmented antennae and triangular head. These beetles have a flattened body that allows them to get into food through small folds and cracks quickly.
Unlike other pests that only cause food contamination, the sawtooth grain beetle’s feeding activity could also lead to mold growth. They love to feed on dried fruits, cereal, pasta, bread, nuts, and dried meats.
These grain beetles can live up to ten months, with the females laying over 200 eggs. Sawtooth grain beetles quickly multiply during warm summer months.
The only way to eliminate a sawtooth beetle infestation is to inspect your pantry and other storage places for their presence. Discard any infested food and clean the area thoroughly to eliminate any eggs. You can also freeze contaminated food items to kill sawtoothed grain beetle insects, larvae, and eggs.
9. Confused Flour Beetle
The confused floor beetle looks like the red flour beetle. However, it has a segmented antenna. You’ll find this pest in most stored foods and grains in the pantry as it likes feeding on starchy or finely ground items like flour or cornmeal.
Adult confused flour beetles live up to a year and are active. Females can lay about 400 eggs on broken kernels and fine materials. The lifecycle takes about six weeks under hot weather but can take longer during the cold season.
Apart from contaminating the food, confused flour beetles also damage the grains and produce unpleasant odors.
The only way to prevent a confused flour beetle infestation is to put your dried cereals and grains in a dry place away from moldy areas. Remove any broken kernels and fine materials that may provide a breeding ground for these pests.
10. Merchant Grain Beetle
Merchant grain beetles are dark brown and are about 3mm long. These pests thrive in packaged fruit, grains, and other dry pantry foods like pasta, flour, cake mixes, and pet food,
Although merchant grain beetles closely resemble sawtoothed grain beetles, they are different. They have a narrow temple, unlike the sawtoothed beetles. Females lay up to 300 eggs, and the species require high temperatures to complete the lifecycle.
You can avoid a merchant grain beetle infestation by checking all dried foods for signs of the pest after purchase. Keep any dried cereals and frains in tight plastic or glass containers. In case of an infestation, clean and vacuum any contaminated surfaces thoroughly.
11. Khapra Beetle
Khapra beetles love to attack rice, wheat, oil seeds, and maize. These bugs love to lay their eggs on crevices or directly on stored grains.
An adult khapra beetle has a reddish-brown color and an oval, convex shape. You can’t tell their head from their abdomen as there’s no division. However, they have a larger abdomen size compared to other beetles.
Another difference is that khapra beetles infest the food and reduce things like grain into frass. They’ll leave their hair and cast skin on dried foods, which can cause illness.
12. Lesser Grain Borer
The lesser grain borer is about 3mm long and has a dark brown color. You cannot identify its head when viewing it from above as the thorax hides it. This type of pest loves chewing on stored grains and cereals.
Adult lesser grain borers can live up to two months. The females lay close to 500 eggs, and their lifecycle from egg to adult takes up to six weeks, depending on the temperature.
13. Pharaoh Ants
Pharaoh ants are a common household pest. These ants tend to consume fats, sweets, and proteins.
With a yellowish-red color, pharaoh ants are known to nest in warm places and can be found in most pantries, near-wall voids, and under floors. A pharaoh ants infestation can proliferate if unnoticed. You must regularly check your pantry and discard any infested food as the pests can spread dysentery and salmonellosis.
A common sign of an infestation is tiny yellow-colored ants foraging around kitchen surfaces and pantries.
14. Spider Beetles
Spider beetles have a spider-like appearance with long legs. They are about 5mm in length and have rounded abdomens. Another distinguishing factor is their color, ranging from pale yellow to reddish-brown or black.
These pests are common in cupboards and pantries.
If you notice chew holes in food packages, you may have a spider beetle infestation. There are also cocoons and webbings left behind. Eliminating a spider beetle infestation involves discarding any contaminated food and storing your grains and cereals in airtight containers.
Tips on How to Prevent Storage Bugs and Pests
You may be dealing with a pest infestation if you notice small package holes, discolored flour, small flour cracks, and grain mold.
Most pest infestations happen when you bring flour, cereals, grain, pasta, and other things home. Preventing these bugs from spreading can be overwhelming, but there are some things you can do to prevent further infestation and contamination.
Here are a few ways to prevent pantry pests.
Discard any Infested Foods
Start by inspecting your stored food and other dry products for a pest infestation. You’ll notice some fecal droplets, wings, or the pests on the food, especially in opened packs of flour, cereals, and other grains. Sometimes it’s difficult to spot these signs, and you may need to empty the packages or stir them around to check.
In case of an infestation, discard the affected food in tightly sealable bags to prevent them from spreading onto other foods.
Store Food in Sealed Containers
Avoid leaving your flour, rice, or grains open in their packaged papers, making it easy for the pests to access them. Store them in tightly sealed plastic, glass, or metallic containers. It’s also advisable to use clear containers to show you the food inside and whether it’s been infested.
You might want to store dry foods like flour, cornmeal, powdered sugar, and other pantry staples in the refrigerator if you’ve had a recent infestation. Nuts can also be stored in the freezer to keep bugs out. Keeping foodstuff in the fridge can help them last longer.
Clean Storage Areas Often
While clean pantries don’t guarantee that you won’t get an infestation, it’s a step towards decluttering your pantry shelves and other storage areas. Take time to remove anything expired and remove potential food sources that may attract these pests.
Additionally, clean old storage containers before filling them with new items if you’ve had a contamination case. Do not forget to reduce clutter, as this may provide a perfect spot for pests to hide.
Hire a Pest Control Professional
Sometimes dealing with an infestation can be overwhelming, especially when dealing with a widespread infestation. Your best bet would be to hire a pest control professional who has the experience and understanding of eliminating pests and keeping them away.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker