A wide variety of insect pests can infest your dry stores of food products in the home. Moths and Beetles are the most prevalent pests in the pantry. Beetle larvae as well as adults are destructive to your larder, while Moths are only destructive in the larval stage. Infestations are sometimes first noticed when these insects are found in your stored rice, flour, or pasta, but more commonly when the adults are seen crawling or flying about the kitchen, cabinets, or pantry.

Since most of these insects originate in the tropics or sub-tropics, they live and breed best under the warm and humid conditions offered up in a busy kitchen. This warmth and humidity generated by your home cooking will also extend into and permeate your cupboards. Since most Moths and Beetles do not hibernate, the reproductive cycle continues throughout the year and insect populations cans increase rapidly if they are left to breed undisturbed in an optimal environment.


Pantry pests are almost always brought into the home via infested food packages or inside cardboard boxes. The Moth and Beetle larvae then migrate throughout your food stores. Occasionally, the insects may infest your pantry products by arriving via your open window or doorway. Pantry infestations of carpet beetles and larder beetles may also originate elsewhere in your home – from products containing wool, fur, or feathers. Larder beetles are attracted to the fats in your dry pet foods. Book lice enjoy starchy materials, and like to dine on the starches found in the bindings and papers of books. These tiny opportunistic critters may then move into your pantry if the climate is suitable.

Chickens and ducks feed on many types of insects and find larvae delicious. Ladybugs, wasps and praying mantises eat eggs, larvae and adult pests. The Trichogramma wasp is a tiny parasitic wasp that has a wingspan of 1/50th of an inch. They can efficiently destroy eggs of more than 200 species of Lepidoptera. These moths and butterflies are leaf eaters in their caterpillar stage.


Items most likely to be infested with pantry pests include all grains, all flours, bran, cereals, breakfast foods, dried fruits, nuts, crackers, cookies, matzos, macaroni, spaghetti, candy, chocolate, cocoa, cheese and dried meats. Also they can be found in dry dog and cat food, bird and vegetable seeds, cornstarch, potato starch, dried soup mixes and other dehydrated foods, and in spices – especially RED PEPPERS, CHILI POWDERS, AND PAPRIKA.


The most frequently encountered pantry pests are below. A brief description and life history of each is as follows:

The adult Saw-Toothed Grain Beetle – is a small, brownish colored beetle approximately 1/10th of an inch long. It has six tooth like projections on either side of its thorax. The larva is worm like, and is less than 1/8 inch long. The larva is dingy white in color. Both the adult and the larva can cause damage to foodstuffs when they feed. The adult beetle can be mistaken for a small ant when seen on or around pantry provisions. Because of this beetles small stature, it can readily penetrate tiny crevices and cracks to enter unopened food packages.

The eggs are laid on or adjacent to food products and will hatch into larvae in seven days or less. The larvae then feed for 2-3 weeks. They larvae then pupate within a protective cocoon. They do this by sticking small bits of food together to form the outer cocoon covering. Within a week, they will emerge as adults. Pantry infestations can build up quickly if the pests are left undisturbed. Adults can live and breed for up to three years.

Both larvae and adults feed on a wide variety of stored products. These include CHILI PEPPERS AND PAPRIKA, grains, cereals, breakfast foods, flour, bread meal, corn meal, corn starch, cookies, crackers, dried fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried soup mixes, dry dog and cat food, garden seeds, bird seed, macaroni, spaghetti, yeasts, chocolate, candy, dried meats and similar products.


The Indian Meal Moth – The Indian meal moth is a small insect with a wingspan of about ¾ of an inch. Its wings lie flat along the body when at rest. The front wings are a light tannish color on the front third, while the back two thirds are reddish-brown with a coppery luster. The moth itself does no damage. However, when seen it is an indication that the larvae, which are worm-like in form, dirty white, and about ½ inch long when mature, are at work.

Female moths can lay from 200 to 400 eggs. Upon hatching, the larvae disperse and feed in or near a tunnel-like case of debris and silk that they web together. When the larvae reach maturity they leave their case and food supply and wander about looking for a place to pupate. It is during this wandering that they are most likely to be seen. When a suitable place is found, the larvae construct a white silken cocoon, pupate and later emerge as adult moths. The Indian meal moth can complete its life cycle in 27 days under ideal conditions but it probably takes much longer in most cases. The larvae will feed on most foods that are attacked by the saw-toothed grain beetle, INCLUDING CHILI PEPPERS AND PAPRIKA.



The Rice Weevil – The adult weevil is a small, black snouted beetle about 1/8-inch long with four reddish or yellowish spots on its back. The larva is legless and has a short, stout, whitish body and tan head.

This pest is largely confined to whole grain products such as rice, wheat, kernel corn, table beans, nuts, seeds (especially sunflower seeds), etc. Normally a householder does not know these weevils are present until the adults are seen crawling about because they feed inside the whole grain and plug their entrance holes so that the grain looks normal. The rice weevil can also be found in solidified milled products such as macaroni and cake flour.

The female beetle eats out a cavity in a whole grain product large enough for an egg, lays the egg in it and seals over the cavity. The egg hatches and the larvae feeds inside and remains there until it transforms to an adult. The entire life cycle can be completed in as little as 32 days.



Other pantry pests less frequently encountered include the granary weevil, Angoumois grain moth, bean weevil, and lesser grain borer. These insects are largely internal feeders on whole grain products like the rice weevil and therefore are seldom seen until the adults emerge from the grain.

The rest of the stored products pests are either external feeders or scavengers who feed on grain only after the seed coat has been broken either mechanically or by some other insect, or secondary pests that feed only on materials which are out of condition, damp, or have some mold on them. These pests include the Mediterranean Flour Moth, Confused Flour Beetle, Red Flour Beetle, Cigarette Beetle, Drugstore Beetle, Spider Beetle, Black Carpet Beetle, Larder Beetle, Cadelle, Yellow Mealworm, Grain Mite, Psocid (Book Louse), and others.



Red and Confused Flour Beetles (actual size 1/8 inch) The Red Flour Beetles are lighter in color and will sometimes fly. The Confused Flour Beetles are darker in color and will not fly.


Inspection – Always keep in mind that many pantry pests are strong fliers and that their larvae can crawl some distance from a source of infestation. The source of infestation is usually limited to a small area such as the kitchen, or a single cabinet, or a single susceptible product. Before you attempt control, find out this source and eliminate it.

This is not always an easy job. Check all the materials mentioned as susceptible products. Do not overlook the fact that a sealed container may be infested because the lid may be loose enough to allow pantry pests to escape from it.

Sterilization – It is possible to kill pantry pests by putting lightly infested packages in the refrigerator freezer compartment for three to seven days at 25 degrees F or colder.

Sanitation – Periodically clean all shelves in storage areas. Many pantry pests can breed in food particles that spill or sift from packages and accumulate in cracks and corners. The insects can then infest food packages on the shelves later.

Buy only small quantities of foods susceptible to infestation, especially in the summer. Carefully examine these foods when you get them to be sure they are free of pests.

Whenever possible, dry foods can be stored in clean glass or metal containers with tight fitting lids. (Empty coffee cans with plastic lids make excellent storage containers.) Clean containers thoroughly before placing fresh food in them. Never leave them undisturbed for long periods of time.

Insecticides – Are not recommended for use against pantry pests.

Pheromone Traps – Pheromone traps are only available for various pantry pests, including the Indian meal moth, Cigarette Beetle, and Drugstore Beetle. They are generally used after the source of infestation has been found and contained to detect any remaining moths rather than as a control measure. If more moths are found, inspection and cleaning should continue until the infestation is eradicated