Pantry Pests

- Insects that infest a variety of food products -

Summary: Certain moths and beetles specialize in living off our stored food products like dried meat, grain, flour, cereal, dry fruit, nuts, dry pet food, and spices. When these insects are found in homes they are called pantry pests. The most common insects in this group are meal moths, carpet beetles, cigarette and drugstore beetles, and grain or flour beetles.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

There are a number of insects that infest stored food. Collectively they are called the pantry pests, warehouse pests, or stored product pests. Some of these insects, for example grain beetles, only attack whole kernels of grain such as corn and wheat, while others infest a wider variety of foods and sometimes dried skins.

Pantry pests are quite mobile so you often find individual insects some distance away from the source of the infestation. The first step to control pantry pests, therefore, is to find the actual source of the infestation. Once found you can generally eliminate the infestation with sanitation. Insecticides are almost never needed in homes. In some cases pheromone traps can be used to find the infestation while in other cases you'll need to do careful searches of food storage areas.

meal moth; a common pantry pest

Indian meal moth larva feeding on raisin; note dark amber colored head capsule (top, center of photo).

Important pantry pests

Dermestid beetles are small beetles that infest dried skins, natural hair-based fabrics, dried meats, dried plant-based material and stored grains -- virtually anything that contains of even a small amount of protein. The larvae of dermestid beetles are somewhat "fuzzy" and they often leave characteristic shed skins behind in drawers and cabinets (see What are Dermestid Beetles?).

Meal moths infest stored foods such as nuts, cereals, seeds, dried fruits, dried pet food, crackers, and so forth. The larvae often produce a silken webbing on the surface of infested products under which the larvae feed (see What are Meal Moths?).

Cigarette beetles and drugstore beetles are small beetles that infest a wide variety of natural products and are closely related to some of the wood boring anobiid powderpost beetles (see What are Cigarette/Drugstore Beetles?).

Grain and flour beetles

Grain beetles can be divided into two groups, those that feed internally in whole, intact grains of corn, wheat, rice, legumes, and so forth, and those that are a bit less particular. Some grain and flour beetles feed on broken kernals and some will develop on flour and even processed grain such as pasta. These insects are more typically pests in warehouses and grain storage silos rather than kitchens and pantries.

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