Pantry pests

Pantry pests include a wide variety of insects but the most common are beetles and moths. Most pantry pests are small and may go unnoticed until the infestation becomes large. Infestations may first be noticed as those brown specks in a bag of white flour.

Once an infestation begins it can be difficult to control. Pantry pests generally prefer to feed on dry food products such as; noodles, flour, cereal, oatmeal, dry pet foods, nuts, dried fruit, chocolate and birdseed. Pantry pests are not considered a health threat but they contaminate food sources causing unsanitary conditions and waste.

Common types

Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella

Small moth approximately 6-7 mm in length with a wingspan of 14-20 mm. Wings are copperish in color and they are active fliers at night. The adults commonly rest with their abdomens raised in the air. The larvae are the damaging stage of this pest, they feed on many dried food products and contaminate it with frass and webbing. In large infestations the webbing can encompass the entire surface of the food source. Larvae are caterpillars and are whitish to pink to brown and average 13 mm when mature. Mature larvae can be seen wandering near the food source in search of a location to pupate, once a suitable location is found they spin a loose cocoon.

Sawtoothed grain beetle Oryzaephilus surinamensis

Adults are very active, small brown elongated beetles averaging 2.5 mm in length. Adults have a flattened body and both the adults and larvae are destructive, adults do not fly. Commonly found in dry pet foods including birdseed. Larvae are small, elongate, yellowish white with a brown head.

Red flour beetle Tribolium castaneum

More robust than Sawtoothed grain beetles, adults are flattened, reddish in color, and averages 3.5 mm in length. Larvae are elongate yellowish white with a brown head. The adults are weak fliers. Both adults and larvae feed on a wide variety of foodstuffs including cereals, flour, corn meal, dried peas and beans and many other dried food products. These pests are long lived and there are reports that the adults can live as long as three years.

Larder beetle Trogoderma lardarius

This beetle belongs to a family of very destructive pests called Dermestidae, the members o this beetle family prefer dried animal proteins and have been known to destroy valuable artifacts. They can be a domestic pest feeding on animal mounts, furs, and wool carpet.


The adults of this beetle are robust, ovoid, 6-10mm in length and are a mottled gray to black in coloration. The larvae are elongate amber colored and hairy, when fully grown range from 10-15mm in length. Both the larvae and adults are destructive. They primarily feed on dried animal food stuffs such as dried fish, beef and cheese. They can also damage processed animal skins such a furs and leather.

Health issues


Pantry pest Control

Pantry pests can be difficult to control due to their general small size and ability to conceal themselves. If pests have been sighted, inspect the area thoroughly for pests and include dried pet foods, including bird seed. Freezing infested pet foods can be a way to manage infestations without discarding it.

Primary to controlling an infestation is sanitation. Clean the area by removing crumbs or other products from the infested area. Vacuuming is an excellent way to remove spilled product and may also remove pests. Inspect all susceptible food stuffs and discard any infested product. Discarding seemingly uninfested product is a good idea as it may harbor pests that are as yet undetected.

When sanitation alone does not solve the problem, an insecticidal treatment may be required to eliminate an infestation. First make sure the product is labeled for that use, or contact a professional pest management firm. For future consideration, make sure that the area where susceptible foodstuffs are stored, is kept clean of spilled material and that the food stuffs are stored in air tight containers.