Pantry Pests

Many kinds of moth larvae and beetles attack cereal products, flour and other dry foods derived from plants. Flour beetles, saw-toothed grain beetles and Indian meal moths are some of the more common ones. These insects can be found in opened packages or containers of grains or plant materials and in the cracks and crevices of cabinets or cupboards. In schools or other public buildings, infestations often originate by means of food packages brought into the structure. Sometimes they may even gain entrance to unopened packages. Because most pantry pests are capable of flying, they may enter buildings that way. Once inside the building, these insects will spread through other food and the infestation will increase.

Habits and Damage
The young (larvae) and some adults of these insects feed on grains (rice, barley, corn, wheat, and bird seed), grain products (oatmeal, cornmeal, pasta, breakfast cereals, flour, cake mixes, pancake flour, and dry pet food), nuts, dried fruits, and other dried plant materials (dried flower arrangements, ornamental corn, seed displays and pictures made with seeds). Several types of beetles (cigarette beetles and carpet beetles and relatives) also will feed on spices.

All life stages (egg, larva, pupa, adult) of these insects may be present simultaneously in infested products. The adult beetles and moths are frequently seen in cupboards, on counters and cabinets and around windows. Beetle infestations frequently can be identified by the old larval skins left in the stored product. Indian meal moth larvae spin webbing threads throughout and over the surface of the infested product and the mature larvae frequently leave their food source to complete development to the adult. These migrating larvae are usually noticed as they crawl in cupboards and across walls and ceilings.

To help prevent infestations:

  • Whenever possible, buy food in small quantities so that it will not be stored for a long period.
  • If foods are kept for long periods (a month or more), remove them from their original containers and store them either in airtight glass, metal, or plastic containers or in the refrigerator.
  • Caulk cracks and crevices where food debris could accumulate.
  • Clean up any spillage in cabinets immediately and thoroughly.
  • Give food storage cabinets a thorough cleaning at least once a year.
  • Control and Management

Inspections for pantry pests are essentially the same as for small roaches. In addition, you should check all packages of cereal products.

Habitat and Harborage Reduction
Habitat and harborage reduction for pantry pests is essentially the same as for small roaches. Additionally, you should check all packages of cereal products and discard infested materials. Sanitation is the primary method of population reduction where infested stored products are found.

Pesticide Application

  • If an infestation is difficult to eliminate, insecticides registered for use in the infested area should be carefully applied to cracks and crevices.
  • Reinspect problem areas frequently.

Ongoing monitoring and inspection plans should be put into effect in all kitchens and food-storage areas. A complete pest management program is recommended for these operations. Clear communication with staff is important. Cleaning and sanitation procedures should be monitored constantly.



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