Pantry Bugs Guide: Different Types & How To Remove
By : Rita Stadler
Have creepy-crawly bugs taken over your kitchen? Nothing makes meal prep a dreaded task quite like finding insects in your dry goods or making themselves at home in your pantry. Known as pantry bugs, these pests are best dealt with proactively — after all, many are known to multiply quickly.
In this guide, we’ll help you get a head start by identifying the most common types of pantry bugs — and highlighting which mitigation strategies are most effective.
Types of Pantry Pests
Sometimes referred to as stored product pests, pantry pests consist of the many insects that live and breed within homes — and especially near areas in which food is commonly stored. As their name implies, they are most frequently found near pantries, although they can also proliferate anywhere you keep or consume food.
They are fond of many types of food products but tend to gravitate towards flour, rice, and processed items. That being said, they have been known to go after many other foods, sometimes accessing them even when the packaging seems like it should get in the way. They are oftentimes brought into the home within food packages that were previously contaminated while in the grocery store or warehouse.
Because pantry pests can take so many forms and are often difficult to identify, we’ve highlighted several common varieties found in households:
- Indian Meal Moths
- Sawtoothed Grain Beetles
- Flour Beetles
- Rice Weevils
We go over each of these types in more detail below.
Indian Meal Moths
Indian meal moths are among the most common pantry bugs in the United States. They are found in every region but are especially prolific in tropical areas, such as Florida. They feed on many types of food products, such as cornmeal, dried fruits, cereal, powdered milk, pet food, and even bird seed
Typically, infestations are identified simply by spotting the adult insects. They are about half an inch long, with reddish-brown and gray coloring on their wings. When in motion, they may appear to be fluttering instead of flying.
While most commonly found in kitchens, adults may sometimes spread to other areas of the home — and as such, they are often confused with the types of moths more typically found in clothing.
The larvae of Indian meal moths tend to cause more damage than the adults. While moving throughout infested foods, they spin threads, leading to extensive webbing.
Sawtoothed Grain Beetles
Featuring flat bodies that allow them to navigate a variety of small cracks and crevices, sawtoothed grain beetles measure just one-quarter of an inch. They are named for the body segment situated behind the head, which has a sawtoothed appearance. These insects often can be found in infested areas that have previously been occupied by the other types of pantry bugs on this list.
Unfortunately, sawtoothed grain beetles are adept at getting into stored foods and packaging that might be out of reach to other types of pests. They are particularly fond of cereal, pasta, and dry pet food.
Small and brown or reddish-brown in color, flour beetles can live for over a year. During that time, they may lay up to 1,000 eggs, which also tend to last far longer than most people anticipate.
Multiple types of this pest exist, including the confused flour beetle and the red flour beetle. These varieties appear to be almost identical, although small differences can be seen in their antennae. In general, however, identification and mitigation tactics are the same for both types.
Like sawtoothed grain beetles, flour beetles prefer grain products or other food items that have already been damaged by other pests. As their name suggests, they are most commonly found in processed flour. There, they cause damage not only by the act of feeding, but also with fecal pellets and secretions. Their presence can also increase the likelihood of mold growth.
Easily the best known and the most dreaded of the bugs on this list, cockroaches are a common household insect that can take many forms and cause extensive damage. They tend to gather in high-moisture areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms, although their presence is also more likely when food sources are readily available.
Several types of cockroaches exist. Some are more likely to infest kitchens and pantries than others. Common types found in United States households include:
- American cockroach
- German cockroach
- Oriental cockroach
- Brown-banded cockroach
If you’ve noticed small bugs in or near your pantry, you might have a rice weevil infestation on your hands. These tiny reddish-brown or black insects may not directly harm the members of your household, but they could cause damage nonetheless.
Rice weevils are an especially common concern in large-scale food storage operations such as grain elevators, but may also be found within single-family homes or apartments. They are incredibly adept at reproducing, so it can be difficult to get infestations under control.
This may seem like an unexpected addition to our list, but spiders are definitely worth including in this guide. They commonly feed on the various types of bugs highlighted above. While they can certainly find other food sources around your home, they’ll likely disappear as soon as you’ve taken care of your pantry pest infestation.
The pests highlighted above are just a few of many species that may find their way into your home. Other types of pests are less common in homes or apartments, but are certainly possible. Cigarette beetles, for example, are known for going after stored tobacco, while drugstore beetles may be found in commercial settings such as flour mills, warehouses, or even grocery stores.
Tips On Getting Rid of Common Pantry Pests
As soon as you observe signs of the bugs highlighted above, it’s imperative that you take action. Even insects that seem harmless can have a detrimental impact on the health and safety of your home.
Some of these insects are known to spread diseases or trigger allergies. Others may contaminate food, making it dangerous for you and your loved ones to consume. As mentioned previously, they can also become a food source for other critters, such as spiders.
Pest control is essential, but how you go about ridding your home of pantry bugs matters. Resist the urge to immediately reach for harsh chemicals such as pesticides.
Even seemingly natural options such as diatomaceous earth are a lot less sustainable than they seem. These types of products can harm nature’s delicate balance. They also form a Band-Aid approach, doing little to solve the underlying problem causing insects to infest your home.
If you desire a pest-free home but aren’t willing to rely on strategies that could cause harm, begin with deep cleaning. Standing water and food scraps can quickly make your home a desirable environment for many types of pantry bugs. Store all food, even pet food, in airtight containers, checking for signs of contamination along the way. Throw away infested products as soon as you suspect they’ve been contaminated.
Initial cleaning efforts should definitely help, but ongoing maintenance is just as important. A few minutes a day of clearing away crumbs can make a world of difference. Make this effort easier by maintaining a strict kitchen-only policy for storing and eating food.
In addition to cleaning, consider using plant-based deterrent products from EarthKind to help keep pests away. These emit odors that bugs find problematic — but that the humans in your household will actually enjoy. If these products are strategically used alongside proactive cleaning methods, you’ll quickly find that pests stay away from your home. Our botanic moth deterrent, for example, is easy to use and incredibly effective.