If you're finding tiny pests running amok in your pantry, you can take some simple, all-natural steps to rid yourself of these pesky little invaders and ensure they don't return.
While pantry pests aren't generally a threat to human health, they can cause extensive damage to pantry goods, including whole grains, flours, and cereals. Learn how to confidently tackle a pantry pest infestation and avoid paying for expensive pest services.
What Do Pantry Pests Look Like?
There are lots of pests that could be infesting your pantry, including moths, beetles, weevils, and mites. You might be seeing adult pests, teensy larvae (worms), or evidence of pantry pests like webbing inside the packages of your pantry goods.
While pantry pests vary in appearance and particular food preferences, treatment is generally the same regardless of the pest present.
Expect to find pantry pests in or near the following goods:
- Flours and baking mixes
- Rice and other grains
- Animal food
- Dried Fruit
- Bird seed
- Dried flowers
Signs of a Pantry Pest Infestation
Pantry pests can be difficult to eliminate if they're left unaddressed. Knowing how to spot the signs of an infestation will help you identify an issue as soon as possible and reduce the severity of the problem long term.
Pantry pests are often brought into the home from the grocery store and stored unknowingly amongst grain-based goods in the pantry. Common signs of pantry pests include:
- Webs clinging to the inside of your grain or flour bags
- Damaged whole grain kernels
- Mounds of sawdust-like material around food packages
- A distinct, strong sour smell
- Clumps or discoloration among pantry items
- Small holes in pantry packaging
5 All-Natural Ways to Keep Pantry Pests Away
It is widely believed that effective pest control needs to involve chemical treatments. This is not true.
If pest control solutions are going to be effective, they need to focus on various factors, and chemical applications should be used rarely (if at all). After all, harsh over-the-counter chemicals are the last thing you want around your pantry and food prep areas.
Luckily, pantry pests can easily be addressed using low-risk, all-natural solutions.
Inspect Before Bringing Items Inside
Since pantry pests commonly come home from the grocery store, it's important to avoid bringing them inside via your groceries.
Inspect items in the store before purchasing and again before bringing them in. This is especially true for items purchased in bulk.
Identify and Eliminate Sources
If you see an occasional pantry pest or suspect a pest issue is brewing in your stored food area, it's time to start inspecting.
If you do not see the pests themselves (small adult beetles, papery little moths, or tiny worms), look for their signs, like webbing inside bags or boxes, holes chewed in packaging, sawdusty material on your shelves, or a stinky-sour smell.
Once you've figured out where the infestation is coming from, toss it in an outside garbage can. It may be tempting to try and salvage your infested goods, but throwing them out is typically the best option.
Manage Your Pantry
Think of your kitchen and pantry in terms of inventory. To keep your food as fresh as possible (and save money on food waste), you will want to rotate your inventory based on what food goes bad first.
Products that sit for extended periods are more likely to become a source of pantry pests. Try only purchasing what you'll use within a 1-2 month period, and keep the food that will expire first at the front of the shelf for use.
Vacuum Up Messes
If you're dealing with pantry pests, your vacuum is your new best friend. Flour and grain spills invite pantry pests into your food storage areas, so cleaning these messes up is essential if you want to eliminate pesky and destructive pantry pests.
Place Monitors in Your Pantry and Cabinets
Once you've followed all the solutions above, it's time to start monitoring your pantry to avoid future infestations.
Place insect traps (also called insect monitors) in your cabinets and pantry. Check back on them from time to time and see what you catch! Not only can monitors help detect a pantry pest issue, but they can also help catch cockroach problems early on.
What Causes Pantry Pests?
A variety of things could cause pantry pests to pop up. For example, they could enter the home through infested food packages, or there could be eggs within pantry items brought home from the store.
Grocery stores are the source of many pest issues, including pantry pests and cockroaches, so it's definitely worth the time to inspect your items before purchasing them and bringing them inside your house.
How to Prevent Pantry Pests From Coming Back
Once you've addressed an initial pantry pest infestation, long-term efforts should be focused on prevention. Follow these steps:
- Inspect your groceries before bringing them in, especially grain-based products, bulk-dried goods, and paper or cardboard packaging.
- Keep your pantry tidy and free of food spills, including flour and grain kernels.
- Rotate through your pantry items to avoid items expiring in storage.
- Aim to deep clean your pantry at least a couple of times per year to avoid pantry pests from coming back.
Where do pantry pests come from?
Most often, pantry pests hitch a ride inside as eggs, hidden inside stored goods. If allowed to hatch, they can emerge and infest other goods.
Will pantry pests go away on their own?
Pantry pests will continue to be an issue until the source of the infestation is found and removed. If left alone, they can spread to other food items and ruin them, too.
Do pantry pests bite?
Pantry pests are tiny and don't present a bite threat to humans. Carpet beetle larvae sometimes infest pantry items, however, and their arrow-shaped hairs can cause sensitive individuals to have unpleasant reactions, including irritating rashes.
Cereal and Pantry Pests. Penn State University Extension
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Principles. United States Environmental Protection Agency
Pantry Pests: Insects Found in Stored Food. University of Minnesota Extension