Pantry Pests

Stored Product Pest Information

Pantry pests--stored product pests--are a loosely grouped class of pest that infest the items commonly stored and kept in the pantry: flour, bread, cereal, dried fruit, crackers, cookies, pasta, oats, nuts, spices and more. Besides being unsettling, even disgusting, finding insects in your home or businesses food, a pantry pest infestation can cause food to go bad, mold over, or become contaminated by disease.


Identifying Pantry Pests

There are several common pantry pests that can infest your foods. Identifying them is the first step in elimination. Below are some of the most common pantry pests you might encounter.


Sawtoothed Grain Beetle

This deep red to dark brown beetle feeds on grain, as its name implies. They primarily attack large, commercial/industrial sized containers of grains, however they have been known--like their “cousin” the merchant grain beetle--to feed on and infest grain products (cookies, crackers, cereral, etc) commonly stored in the home. They are probably the most common of all stored product pest in the country, owing to their tenacity in foraging for food, ability to cut into sealed containers, (relatively) long life, and rapidity in reproduction.

pantry pest: sawtoothed grain beetle
Sawtoothed Grain Beetle
pantry pest: merchant grain beetle
Merchant Grain Beetle
  • Small, about ⅛ inch
  • Ruby Red to Dark Brown in color
  • “Saw-teeth” / sharp protrusions around thorax (middle section)
  • Found in grain and cereal products

To identify sawtoothed versus merchant grain beetles look at the eyes. The sawtoothed grain beetle’s eyes are set further from the thorax.


Flour Beetle

The flour is actually two different beetles: the red flour beetle and the confused flour beetle. Their larvae are commonly encountered and are known as mealworms. as The commonly infest flour as well as grains, corn products, flour, rice, cereals, crackers, etc. Flour beetles are extremely difficult to eliminate, as they are hardy and pesticide resistant.

Red Flour Beetle
Red Flour Beetle
confused flour beetle
Confused Flour Beetle
Flour Beetle Larvae

Flour Beetle facts:

  • Small, about ⅛ inch
  • Oval shape
  • Reddish Brown in color
  • Smooth and shiny in appearance
  • Larvae (mealworms) will be bigger (¼ inch or longer)

How do you tell the difference between red and confused flour beetles? The red flour beetle has antennae that end in clubs, and the confused flour beetle has antennae that gradually thicken as they approach the end.


Indian Meal Moth

Indian Meal Moths are small moths that will feed on just about any dry foodstuff in your pantry. As with the grain beetles, the biggest culprit in consuming and contaminating foodstuffs in the larval stage. Meal moth larvae are referred to as waxworms. Waxworms have a ”waxy” appearance; they are bulbous and white, similar to a grub. The larvae can chew into various food packaging, so can easily spread from one infected source to the rest of the pantry.


The moths can lay up to 400 eggs, so a few moths can yield several hundred larvae in short order; so it is important to clear out all infected foodstuffs as soon as infestations are detected. Care must also be used to check around the house for pupating larvae (stage between larvae and adult moth), as the larvae can travel some distance to complete its metamorphosis.

indian meal moth
Indian Meal Moth
indian meal moth larvae
Meal Moth Larvae
  • ⅓ inch in length
  • Outer part of forewing dark color (brown, black, or bronze)
  • Inner part of forewing white, off-white, or grey-yellow
  • Larvae (waxworms) are white or offwhite with brownish heads


Preventing Stored Product Pests

The biggest part of preventing stored product pest infestations falls on food distributors, and their integrated pest management plan. However, pantry pests can elude distributors, and the end consumer should always keep an eye out for potential problems. This is already built into most folks routine--most people will inspect foodstuffs before dropping them into the shopping cart. Keep an eye out for and holes in boxes, bags, and other packaging.


If you’ll be storing dry foods for long periods, consider moving them into storage vessels--thick tupperware, glass mason jars, etc. If you should develop what you think is an infestation, don’t hesitate to remove any suspect food, and clean out your pantry. If you’re still concerned, contact a pest management professional for their opinion and set-up an inspection to make sure.


Pantry Pest Control

Don’t take risks with contaminated food, and don’t feel like you have to fight pantry pest infestations on your own. Bain Pest Control Service has countless years of experience eliminating stored product pests at both the commercial (food distribution plants, food production plants, agricultural facilities) and residential level. Our approach is always low impact, and green, and you can count on us to put the health and safety of you and your family above all else.


If you are fighting a pantry pest infestation, or want to prevent one in the first place, contact us today. Call 800-272-3661 or submit an online request!

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