There May Be Someone Else Eating Your Cereal

A pantry pest, also known as a ‘stored product pest’ feeds on the dried and processed foods we keep in our homes. The task of eliminating pantry pests can be challenging. In spite of the fact that they are not particularly fast, they naturally blend in with their surroundings, making them difficult to identify.

Where Do Pantry Pests Come From and What Attracts Them

There is nothing more confusing than suddenly finding your pantry swarming with bugs. It is often the infested food products we purchase that bring bugs into our kitchen cabinets. It doesn’t matter how clean your kitchen is, as long as your favourite grains and foods are easily accessible, they will infest them. Even though pantry pests are harmless (apart from damaging food), it’s never pleasant to find bugs in your food.

They are attracted to a wide range of products. It is common for pantry pests to eat grains like flour, cereals and processed foods, but they also eat dried fruit, nuts and spices. Their diets don’t stop there; pantry pests eat almost any dried food at room temperature. It is easier for them to enter open packages, but they can also make it into sealed ones.

Common Pantry Pests

We tend not to move the contents of the pantry and cupboards quite often, which makes them particularly vulnerable to pest infestations. It is therefore a perfect environment for pests to grow in numbers until one day you pull out an old bag of flour and are surprised by what’s inside.

This is only a partial list of the usual suspects:

You might suspect an infestation is in full swing when you see a few pests on a counter or floor, near a window a short distance from your pantry, or even inside the pantry. When you pour out your morning bowl of cereal, a quick search in the corners, floors, walls, and shelves of your pantry may confirm or deny your suspicion.

How To Get Rid of Pantry Pests

While getting rid of pantry pests can take time, there are a few effective methods.

  • Ensure that dry pantry foods are always stored in airtight containers. Paper and cardboard can easily be chewed through for the larvae to access other food or to simply enter containers that are not tightly sealed.
  • Maintain your pantry shelves by cleaning them regularly. Pests thrive on small bits of food that are left in the pantry. Removing them reduces their food supply. In cupboards that are free of crumbs and where spills are immediately wiped up, pests cannot get a free meal. Therefore it’s not necessary to use harsh chemicals.

Note: You should be aware that not all over-the-counter pesticides are effective, and that misusing them or mixing them improperly can also be harmful to people and pets – particularly around food.

  • It isn’t a good idea to combine old and new dry food products unless you are sure that they are pest-free.
  • In case you aren’t sure whether something is infested, you can test it. The product should be placed in a clear plastic bag. You will see the pests gather together inside the bag if it is infested.
  • Before reusing old containers, clean them thoroughly. By doing so, existing pests are prevented from contaminating the new product.
  • Ensure all eggs left by pests are destroyed by washing shelves and cupboards with soapy water or making a vinegar-water solution. People tend to avoid cleaning products that contain toxic and abrasive chemicals. The use of distilled white vinegar, whether alone or mixed with other natural cleaning products, can effectively replace almost all chemical cleaners in your home. Pour equal parts of water and vinegar into a spray bottle to prepare a cleaning mixture.

How To Prevent a Pantry Pest Infestation

You do not want any pantry pests to return once they have been treated. In every case, prevention is better than a cure. So, take action if you see pantry pests and don’t let them bug you.

Make sure pantry pests never appear again by following the steps below:

  • You should not buy foods in large quantities at the grocery store, but rather buy enough to use within a short period. You won’t have to worry about food sitting in your pantry for a long time and becoming an infestation magnet.
  • Be sure to check the expiration date. Decomposing organic matter is a favorite food of pantry pests.
  • If you don’t plan on eating the food right away, store it in tightly closed containers made of glass, ceramic, or hard plastic. It is best to remove them from their original packaging to prevent pest infestations. Products that are susceptible to spoilage can also be kept in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Regularly clean your pantry, remove spills and crumbs as soon as they occur, and discard food you no longer want. 
  • Make sure the cupboard and shelving are clean by washing them with soap and hot water.
  • Place bay leaves in canisters and packages in the pantry. Most pantry pests avoid this herb because its pungent and distasteful aroma deters them from eating. The leaves can be placed over counter-tops or sprinkled on the shelves and inside cabinets.
  • Using caulk or other pest-proof materials, seal any openings where insects and other pests may enter or hide.

Most people are able to get rid of a pantry pest infestation on their own. However, it’s recommended you have a professional pest control company look at it. After you’ve tried DIY methods and you still have an infestation, call a pest exterminator to inspect the house. You are not going to be able to handle the infestation yourself unless you know where it is coming from.

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