By Stephanie Hughes
OSU Extension master gardener volunteer
Among the most-common pantry pests are the cigarette beetle and the drugstore beetle. They, and about 1,000 other species, are voracious eaters of foodstuffs.
In the summer, adults emerge from goods stored in the home and mate, laying eggs in many diverse places. These nuisance pests arrive in infested food items and other organic materials — wheat flour, bran, rice, meals, barley, cornmeal, soybean items, peanuts, ginger, paprika, cayenne, nutmeg, curry powder, figs, raisins, chili powder, cereals, dried meats, pet foods, candy, tea, cake mixes and more.
When the 60 to 100 eggs are laid, they hatch in six to 10 days in the warm weather. They tunnel through food, contaminating with larvae, pupae, cocoons, excrement, webbing, insect parts, secretions and hairs that can irritate mouth, throat, and stomach when the food is ingested. They can even chew through boxes and wrappers.
The best way to manage these invaders is to get rid of them.
Because of their diverse diet, it is important to find the source of infestation.
Wrap up suspect containers and throw them away outside — not just in the trash container in the garage, but outside.
Vacuum any surfaces and cracks, as washing can leave a paste residue, another food source for insects.
Freezing will eliminate the insects in food products, with one recommendation stating to place the items in a deep freeze at zero degrees for seven days. To prevent further infestation, store your food products in airtight containers.
When working with flour and other boxed/bagged items, clean up any spills immediately. Keep all food areas clean of crumbs and spills.
Inspect all bought food items for seals and packaging that are not contaminated. Also check the pantry and cabinets for insects, webbing, tiny holes in packages, and lumps in food.
Insecticides are not recommended in the case of these insects. The use of household cleaning chemicals will not have an effect on these insects because the eggs are inside the food products.
Again, removal of the food/life source for the insects is the best bet.