Pantry pests: Insects found in stored food

Quick facts

Insects infesting stored foods such as flour, cereal and other dried goods, is one of the most common household insect problems. The many different kinds of insects that infest dried foods are often called "pantry pests."

  • You can find pantry pests when they leave infested foods to crawl or fly around the house.
  • They often gather in pots, pans or dishes or on window sills.
  • They do not bite or sting people or pets and they do not feed on or damage buildings.
  • Pantry pests contaminate more food than they eat.  
  • Throwing away contaminated food and thoroughly cleaning cupboards and surfaces where the food was stored are the best ways to get rid of these insects.

Most dried food products can be infested by insects

Indianmeal moth adults and larvae in webbing.
Indianmeal moth adults, larvae and webbing.
  • Cereal products (flour, cake mix, cornmeal, rice, spaghetti, crackers, and cookies) 
  • Seeds such as dried beans and popcorn 
  • Nuts 
  • Chocolate
  • Raisins and other dried fruits 
  • Spices 
  • Powdered milk 
  • Tea 
  • Cured meats 

Other items that may be infested include birdseed, dry pet food, ornamental corn, dried flowers and plants, garden seeds, potpourri and rodent baits.

Pantry pests are most likely to infest products that have been opened but they also can get into unopened paper, thin cardboard, and plastic, foil or cellophane-wrapped packages. They may chew their way into packages or crawl in through folds and seams.

Insects inside an infested package multiply and can spread to other stored foods not only in the same area but in other rooms in a home.

All insect stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present at the same time in infested products.

Where do they come from?

A stored food product can become infested from production until it arrives in your home. But stored food is most likely to become infested in the grocery store or in homes. Most pantry pests also infest stored grain and may be found outdoors.

Food products that are left in storage for a long time are prone to infestation. But foods of any age can become infested.

Control and prevent pantry pests

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How to identify common pantry pests

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Jeffrey Hahn, Extension entomologist; Laura Jesse, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach; and Phillip Pellitteri, University of Wisconsin-Extension

 

Reviewed in 2018

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