Killing pantry pests

Q. How can I get rid of the pests in my pantry?

Elise from Warren

A. Pantry pests are common all year, but sometimes even more this time of year because we are purchasing more boxed-food items for holiday baking.

They usually start in small numbers, coming into our homes by way of cereal boxes, flour, cake mixes, boxed crackers, and other packaged materials.

Even pet food bags and bird seed may be a source of certain pests that can infest your home. They go unnoticed until the infestation grows.

Thus, the best way to rid your home of these pests is to be diligent when bringing boxed and bagged items into the home.

Personally, I had an infestation of Indian meal moth that lasted for months. After the initial cleaning of the pantry, I found a box of cereal that contained a significant amount of webbing around the plastic bag of cereal inside.

If I would have opened the box itself before putting into the pantry, I would have seen this and disposed of it then. I would have avoided a lot of headaches.

Indian meal moths are one of many pantry pests that can invade your home. The larva is creamy white and about a half-inch long. Most homeowners will notice the adult moth that is slightly larger than a half-inch long with the back half being dark-mottled. It looks like a dirty moth.

The other common pantry pests are the cigarette beetle, drugstore beetle, larder beetle, several flour beetles, sawtooth grain beetle and the rice beetle, according to Penn State Extension.

All our pantry pests have four stages in their life cycles – egg, larva, pupa and adult. Thus, sometimes you might get infested because of eggs which may not be visible when checking packages brought into the home.

Beyond checking packages brought into the home, the main thing to look for is the source of the infestation when there is a problem.

Eliminating the source, removing other infested items and all potential food sources is the starting point to eradicating the insects from the home.

Open each box to be sure the plastic is still intact and there are no signs of infestation. Clean all cupboard areas. Run the sweeper and wash shelving. Change your storage methods by putting all potential food for these pests into airtight containers.

For details and pictures of common pantry pests, along with integrated pest management options to use in cleaning your pantry and storing products, go to

Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Winter hours for the Plant and Pest Diagnostic Clinic vary. Submit questions to the clinic at 330-533-5538 or drop samples off to the OSU Extension Office in Canfield.

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