Getting rid of flour mites (also known as grain mites) involves identification, removal of infested sources, cleaning up messes that could provide a food source for them, and having a plan to prevent them from coming back long-term.
While flour mites do not bite, if given the chance to make themselves at home in your kitchen or pantry, they can infest a variety of food items including grain-based items, dried fruit or vegetable products, and even cheese.
What Are Grain-Based Items?
While it may seem obvious that grain-based items are made from grain, it's important to think outside the box when it comes to flour mites. The term 'grain-based' prompts thoughts of cereals and flours, and while these are indeed some of flour mites' favorite foods, it's easy to forget to inspect other items such as bird seed and pet foods, which also contains grains.
It's easy to bring flour mites into your home without knowing, so how do you avoid them and what should you do if they're already in your kitchen?
For some, exposure to severe flour mite infestations can cause a condition called "grocer's itch". Certain individuals may also be allergic to flour mites as well. If you believe you have a flour mite issue but you are also sensitive to allergens, be sure you use proper PPE (personal protective equipment) including gloves, long sleeves, and a face mask if you're going to clean up infested areas.
What Do Flour Mites Look Like?
Part of the family Acaridae, flour mites are tiny, almost microscopic critters that range in size from .33-.66mm and have pale coloring ranging from grey to white. They also have clawed legs that are darker than their bodies and vary in color from yellow to brown-red. Unless an issue is severe, it can be difficult to spot flour mites inside soiled products because they are so tiny and blend in very well due to their pale coloring.
There are over 50 types of mites that have been known to infest grain products and other stored goods (including cheese mites and mold mites). This means the mites you're seeing may not be flour mites in a technical sense, but many of them are a part of the Acaridae family. They're all so small, it can be difficult for someone who isn't an entomologist to positively identify them specifically. Luckily, cleaning up a pantry mite issue is going to involve the same steps whether they're actually flour mites or not.
5 Ways to Get Rid of Flour Mites Naturally
Addressing a flour mite issue is going to be similar to dealing with any pantry pest. It will primarily involve inspection, identification and removal, clean up and ongoing prevention. Chemical treatment should not be needed to address a flour mite issue in a home kitchen.
If you're having a pantry mite issue, follow these steps to be rid of your problem for good!
Inspect, Identify and Remove Potential Sources
Flour mites, like many other pantry pests, are brought into the home in items such as bread, cereals, flours, dried fruits and other stored goods.
- Inspect your items carefully. Check the stored goods in your pantry including cereals and flours, bread, whole grains (including corn), birdseed, pet food, and dried fruit.
- Identify and remove infested items. Once you identify where the flour mites are coming from, it is very important that you remove any infested products immediately and tidy up the area to avoid any ongoing issues or left behind mites.
Vacuum Up Pantry and Kitchen Messes Quickly
Once you have addressed any sources of flour mites, it's important to make sure that grain residue, flours and other messes are not left in the bottom of your cupboards or drawers. You don't want to be providing pantry pests with three square meals!
When it comes to DIY pest control, it's a good idea to invest in a quality vacuum. A vacuum is one of the most valuable natural pest control tools to have around the house.
Store Your Dried Goods in Sealed Containers
While storing your goods in sealed containers is a great way to keep certain pantry pests out, when it comes to flour mites, it's wise to keep your stored products sealed up because it will keep the flour mites in.
Flour mites are brought into the home in items from the grocery store. By keeping these goods sealed up in the proper containers, you ensure that they won't easily spread to other pantry items.
Have a Plan to Avoid Flour Mites
Since flour mites and other pantry pests such as weevils often come home from the store, be sure to inspect your items thoroughly. Out of an abundance of caution, consider checking your items before you purchase them at the store and again before you bring them inside your house.
Also keep an eye on your food items as you use them in the kitchen. If you are noticing strange smells, strange textures, strange colors or anything else that seems 'off' about your kitchen goods, it's time to perform a full inspection.
Rotate Your Pantry Goods
Make sure not to purchase stored goods in quantities that are too large. Try to buy only what you will use in 1-2 months, and if one product expires before another, use it first. This will help you make sure that items are not sitting in your pantry for too long. If you brought flour mites home and don't know it, leaving items undisturbed in storage can allow the problem time to spread.
Signs of a Flour Mite Infestation
If you notice tiny specks of moving dust on your freshly cleaned counter tops, there is likely a flour mite infestation nearby.
Items heavily infested with flour mites may exhibit the following signs:
- a musty, sour odor
- a brown tinge (due to the mite's leg color)
- large amounts of mite droppings
- significant amounts of dead mites
Be sure to inspect all of your dried pantry goods, including items that contain seeds and whole grain kernels. Flour mites like to hide out in bags of dried goods, and if they're left undisturbed, they can spread throughout your storage areas and into other items, especially if there are other messes for them to feed on while they travel.
What Causes Flour Mites?
While flour mites are present in many temperate climates, this is due only to the transport of contaminated goods. Flour mites prefer warmer temperatures and high humidity, and if they weren't shipped around the globe in various food items, they would remain in the tropics where they naturally do best.
When it comes to your home, the cause of your flour mite issue is almost certainly some sort of stored food item, whether it's flour, grain kernels, or pet food. Inspect your pantry to find the cause of your flour mite issue and seek to eliminate it immediately.
How to Keep Flour Mites Away
Prevention of flour mites starts at the grocery store. Start by inspecting your items before you buy them and again before you bring them inside, especially if you purchased them from bulk grain bins. Pantry pests run rampant in grocery store grain bins, especially when the bins aren't cleaned properly and the grains are not rotated correctly according to food safety standards.
At home, keep flour mites away by cleaning up dry pantry messes quickly with a vacuum. Keep your grain items stored in sealed containers so that if flour mites are present, it is easy to contain them. Pay attention to your goods when you are using them and keep your eyes open for anything suspicious, including odd odors, colors, and textures, and make sure that your goods are not expired.
Where do flour mites come from?
Flour mites originate from the tropics, where they enjoy warm temperatures and high humidity, but are shipped throughout the world in contaminated grain-based goods.
Will flour mites go away on their own?
Flour mites will not go away until the source of the problem is addressed. Until you have identified and removed the source of your flour mite issue, they are likely to continue popping up.
Do flour mites bite?
Flour mites do not bite, but can cause severe spoilage to stored kitchen items containing grains and other dried items, and also come with a risk of irritation and allergy.
How long do flour mites live?
The flour mite lifecycle varies in length and can take anywhere from 17-28 days depending on the temperature and humidity of their environment.
Penn State Extension. “Flour and Grain Mites.” Accessed March 31, 2022. https://extension.psu.edu/flour-and-grain-mites.
Clemmons, Elizabeth A, and Douglas K Taylor. “Booklice (Liposcelis Spp.), Grain Mites (Acarus Siro), and Flour Beetles (Tribolium Spp.): ‘Other Pests’ Occasionally Found in Laboratory Animal Facilities.” Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science : JAALAS 55, no. 6 (November 2016): 737–43.
Mallis, Arnold, and Keith Story. Handbook of Pest Control. Cleveland, Ohio Franzak & Foster, 1982.