Juab County Extension News

Pantry Pests

Pantry Pests
 
            Pantry pests are insects that infest whole or processed food in the home. Infestations can start out with just a few insects, but a population can quickly surge if given a proper food source and a place to reproduce. Immature and adult insects are typically brought into a home in grain-based products. Pantry pests can thrive in unopened boxes or pouches and adults can survive without any food for months. Pantry pests can remain active all year since homes are heated during the winter. All insect stages can be present at the same time and sometimes the immature and adults can cause damage to stored foods.
            Finding insects in food can be disturbing, especially when they are in the kitchen. Commonly infested foods include flour, cereal, pasta, baking mixes, whole or cracked grain, dried fruit, nuts, popcorn and spices. Other items around the home may also become infested, and include pet food, birdseed and dried flowers.
            Often the insect infestation is obvious and can be located quickly; however, sometimes the source of insects can be difficult to find. Consider looking for insects around small and large appliances, large food storage containers or even in the attic or unopened food.
            In general, sanitation will eliminate pantry pests and prevent further infestations. In most situations, controlling pantry pests simply requires disposing of infested food and regularly vacuuming food storage areas. Sometimes infested food products can be saved by storing in a freezer or heated in an oven. Washing infested areas with detergent or bleach is not an effective prevention method for pantry pests. Chemical control for pantry pests is rarely justified for homeowners since sanitation provides sufficient management. Never apply insecticides in a manner that allows direct contact with food, food preparation surfaces or utensils.
           
Guidelines to reduce pantry pests:
·        Inspect grain-based food for insect activity immediately after purchase and periodically check for insects.
  • Only buy what food you can use within two months.
  • Keep food properly stored in air?tight plastic or metal containers. Insects can chew through paper, plastic or foil storage bags.
  • Remember FIFO (first in, first out) when stocking the food pantry. Using older foods first will help minimize continuous infestations of new foods.
  • Immediately clean up food spills, especially when cooking with grain-based products. Do not allow crumbs or food particles to build up where food is stored or prepared. Washing spills with soap will only create a food paste in shelving cracks that is favorable to insects.
  • Regularly vacuum and wipe out pantry shelves or areas where food is stored. Empty the vacuum to prevent re-infestations.
  • Remove accumulating paper from damp areas and discard any heavily infested food products. Look for other possible food sources around the home. Use caulking to seal cupboard or pantry shelving cracks or anywhere food is stored to reduce food particles.
Pantry Management
·        Frequently clean areas where food is stored and throw away old or opened food that is not being used.
·        Don't allow food particles or crumbs to build up in food storage areas.
·        When you purchase packaged food, be sure containers aren't damaged and the seals are intact.
·        To prevent entry or escape of insects, store dried food in insect-proof containers like heavy plastic, screw-top glass metal containers.
·        Remember that paper, cardboard or plastic wrapping won’t prevent insect infestations.
·        When one food source is removed, insects will look for another.  If you have an insect presence, be diligent in finding any food they may be eating and dispose of it.
·        If you have moths, Pantry Traps are very effective to eliminate an infestation. Keep them out six months after the last moth is caught to be sure the infestation is over.

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