Nothing says “let’s bake” like a quarantine! It’s understandable that people staying at home find comfort in the smells, tastes and fun of baking. Add the pending holidays to the mix, and you have a recipe for an all-out baking explosion!
Earlier this summer, the grocery shelves were often bare in the baking aisle. But now that people have restocked their kitchens with flour, yeast and sugar, there are none happier than what is known as “the pantry pest.”
While there is no bug with that specific name, many qualify for this distinction – moths, weevils, small beetles, cockroaches, mealworms and ants.
Pantry pests are most likely to infest products – like flour, cereals, crackers, pasta, powdered milk, dry pet food, nuts, and other dried goods – 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 your house. All insect stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) may be present at the same time in infested products.
Infestations are easy to overlook because the insects are quite small and often resemble the color of their food. Frequently, the first sign of an infestation is the appearance of small moths flying around or the presence of beetles in or near food packages. They are attracted to the light which is why you will see them flying apart from their food source.
The biggest threat pastry pests pose is of infestation and spoiling food, creating waste and increased living costs to the homeowner.
Fear Factor Alert: If you accidentally ingest one, don’t panic. Indian meal moths, saw-toothed grain beetles and cigarette beetles do not spread any known diseases or carry any known parasites. That being said, it’s still an unappealing thought, to say the least!
If you determine you have pantry pests in your cupboard, here’s what you can do:
- When you find food that is infested, throw it away.
- Use a vacuum cleaner to thoroughly clean cabinets and shelves, especially in cracks and corners. This will pick up crawling insects and spilled or infested material. Empty the vacuum cleaner or discard the vacuum cleaner bag after use to prevent re-infestation.
- Wipe the walls and shelves with soap and water. Washing shelves with detergent, bleach, ammonia or disinfectants will not keep pantry pests from returning and could be dangerous if the chemicals come in contact with food.
- To prevent re-infestation, store foods in sealable glass, metal, or heavy plastic containers or in the freezer or refrigerator until you are sure the infestation is gone.
- If you have older food products and you are not sure if they are infested, you can put them in the freezer at 0 degrees for at least four days or in shallow cookie sheets or pans in an oven at 130 degrees for at least 30 minutes. These temperatures will kill any eggs or insects.
- DO NOT use insecticides to try and control pantry pests; they have no effect on insects inside food packaging, and any food that comes in contact with insecticides must be thrown away and cupboards and containers must be thoroughly washed.
To avoid issues with pantry pests: buy food in small quantities so it gets used up quickly; inspect packages in the store before you buy, checking for holes or damage in the packaging; throw away anything in your pantry that is old, unused and/or past its expiration date. The best advice? Store foods in tightly-closed glass, metal or heavy plastic containers, or place in the refrigerator or freezer until you’re ready to use them.
If pantry pests are enjoying a buffet in your cupboard, call a pest control professional for a free inspection and estimate to safely eliminate the problem.