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How to Get Rid of Pantry Bugs: A Complete Guide [2024]

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how to get rid of pantry bugs

Have you noticed tiny clumps or clusters in your stored dry goods?

Have you seen adult moths or beetles crawling around in your pantry or found strange, silky webs on a package of pasta or rice?

If so, you’re probably dealing with pantry pests.

Pantry pests are the various moths, beetles, and other bugs that can get into stored food in your pantry and cause a big mess, ruining your stored goods and peace of mind.

In this blog, we’ll share our top tips on how to get rid of pantry bugs on your own and prevent future infestations.

Pantry Bug Identification 101

Pantry bugs, also known as stored product pests, pantry pests, or stored product beetles, live in and contaminate stored foods like pasta, rice, beans, candy, and flour.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the most common species:

The Indianmeal Moth

Indian Meal Moth

Adult Indianmeal moths have a wingspread of about ¾”. Their front wings are tan on the front third and red-brown on the back two-thirds.

The larvae are about ½” long when mature and dirty white in color.

Larve is most frequently found in grains and grain-based products, seeds, dog food, crackers, candy, powdered milk, nuts, chocolate, dried fruits, and many other foodstuffs in the home. In fact, this pest is the most common pantry bug in homes today.

Evidence of Indianmeal moth infestations: Cocoon casings in your pantry, the presence of adult moths in the home, silky webbing in the corners of food packages, sticky secretions on dried goods, the presence of dead adult moths or larvae.

Mediterranean Flour Moth

Mediterranean Flour Moth

The Mediterranean flour moth infests homes and food processing plants. It loves to eat foods like flour, nuts, chocolate, beans, and dried fruit.

Adults have a 1” wingspan with front wings that are pale gray with wavy black lines. Their hind wings are dirty white and rounded at the tips.

When resting, they raise the front part of their body, giving their wings a downward slope.

Evidence of Mediterranean flour moth infestations: Clumps in infested food; visual sightings of moths flying around kitchens, pantries, or other rooms in a zigzag pattern; larvae that have crawled up walls and suspended them from the ceiling with a silky thread.

Beetles

Weevils

weevil

Weevils, sometimes called flour bugs or long-snout bugs, are known for infesting flour, rice, cornmeal, and other common pantry dry goods.

A type of beetle, weevils are usually lightbulb- or pear-shaped, with bodies ranging from red to brown.

Evidence of weevil infestations: You’ll know you have weevils in your pantry if you see tiny brown bugs in your food containers or dry goods. Weevils are also known for damaging food packages or leaving a fine layer of dust on the inside or outside of food containers.

The Confused Flour Beetle

Flour beetles

The confused flour beetle is a common pest in the Northern states. Adults are red-brown and about ⅛” long with elongated antennas that form a four-segmented club.

Since confused flour beetles are so small, they can easily make their way into various sealed foodstuffs, including flour, cereal products, beans, peas, dried fruits, and spices.

Larva have cylindrical, yellow-white bodies and are about ⅛-¼” long.

Evidence of confused flour beetle infestations: visual sightings of adult beetles, “leaky packages” with small bits of grain spilling from tiny holes in the packaging.

The Red Flour Beetle

red flour beetle

The red flour beetle is most common in Southern states.

Adults have wings and can fly, allowing them to access stored grains and pet foods easily.

It’s very similar in appearance to the confused flour beetle, except that its antenna enlarges abruptly to create a three-segmented club.

Evidence of red flour beetle infestations: Sightings of small, tubular beetles in your dried goods or stored products.

Flat Grain Beetle

flat grain beetle

The flat grain beetle is the smallest of all the common grain-infesting pests.

Adults are flat (as the name implies), oblong, and red-brown in color. Most are about 1/16” long. Their antennae are slender and about two-thirds as long as their bodies.

During their larval stage, these insects are a little less than 1/12” long with distinct abdominal segments, the last of which features a pair of hook-like structures at the base.

Evidence of flat grain beetle infestations: Damaged or moldy kernels of stored products, where the beetle’s larvae may be feeding; broken product packages; small holes in otherwise sealed packages.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

The sawtooth grain beetle is common in dried foods like macaroni, breakfast cereals, flour, dried meats, chocolate, and more.

Like the flat grain beetle, this pest is small enough to penetrate tiny cracks and crevices in packaged foodstuffs.

Once inside boxes or bags of stored food, it breeds rapidly and creates large infestations. Adults are small, brown, and about ⅛” long.

The six saw-like projections on each side of their thorax make these pests easy to identify. Larva are less than ⅛” long with long, narrow bodies.

Evidence of sawtoothed grain beetle infestations: The presence of adult beetles on surfaces, dead beetles in storage shelves, and small holes in food packaging.

Drugstore Beetle

The drugstore beetle is brown, cylindrical, and about ⅛” long with a notable hump-backed appearance.

Their wing covers have obvious longitudinal lines, and adults of the species are good fliers.

Larva is about ⅛” in length and almost white in color. In homes, drugstore beetles like to eat flour, breakfast cereals, red pepper, and kibbled pet food.

Evidence of drugstore beetle infestations: Adults seen on surfaces; holes in food packaging; debris deposited next to infested items that larvae are feeding on.

Cigarette Beetle

Also known as tobacco beetles, cigarette beetles are common pests in stored tobacco, books, flax, tow, cottonseed meal, rice, ginger, pepper, paprika, dried fish, seeds, and dried plants.

Adults are about ⅛” long and good at flying. Their heads are bent downward, which gives them a hump-backed appearance. Their primary means of spreading is via infested materials.

Evidence of cigarette beetle infestations: Debris from food packaging scattered along shelves; small holes in food packaging; the presence of adult beetles, either dead or alive.

Cabinet Beetle (Trogoderma)

Cabinet beetles are some of the most problematic pantry pests homeowners face today.

Cabinet beetles have well-defined areas of light-brown markings on dark wing cases and an indented notch on the inner margin of their eyes.

Evidence of cabinet beetle infestations: The presence of adult insects and eggs, which are laid in clusters and tend to be white or gray.

What Causes Pantry Bugs?

If you have pantry bugs in your stored food, here are a few things that may be attracting them:

1. Contaminated food

Most often, pantry bugs make their way into your pantry in contaminated food purchased from the store.

Due to their small size, pantry bugs can infest even unopened food products at food processing plants.

Once they do, they’ll eat and breed from the production plant until the food arrives in your home, at which point they may spread to other foods in your pantry.

2. Opened or unsealed food

While most pantry pest infestations start with contaminated food, open containers of food may also attract these bugs.

Because of this, we recommend storing food in airtight, pest-proof containers ( like these).

3. Outside storage

If you store food items in a garage or shed before bringing them inside, pantry pests may hitch a ride.

For example, if you store unopened bags of pet food in the garage before moving them into the pantry when it’s time to use them, you may be upping your risk of infestation.

How to Get Rid of Pantry Bugs

dead Indianmeal moths

Conventional Methods

1. Start with an inspection

In homes, pantry bug infestations are usually confined to food preparation and storage areas, such as the pantry and kitchen.

Sometimes, the entire infestation might even be isolated to a single cabinet, shelf, or box of dried food.

Before you start any control efforts, identify the source of the infestation.

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Inspect cracks, crevices, and other areas where food debris may accumulate.
  • Look inside containers of dried foods – don’t overlook sealed containers since it is possible for them to be infested by pantry pests on the inside.
  • If you can’t see the bottom of a bag, pour the contents of the package onto a baking sheet and use a flashlight to inspect it closely for larvae, adult pests, or other signs of infestation.
  • Check under cabinets and open or accessible wall voids for food spills that could be sustaining pests.

2. Remove infested material

Once you’ve identified the source of the infestation, remove and discard all infested materials by double-bagging in a trash bag and disposing of the infested product in an outdoor trash can.

Next, thoroughly vacuum the area (we love this cordless handheld vacuum) and wipe down the shelves with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar to remove all remaining food scraps or spills that could attract pests.

3. Spray affected areas

Once the area is clean, spray all cracks, crevices, and harborage areas with a standard residual insecticide labeled for indoor use.

We recommend Ecovia EC because it contains natural ingredients like thyme and rosemary oil, and it’s much safer for indoor use than products that contain harsh chemicals.

Since it’s a broad-spectrum insecticide, it also kills a wide variety of pantry bugs.

Once the insecticide has dried, cover the drawer bottoms and shelves with paper to prevent contact between food or food containers and the residual insecticide.

Do NOT place any food or containers back into the pantry until the insecticide has completely dried.

4. Set traps

To break the pantry pest cycle, add pantry moth traps (like these) inside your kitchen and pantry to monitor for pantry pest activity and catch adults before they can breed and keep the lifecycle going.

Most pantry moth traps feature a sticky surface covered in pheromones, which attracts the moths and captures them once they land on it.

These traps are easy to set and discard and provide an excellent visual tool for assessing and monitoring your pantry moth infestation.

Home Remedies

1. Use bay leaves to repel pests

Add a few bay leaves to protect boxes of dry goods from pantry pests. The smell of the bay leaves repels many pantry pests and can keep a full-blown infestation from forming. One leaf per package should be adequate.

2. Freeze potentially affected products

If you want to be extra cautious about the items in your pantry, freeze packages of potentially affected rice, cereal, or other dry foods at 0 degrees for 3-4 days.

This will kill any adult pests, eggs, or larvae present.

How do Exterminators Get Rid of Stored Product Pests?

exterminator getting rid of stored product pests

Are you wondering how exterminators get rid of stored product pests?

Here’s the process most teams follow:

1. Inspection

Every pest control job starts with an inspection.

During this phase, the extermination team can identify the type of pests present, assess the extent of existing pest damage, and develop a control pan that will work for you and your property.

2. Treatment

During the second phase of extermination, the control team will deliver pest control treatment.

Depending on the infestation, this may involve a combination of conventional methods like insecticides, residual barrier treatments, and traps, as well as cleaning, sanitation, and removal of affected products.

3. Follow-up treatment

Next, the team will provide follow-up treatments to ensure your kitchen and pantry are pest-free.

While it’s sometimes possible to eliminate pantry pests with a single treatment, it’s more common for infestations to require several treatments.

How to Prevent Pantry Bug Infestations

Keep pantry bugs from coming back with these tips:

  • Only purchase dried food in package sizes that you can use in less than four months.
  • Whenever you purchase packaged food, check the containers carefully to ensure all seals are intact.
  • Check the product’s packaging date to ensure the freshness of the food, and inspect clear plastic or wax paper coverings carefully for the presence of insects.
  • Store all dried foods in airtight, insect-proof containers. We recommend screw-top glass containers or heavy plastic or metal containers, as ordinary metal kitchen canisters usually don’t offer a tight enough seal to exclude insects.
  • Use the oldest products in your pantry first, and use opened packages before opened ones.
  • Store dried foods in the freezer rather than the pantry to protect them from pests.
  • Keep your food storage areas clean. Sweep crumbs and food particles daily, wipe up spills, and promptly wash all dishes (or place them in the dishwasher).

Are Pantry Bugs Invading Your Home? We Can Help!

If your DIY methods have failed or you need more assistance getting rid of pantry bugs, we’re here for you.

We work with an extensive network of reputable, local partners that can help you in your area.

Contact us today at (844) 532-0076 or fill out the form below, and we’ll connect you to one of our local partners.

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Stored Product Pest Control FAQs

While hundreds of different pests can infest stored products, the most common pest found in homes is the Indianmeal moth.

Usually, infestations are best controlled with a combination of trapping, insecticide, and sanitization. These efforts combine to eliminate pests at all life cycle stages and prevent re-infestation.
Yes – some species of stored product pests are so small that they can wiggle into sealed packages. Others simply chew a small hole through the side of the packaging, which allows them to lay eggs inside the package or feast on its contents.
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Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of PestDude.com. Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 20+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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