Monday, October 17, 2011

Pantry Pests

When you put as many man hours and hard work into your pantry as I do you want to do as much as you can to protect it. The last thing I want to do is lose my hard earned food stores to pantry pests. We have all opened that box of cereal or grains only to find it crawling with bugs. Or maybe that roach crawling or moth fluttering around in your pantry. Collectively as a group I refer to them as pantry pests.They have an appetite for stored food products (people and pet foods) such as: flour, cereal, dry pasta, dry pet food, powdered milk, corn starch, crackers, spices, breads, bird seed, dried nuts and fruit. They become especially troublesome when these foodstuffs are stored in paper containers and go unused for extended periods of time.
There are several pantry pest: Rice Weevils, Granary Weevils, Grain Moths, Grain Bores, Drugstore Beetles, Tobacco Beetle, Indian Meal Moth, Confused Flour Beetle, Red Flour Beetles,etc. These pests are important to the householder because they cause food waste and infestations can be persistent. 

Most moth-infested cabinets are a result of infested food that
has been brought in from the outside. All it takes is one 
female to enter the house in your grocery bag, and you may
 face an influx. Once she is there, she has the potential to lay
over several hundred eggs. All groceries, packages and food
should be carefully inspected for signs of infestation to keep
her and her buddies out of your home. Usually, if recently
purchased food is infested, it will contain pests in the egg
stage. The eggs will then hatch, feed and pupate and infest
the other food in your cabinet. Products including flour, whole
grains, crackers, peas, beans, nuts, dried fruit, spices and even
pet food need to be checked for moth presence. Look for telltale
 signs of moths: small holes in the packaging and webbing in the 
tighter areas of the package. Once detected, you have several 
  •  If the pests are present in groceries you’ve just purchased,
    place the food in a bag in the freezer, and save your receipt.
    After four days in the freezer, the insects will be dead. Then the dead
    insects can be sifted out but you are still eating the larvae. Or maybe return it to the store for that refund.
  • Heating also works: 130 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours should do the trick. Just make sure that insects are exposed to the heat for the required time. Those in the middle of the food may not feel the heat as soon as those on the top.
  • Or you can just throw the infected food out.

So how do you keep that pantry free from all these little visitors? 

  1. Pests can infect and feed on even crumbs spilled on shelves or in cracks and corners. Certain pantry pests need only small amounts of food to live and breed. Keep your pantry clean. I vacuum my cabinets and pantry out often then wipe down with hot water and soap.  That's why I love my wire shelving in the big pantry because they are so easy to keep clean and there are very few places for those crumbs to collect.
  2.  Prevention starts at the supermarket itself. Some infestations of packaged food originate in the food-processing plant or warehouse.Broken packages should not be purchased, or should be exchanged for unbroken packages when discovered, for the chance of these being infested is greater than for perfectly sealed ones.
  3. Some pests such as roaches can come in on those handy grocery bags that many collect. Invest in some good washable reusable grocery sacks. Most that you purchase in the grocery store are not washable. Those plastic sacks may be handy around the house but what insects are hitching a ride into your home on them you may never know! Even better there are some great patterns to make your own at this link. ttp://
  4.  Place exposed food in containers with tight-fitting lids . However you should remember that if there are eggs and larvae in that food it will still hatch. 
  5.  Do not mix old and new lots of foodstuffs. If the old material is infested, the pest will quickly invade the new.
  6.  If you are unsure about an item being infested, place it in a plastic bag where you will be able to catch anything that emerges.If you find the pantry pest accumulating in the bag, you know the foodstuff is contaminated and needs to be discarded. To insure any item is pest free, store it in these clear bags for at least a month. Sometimes it takes even longer for the adults to emerge.
  7. Infestations are most likely to occur in packages that have been opened for the removal of a portion of the contents and then left unsealed for long periods.Some of the pests may find their way into other food packages, but even those in a single package may become so numerous that large numbers may find their way into every suitable material in the home, and will eventually crawl over floors, climb up walls, and gather about windows.
  8.  Clean old containers before filling them with fresh food. They may be contaminated and cause a new infestation.

What to do if you get home and your food is infested.:

I personally think that there seems to have been an increase lately in pantry pests for some reason. Last week I bought bread crumbs that were on sale only to find that when I got home they were full of weevils. Unsure if the groceries stores are less vigilant in pest control practices or maybe with price increases they are not moving food as fast.  I have been lucky in that I have been able to return most infested food if I have that receipt. Morale of this story keep that receipt. 

When packages of food are found to be infested with moths or beetles, either low or high temperatures may be used to control the infestation. Insects are cold-blooded; their body temperatures closely follow that of their environment. The most favorable temperature for most pantry pest is about 80°F. Above 95°F or below 60°F, reproduction and survival is greatly reduced. When temperatures are lowered, insect activity decreases until all activity stops. The quicker the drop in temperature, the quicker the kill.
Although insects will be killed, their bodies will remain in the food unless sieved out. An exposure of 2 to 3 days to temperatures of 5°F or lower kills the more susceptible stages (larvae and adults), but eggs require longer to kill (3 weeks). An alternative is to freeze the food for a week, remove it from the freezer for a few days, and then refreeze it for another week.

I do so love to take advantage of those sale prices and bulk purchasing savings. So I continue to buy quantities and take advantage of the savings but I now freeze all grains before ingesting including flour, corn meals, rice, oatmeal, cereals and even spices.  If it is something that I use a small amount of I store these things in mason jars on my freezer shelves and remove only what is needed for that particular meal. Things that are not going to be eaten in the next 6 months stay in the freezer until needed. I am fortunate in that when I constructed my walk in pantry that it was built with the intention of a small upright freezer right in the pantry. This makes it simple that my food is rotated from the grocer to the freezer to the pantry shelf in canisters or containers. Thus keeping my pantry healthy and pest free.

What do you do to keep the pantry pests at bay?

Blessings from The Holler

The Canned Quilter


  1. I use 3 gal and 5 gal buckets to store my wheat, oats, rice, beans, etc. In those buckets, I also mix in Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth. It will kill bugs but will not harm a human. It only affects creatures without an internal skeletal system... hence the bugs (they have exoskeletons)

    You read more on my blog posts about how I store my items and the Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.

    Homesteading Tip: Keeping bugs out of your stored grains, etc.


    Bulk Food Buying & Bulk Food Storage Ideas

  2. I return anything with bugs, or throw it out.
    And when I open something, I keep it in the original container in a zip-loc bag; or in a food safe plastic container.

  3. Laura do you freeze your stuff first to kill any bug larvae that may be in it? And where do you store all these buckets? Seems that in it's self would be a storage dilemma

  4. I don't freeze anything first as I don't have room in my freezer. If I have anything come in that has bug larvae in it, the Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth will kill it as soon as it hatches out and takes the first bite of anything.

    My pantry is also my laundry room and I have a big area to store buckets (stacked) under some of the shelves. they are two rows deep and 3 buckets high. This area they are in used to have a small chest freezer there under the storage shelves so I utilized it for my bucket storage. I keep the buckets together that are alike or are similar items (wheat is altogether -- but I have sep. buckets for my pastry wheat and my regular wheat -- I grind my own flour) and the buckets of beans and rice are kept together (different buckets with beans in it). Each bucket is labeled and the buckets I am using currently have gamma lids on them. When one comes empty, I empty a non-gamma lid bucket into it. (easier than trying to get the gamma lid off and put it on another bucket).

  5. Great post! I've never had a problem-but its probably because I've never been in a financially stable postion enough to stock up : ) Good thing I don't have to worry about bugs getting in my canned items.

    I did have a friend who got some sort of moth infestaion in her pantry. We tried everything! She finally moved out (for other reasons) and I was kinda glad it was someone else's problem : )

  6. I have been using bay leaves for years, tupperware, rubbermaid and ziploc bags. although I have lived in city and now country, and pests can happen anywhere, it seems like they happen more in the country. During my research about mice and rats, I also discovered they can be a cause of pantry pests since they go hand in hand.

  7. I hate any bugs, they look so terrible.

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