Pantry pests are a common problems in homes, grocery stores and restaurants. A variety of insects feed on dried fruit, grains, seeds, flour, sugar and meal in our cupboards and infestations are often difficult to control. While there are no safe insecticidal sprays for food cupboards, infestations of pantry pests can usually be managed with cultural control practices and sanitation methods.
Food cupboards typically have infestations of spider beetles, saw-toothed grain beetles, flour beetles, drugstore beetles, cigarette beetles and bean weavils. Certain species of insects damage stored foods in their larval form before pupating into moths, such as Indian meal moths. These pests feed on foods in their grub-like form and crawl away from infested foods to pupate. Foods most commonly infested include dried pet food, chocolate, dried fruits, grains, flour, seeds, birdseed, powdered milk and ornamental fruits and vegetables in decorative items.
The first sign of pantry insect infestations is often the presence of small brown beetles or worms in kitchen cupboards. Seeing adult moths inside your kitchen is also a sign of infestation of pantry pests. If you find insects in your food cupboard, inspect all food packages for signs of infestation. Both opened and unopened packages can be infested. Many pests can chew through foil or cardboard boxes to gain entry into food items. Most pantry pests are brought into the home in infested foods and spread rapidly to other food items.
According to Oregon State University, there are no chemical control products considered safe for use in stored food pantries and cupboards. Controlling pantry pests requires a diligent effort on the part of the homeowner to diagnose infestations, identify pests, eliminate infested food items and clean cupboards and pantries thoroughly. Discard all infested food items, vacuum insects from cupboard shelves and wash the entire area with warm, soapy water to reduce insects.
Store all dried foods in containers with tight-fitting lids to keep pantry pests out. Keeping foods in the freezer or refrigerator can also reduce infestations. Decorative food items such as dried corn or bird seeds can be treated by heating them in an oven at 155 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes with the door open slightly. Routinely inspect food items for insects, looking underneath cans and inside packages for signs of insects.