How to Get Rid of Pantry Pests: Complete Guide


Pantry pests are also known as “stored product pests”. They are attracted to many dried and processed food products, such as those commonly found in pantries.

Pantry pests can cause food wastage and make your pantry seem like a horror chamber, particularly for those who find insects creepy. Luckily, it is possible to get rid of pantry pests.

To get rid of pantry pests, cut off their food supply by storing pantry goods in airtight containers. Home remedies like white vinegar and essential oils may also be used to repel and, in some cases, kill pantry pests. There are non-toxic traps and insecticides, too, which are suited for pantry use.

Different household pests invade your home for different reasons.

For instance, some want your carpet, while others want your blood. But then there are also those that are attracted to your pantry items, ranging from milled products, bread, dried fruits to pet food.

Below, we will talk about how to get rid of pantry pests through the DIY route.

A Quick Look at Common Pantry Pests

Before we discuss how to eliminate pantry pests from your life, it’s a great idea to know the enemies first. Here’s a quick look at some of the most common pantry pests as well as a few important matters about them:

PEST NAMEOTHER NAMESFOUND IN
Bean weevilSeed beetleBeans, pea, lentils
Cabinet beetleKhapra beetleGrain products, seeds, dried fruits
Cigarette beetleCigar beetle, tobacco beetleCereals, spices, coffee beans, pet food
Cobweb spiderTangle web spiderLive and dead insects
Confused flour beetleFlour, grains, beans, nuts, dried fruits
Drugstore beetleBread beetle, biscuit beetleGrain products, flour, seeds, pet food
Flat grain beetleBran beetleGrain products, cereals
Flour miteGrain miteFlour, grain products
German cockroachCroton bug, Polish cockroachCereals, bread, dried fruits, meat
Granary weevilGrain weevil, wheat weevilGrain products, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans
Indian meal mothPantry moth, weevil mothGrain products, dried fruits, processed foods
Larder beetleMoisture bugMeat, cheese, pet food
Maize weevilGreater rice weevilWheat products, nuts, seeds, corn, beans
Merchant grain beetleCake mixes, cookies, pasta, dried fruits, spices
Pharaoh antSugar antDried fruits, syrups, jellies
Red flour beetleGrain products, flour, cereals, pasta
Rice weevilRice water weevil, black weevilRice, grains, corn, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans
Saw toothed grain beetleFlour, cereals, bread, pasta, dried fruits
Warehouse beetleGrain products, pasta, oats, pet food

In a few, we will talk about the steps to take to get rid of pantry bugs, some of which could be infesting your pantry right this very instant! So don’t stop reading now.

Telltale Signs Your Pantry is Infested

Just because you have spotted something flying or crawling in your pantry doesn’t necessarily mean that you have an infestation already.

Seeing one or two pantry pests should not be a cause for alarm.

However, it is a completely different story if there are lots of them, and they are wreaking havoc not only on your pantry food items but also on life.

Here are some signs that your pantry harbors not only pantry staples but also pantry pests:

  • Presence of flying or crawling insects in the pantry.
  • Droppings on food shelves and foods themselves.
  • Discoloration of flour and other light-colored dry food products.
  • Holes in boxes and plastic food packaging.
  • Presence of mold or webbing in unopened food products.
  • Unusual smells caused by the pests themselves or spoilage of food.
  • Tiny tracks of milled products caused by bugs moving to and fro food sources.

Different pantry pests may leave different telltale signs. It’s important that you have keen eyes (and sometimes a keen nose, too) to know whether or not there are insects currently feasting on your various pantry items.

As with any infestation, early detection is important for keeping the problem from worsening uncontrollably.

Professional Extermination vs. Home Remedies

At the first sign of pantry pests, you have a couple of options to choose: contact the pros or go the DIY route.

Getting in touch with a professional pest control company in your area is a smart move. That’s because you will be leaving the job to people with the necessary skills, experience and equipment.

Since a pantry is considerably smaller than an entire house, more often than not, a one-time treatment is all that’s needed.

But because professionals are involved, getting pantry pests exterminated doesn’t come without a price tag.

The cost of having pantry pests eliminated by the pros can range anywhere from $120 to $200.

It’s important to note that the cost of having your pantry pests dealt with by a professional pest control company can vary based on different factors.

Some of them are the type of pests involved, severity of the infestation, size of the pantry, and the method of extermination preferred by the homeowner or recommended by the pros.

Other than picking up the phone and setting up an appointment with the industry experts, you can also take matters into your own hands. There are many home remedies available for pantry pests.

How do I get rid of pantry pests?

Pantry pests can be rid of using food-safe insecticide such as neem oil and diatomaceous earth. Some essential oils work as insecticide while others work as repellents. Vinegar can be used as well. Pantry pest traps with adhesives and pheromones can catch crawling and flying pantry pests.

There are numerous DIY solutions for pantry pests that you may go for.

However, not all of them may impress if the infestation is severe. The same is true if you fail to carry out the steps properly and consistently.

For instance, some essential oils only work as repellents and not insecticides. Citronella essential oil, as an example, can only drive away pantry pests.

Even if it’s sprayed directly on bugs, the nice-smelling oil won’t kill them. And for it to work very well, you will have to reapply it regularly to keep pantry pests from coming back.

Will vinegar kill pantry bugs?

Vinegar can kill certain types of pantry bugs. In some instances, it can work as a repellent only. A little dish soap can be added to vinegar to make it more effective in killing pantry bugs that it can exterminate. It is best to pair the use of vinegar with other home remedies for pantry pests.

What makes vinegar effective in dealing with some types of pantry bugs is its acetic acid content, which has insecticidal properties. Unfortunately, it’s not effective against large insects like cockroaches.

The good news is that many of the pantry pests that vinegar can’t kill can be fended off by this sour-tasting liquid.

For instance, it can erase the trail marks that some bugs leave behind to make it hard for them to find their way to your pantry.

However, you will have to apply vinegar regularly on trouble spots for it to work effectively.

Pantry Pests and Your Health

When pests are mentioned, most people will immediately think of some of the most disgusting creatures on the planet as well as some of the most terrifying diseases known to man, such as the bubonic plague and West Nile virus.

This is why learning that pests are residing in your pantry and indulging in your stock foods can leave you worrying for your health and that of your family.

What’s more, the thought that you could be chewing on and swallowing crawling and flying insects is enough to make your stomach turn.

Are pantry bugs harmful if eaten?

According to health authorities, accidentally eating some pantry pests should not be a cause for alarm. That’s because they are not known to carry parasites and pathogens and spread diseases. However, they can damage food packaging, which can give rise to mold formation and introduction of bacteria.

The majority of eggs, larvae and adult pantry pests won’t put your health at risk if you eat them or the pantry staples that they have feasted on.

What will happen is that you will have a little more protein in your diet.

However, it doesn’t mean that it is perfectly fine to eat pantry pests. While the majority of them cannot hurt your health, they can still harm your foods.

They can expose them to the air because of the holes in their packaging, which can make them less delightful to eat as a result of the changes in quality.

It’s true that many pantry pests do not carry with them microbes that can cause diseases.

Still, they can introduce bacteria in your pantry foods, which could cause food poisoning or some digestive problems.

For instance, cockroaches can contaminate pantry foods with microbes that they can pick up from garbage dumps, toilets, etc.

There is, however, something that can surely have an unfavorable impact on your health. And it’s none other than trying to deal with pantry pests with just about any insecticide that you can get your hands on.

When it comes to managing pantry pests through the DIY approach, the importance of using a kitchen-safe insecticide or 100% natural pantry insect repellent cannot be stressed enough.

You may also count pantry beetle traps. Despite what they are called, they can also trap a wide variety of flying and crawling insects, not just beetles.

Getting Rid of Pantry Pests

If allowing a professional pest control company to spring into action is not an option, the following are the steps that you will need to take when dealing with pantry pests with your own two hands:

Cabinet beetles

  • Dispose of pantry items that you suspect are harboring cabinet beetles. Place the affected products in a garbage bag, seal and throw away outside.
  • Are you unsure if there are cabinet beetles in a food product? Then transfer it to a clear airtight container and observe. If cabinet beetles show up, throw the item away.
  • Place glue traps for beetles and other pantry pests in strategic places.
  • Use food-safe bug spray for kitchen cabinets, pantries and other areas. One such product is Ortho Home Defense Max.
    It is an all-around insecticide effective against cabinet beetles, ants, cockroaches and many others. It doesn’t leave fumes and dries quickly, and the maker says it can provide protection for a year.

Cigarette beetles

  • Throw away anything that cigarette beetles have been feasting on.
  • Everything in the pantry should be removed from their original packaging and transferred to airtight containers. Food items that need to be protected from light should be placed in opaque airtight containers.
  • Keep the cabinets and shelves clean at all times as cigarette beetles love bits and scraps of food.
  • Glue traps and all-natural bug sprays effective against various types of food bugs can help get rid of existing cigarette beetles in your pantry as well as discourage others from invading your pantry.
  • Carefully inspect the packaging before introducing into your pantry new grocery items.

Cobweb spiders

  • Get rid of pantry pests to get rid of cobweb spiders. That’s because their diet consists primarily of small insects, such as those that are commonly found feasting on pantry foods.
  • Keep the pantry clean. The goal is to remove any dead insects because cobweb spiders eat them, too.
  • Seal cracks and openings to keep cobweb spiders from entering and hunting food in the pantry.
  • Cobwebs spiders do not attack humans, but most humans find them extremely creepy. You can use a pantry-safe repellent, such as Mighty Mint Spider Repellent, to keep those eight-legged creatures. Just like what the name says, it has peppermint essential oil, which can give long-lasting protection minus contaminating pantry items with harmful chemicals that can put your wellbeing at risk.

Confused flour beetles

  • Despite the name, confused flour beetles also eat grains, beans, nuts and dried fruits. So, it’s a good idea to transfer those to airtight containers, too.
  • Carefully check food packaging before storing them in your pantry to prevent the introduction of additional batches of confused flour beetles.
  • Keep things in the pantry dry. That’s because moisture helps encourage the growth and multiplication of confused flour beetles. On the other hand, dryness repels them.
  • Maintain pantry cleanliness at all times to remove food bits that can help confused flour beetles survive.
  • Instead of using insecticide, even one that’s safe for pantry use, opt for glue traps designed for catching an assortment of beetles and other pantry insects.

Drugstore beetles

  • What drugstore beetles love the most are grain products such as bread, biscuits, crackers and pasta. This is why all of these food items should be stored in airtight plastic or glass containers.
  • Do not mix newly bought pantry foods with old ones. It’s either the new ones could have drugstore beetles in them or the old ones. The only time when you can mix pantry foods in the same container is when you are completely sure that none of them are harboring drugstore beetles.
  • Keep the pantry clean and organized to get rid of food bits and minimize hiding places.
  • These creepy crawlers are called as such because they also eat medications. To keep your pantry and the rest of your home free of drugstore beetles, do not leave medications everywhere.

Flat grain beetles

  • Grain products are at risk the most when flat grain beetles are around. Because of this, everything that is made with grains should be secured in airtight containers.
  • Many people swear by the effectiveness of putting bay leaves in containers with foods flat grain beetles love.
  • Various essential oils for pantry bugs can impress. One of those that can deliver the most is peppermint essential oil, which is the active ingredient of Wondercide Indoor Pest Control. Since it’s 100% natural, it can be used in the pantry and kitchen without worries. You can also use it as often as you like to keep your home beetle-free.

Flour mites

  • Because they have small and off-white bodies, it can be extremely challenging to spot flour mites, especially when they are where they love the most: flour. The presence of a sweet scent can reveal the occurrence of flour mites in flour. If you rub contaminated flour between your fingers, it should smell minty as a result of crushing present flour mites.
  • Flour and grain products, which flour mites also love eating, should be kept in airtight containers.
  • It’s a must to keep the pantry dry at all times. That’s because flour mites thrive better in moist environments. So, each time there are spills in the pantry, spring into action right away.
  • Place small food packaging in the freezer that you suspect are infested with flour mites. Allowing them to stay in the freezer for up to a week will kill any flour mites present.

German cockroaches

  • Keeping your pantry neat and clean is the first step to getting rid of German cockroaches as they love getting their hands (all six of them) on scraps of food.
  • Cracks and holes that permit entry into the pantry should be sealed.
  • Diced onions and a dash of baking soda make for an all-natural and effective German cockroach killer. Just place in strategic areas in the pantry, and you can say goodbye to those revolting critters in no time.
  • Luckily, German cockroaches are considerably larger than most pantry pests, which is why dealing with them can be easier. For instance, any roach that you spot can be sprayed with Raid Ant & Roach Killer. It’s safe for use in sensitive areas such as the pantry and kitchen since it contains nothing but lemongrass extract and geraniol from pine trees. Since it is safe for use where foods are, the product is also safe for kids and pets.

Granary weevils

  • Everything that granary weevils love — from grain products, cereals, nuts, seeds to beans — should be transferred to plastic or glass containers with an airtight seal.
  • Always inspect food packaging while shopping at the supermarket. If it seems like the plastic or cardboard container has small holes on it, refrain from placing the item in your cart.
  • Anything in your pantry that could be harboring granary weevils should be thrown outside the home.
  • Regularly, wipe shelves with white vinegar, preferably after vacuuming them. This will help keep granary weevils from coming back to your pantry. By the way, white vinegar is also great for repelling many other tiny bugs on kitchen counter or any other surface.

Indian meal moths

  • Grain products, dried fruits, processed foods — all of these should be transferred to an airtight container. This is true whether the packaging has been opened before or not. Larvae Indian meal moths, in particular, can bore holes through plastic packaging, thus allowing them to have access to the contents.
  • Contaminated food products may be disposed of. However, they may be kept in the freezer, too, for up to a week to kill Indian meal moths. After a week, you may remove the dead moths from the items.
  • Keep your pantry clean and make sure that you seal any cracks and holes.
  • Use a non-toxic spray that can effectively kill Indian meal moths. One very good product is Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under. It works without exposing you and your loved ones to questionable chemicals as it only contains clove oil and cottonseed oil, essential oils that can kill and repel Indian meal moths as well as other moths and pantry pests. It also smells like cinnamon, which means that it won’t stink up your pantry.

Larder beetles

  • Make sure that anything that larder beetles love (from cheese to pet food) is stored in airtight containers out of either plastic or glass. These common pantry beetles can bore holes through plastic, cardboard and even thin metal foil. Keeping food products in their original packaging out of flimsy materials is a no-no.
  • Deep-cleaning the pantry is proven effective in exterminating larder beetles through the DIY approach. It’s because it gets rid of food scraps that larder beetles may opt for if they get desperately hungry.
  • In some instances, the use of commercially available repellents and insecticides is necessary to put a larder beetle infestation to an end. Just see to it that you opt for something that is guaranteed safe for use in the pantry. You may also go for the installation of pantry and kitchen bug traps that use glue pads to deliver results.

Maize weevils

  • See to it that just about anything that maize weevil loves to eat in the pantry is secured in a high-quality airtight container.
  • Before transferring to airtight containers food products that you suspect are infested with maize weevils, stash them in the freezer for at least a week. Place them in the coldest place in the freezer — away from the door — to make sure that any eggs, larvae or adult maize weevils present will die.
  • After cleaning shelves and surfaces very well, wipe them down with white vinegar. Maize weevil cannot stand the smell of this sour liquid. As a matter of fact, white vinegar can also kill those pesky pests on contact.
  • Consider placing glue traps near or around pantry foods that maize weevils tend to target. The best glue traps for the job are those with pheromones that attract maize weevils to crawl on the adhesive pads.

Merchant grain beetles

  • Ditch infested foods before the merchant grain beetles in them have the opportunity to infest other food products in the pantry.
  • If you want, you may store contaminated food products in the freezer for a week. Afterward, remove dead grain beetles from them and then transfer to airtight plastic or glass containers.
  • Maintain cleanliness of your pantry as clutter, particularly food bits everywhere, can fuel the infestation.
  • Throw away any old or unused spices as they are also the favorites of merchant grain beetles.

Pharaoh ants

  • Remove access of pharaoh ants to their favorite pantry foods (anything that’s sweet) by storing them in airtight containers. It’s also a good idea to store them in the refrigerator instead.
  • You can come up with a homemade pharaoh ant poison by combining equal amounts of sugar and baking soda. The sugar will attract them. The baking soda will kill them by causing mayhem to their digestive system.
  • For a DIY pharaoh ant repellent, combine white vinegar and water, and then spray where it matters.
  • Getting your hands on EcoRaider Ant & Crawling Insect Killer is a good idea. You can use it in the pantry and kitchen, too, because it has a plant-based formula, which means that it’s free of toxins. It’s due to this why the insecticide slash repellent is harsh on pharaoh ants and other ant types but friendly to children and pets.

Red flour beetles

  • Remove food products from their original packaging, whether opened or unopened. Transfer them to airtight containers where they will be out of harm’s way.
  • Before filling old containers with fresh food, make sure that you clean them with warm soapy water first.
  • It’s important that you keep the pantry spic and span. That’s because the presence of food particles can keep you from effectively dealing with a red flour beetle infestation through some home remedies.
  • Do not store in your pantry — let alone buy — grocery items with damaged or compromised packaging.

Rice weevils

  • Transfer contaminated rice or flour to a transparent jar and place under direct sunlight without putting the lid on. Rice weevils do not like both light and heat, which is why they will crawl out of the jar in no time to look for a cool and moist place.
  • Once rice weevils are gone, transfer rice or flour to an airtight container and place in a cool and dry place.
  • Before placing in your shopping cart rice and other grocery items, carefully inspect the packaging. Rice weevils are very good at looking for compromised seams and stitches and squeezing through them.
  • Put ginger, turmeric or garlic inside the rice container to keep rice weevils at bay.

Saw toothed grain beetles

  • Because saw toothed grain beetles are very good at infesting one pantry food after the other, you should remove all food items from the shelves and cabinets. Those that are apparently contaminated should be thrown away to make sure that the saw toothed grain beetles in them won’t feast on non-contaminated items.
  • Make sure that all pantry items at risk are transferred to airtight containers.
  • Thoroughly clean the shelves and cabinets with a vacuum cleaner. Afterward, wipe surfaces down with white vinegar. Since saw toothed grain beetles are repelled by the smell of white vinegar, it is less likely for them to come back and camp out in the pantry.
  • It can be easy for saw toothed grain beetles at the grocery store to infest your pantry. All it takes is for you to bring home an infested food product. This is why you should first inspect the packaging very well before placing any item at the grocery store in your shopping cart.

Warehouse beetles

  • Various grain products and dry pet food are irresistible to warehouse beetles. This is why you should refrain from keeping them in the pantry in their original packaging. Transfer them to airtight containers.
  • It’s a good idea to throw away infested pantry items before the warehouse beetles in them contaminate the rest.
  • Like what the name says, warehouse beetles are common pests in warehouses and processing plants, too. This is why you should thoroughly inspect food packaging at the supermarket before paying for them.
  • You can use multiple DIY approaches, such as installing glue traps and using a pantry pest control spray formulated for warehouse beetles and other beetle types that commonly invade homes. Just see to it that you go for glue traps and insecticides that are toxin-free since you will be using them in the pantry.

Tips on How to Keep an Infestation at Bay

It’s not enough that you have successfully eliminated pantry pests.

You should also do the necessary steps to keep those bugs from coming back and wreaking havoc on your pantry and its contents all over again.

According to pest control professionals themselves, it’s a good idea for extermination to be done once every two to three months.

It doesn’t really come as a surprise since pests can easily come back and ruin your life once more. To minimize the need to seek the help of the pros, carrying out some preventive measures is a definite must.

When it comes to having pantry pests yet again, most of the time, all it takes is to have a male and a female pest introduced into your pantry. In some cases, one pregnant bug is enough to start an infestation!

Here are some of the steps that you may take to keep pests from infesting your pantry for a second time:

Transfer products to high-quality airtight containers

Many of the insects that could invade your pantry have teeth.

It’s for this reason exactly why some of those pests can easily make their way inside food items in plastic and cardboard packaging via tiny holes.

Pantry pests without teeth can still get their hands on pantry foods by crawling into gaps or openings in the packaging.

To keep this from happening, consider investing in airtight containers out of either plastic or glass.

Not only will these containers ward off small tiny black bugs and the rest but also extend the shelf life of their perishable contents.

Check your groceries before paying for them

Did you know that the grocery store can be a source of pantry pests? And that some of the items at your favorite supermarket could be infested with bugs?

Sometimes it is the grocery store’s fault. There are times, too, when the blame can be put on the food manufacturing facility.

No matter the case, it is a must that you carefully inspect food products before placing them in your shopping cart. If it seems like the packaging is damaged or compromised, it’s a good idea to place the item back on the shelf.

Avoid combining old and new food products

Earlier, we talked about the effectiveness of using airtight containers in keeping pantry pests from striking.

There is no point in using them if the food products you will place in these containers are already harboring pests.

This is why you should avoid placing new food products in containers with old food products.

Pests in the food products that you will transfer to the containers can contaminate the rest. It is only if you are 100% sure that the new batch is pest-free when you can safely combine old and new food products.

Keep the pantry (and the rest of the home) clean

Some pantry pests love to eat many things other than pantry foods. There are those that eat dead insects, lint, pet and human hair, etc.

This is why keeping your pantry as clean as possible can keep those pantry pests at bay.

It’s not just your pantry that you should keep spic and span, however. Your kitchen and other areas of your home that can easily harbor pests should be kept clean at all times, too.

That’s because some of those pests may find their way to their pantry and stay there after learning that there are tons of treats for them around.

Takeaway

One of the reasons why you stash food products in the pantry is to make sure that there is something that you will be able to eat at any given time.

However, the presence of pantry pests can keep that from happening.

Fortunately, dealing with pantry pests can be as easy as giving a local pest control company a call. Or you may take matters into your own hands and get rid of those bugs yourself.

By following the tips and tricks above on how to get rid of pantry pests via the DIY approach, you can keep your pantry foods out of harm’s way.

Photo credit: ©canva.com

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