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How to Keep Pests Out of Your Pantry

When you think of pests, you probably consider the great damage they can cause. Termites feed on wood and disrupt the structure of your home. Mice chew through your belongings and carry diseases that can affect your entire family. Bed bugs bite, and bees sting. Of course, you want to rid your home of these pests and feel safe and sanitary again.

But just as unsettling are those lesser known pests lurking in your kitchen cupboards. Although they do not pose much of a threat to your health or home, “pantry pests” can contaminate your food and leave you feeling violated. Imagine pouring out a bowl of cereal in the morning and seeing a moth fly out of the box. Gross.

However, if you adapt your kitchen with pantry pests in mind, you can easily keep them out completely.

Which Pests Do I Need to Worry About?

You may find some common culprits eating the food in your kitchen—like ants and rodents—and you can check our pest ID to identify the specific type of these average household offenders.

As for insects that specifically eat stored food, you should look for the following:

  • Indian Meal Moths. These insects have copper and pale gray or tan wings, which they fold over their bodies.
  • Saw-Toothed Grain Beetles. You can identify these beetles from their slender, flat, brownish-red bodies, and saw-like teeth on the sides of the thorax.
  • Drugstore Beetles and Cigarette Beetles. Both of these insects have brown, oval, curved bodies, which are covered with fine hair. They can also fly.
  • Flour Beetles. These beetles are reddish-brown in color and have an elongated oval shape.
  • Granary, Rice, and Maize Weevils. These weevil species are slender with long snouts you can see coming out of the head. They are brown, and they leave round exit holes after they infest seeds or kernels of grain.
  • Bean Weevils. Bean weevils have a broad oval shape and a mottled dark and light brown color. They have shorter, less visible snouts than other types of weevils.

All these pests love dried foods, and they can chew through cardboard and plastic packaging to get to them.

You don’t have to worry too much about identifying the specific type of insect. As long as you know you have some type of pantry pest, you can use the following information to remove them.

How Do I Get Them out of the Pantry?

Start by clearing out your pantry or cabinets. Thoroughly examine these dried foods:

  • Flour
  • Cereal
  • Baking mixes
  • Cornmeal
  • Rice and pasta
  • Cookies and crackers
  • Dried beans
  • Seeds and popcorn kernels
  • Spices
  • Chocolate
  • Dog food

Throw away any food items the pests contaminated. While we hate to pull out a cliché like “Better safe than sorry,” the phrase applies well here. If you have even the smallest suspicion that pantry pests got to the item, trash it. Move the items-to-keep temporarily, so you can clean the infested space.

Pull out your vacuum cleaner and use the appropriate attachment to clean out your cabinets and shelves. Throw out the vacuum bag once you finish.

Wipe all surfaces with a washcloth. All you need to use is soapy water since bleach, ammonia, and disinfectants will not affect these pests (though it certainly would not hurt to disinfect your surfaces while you are already in the cleaning process). Do not use any sprays with insecticide. Those chemicals may affect your food, and they will not control your insect problem long-term.

If pantry pests keep returning, consult your local pest control company for a management plan.

How Do I Keep Them from Entering the Pantry in the First Place?

Now let’s figure out how you can keep your kitchen clean and free from pests.

Consider these suggestions:

  • Throw food away as soon as it passes its expiration date, and give away items you no longer intend to use. The longer food sits untouched, the more tempting it is to pests.
  • Buy smaller quantities of food. If you move through food faster, there is less time for pests to appear.
  • Check the packaging before you buy food to make sure it is properly sealed.
  • Once you open a package, transfer your food into an airtight glass, metal, or heavy plastic container.
  • Store susceptible foods in the freezer or refrigerator.
  • Clean with the before mentioned routine on a regular basis. Clean up crumbs and spills as soon as they happen.
  • Add a bay leaf to flour, rice, and other grains. The smell repels many pests.
  • Look for holes, cracks, and other entry points in your cupboards. Use caulk or even petroleum jelly to fill the spaces.

Although the effects of these insects are different from other pests—who could destroy your house instead of a $2 sack of flour—your home should only include the items and guests that you want there. And that does not include nasty pests.

Use these tips to remove pantry pests from your kitchen and your life, and keep them out!

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