Insects are my obsession and their curious ways fascinate me. Nature is my church. The earth, teeming with insects, is a good place. The holy grail of my work is keeping nature where it belongs - outdoors. Join me as I discuss eight practical ways to ensure that bugs do indeed stay where they are called to be - to live and die, to breed, to eat. This place is not your home, your sanctuary. This place is the great outdoors.
Undertaking this task must be done with great care. If you have children or pets, then these curious little adventurers, furry or not, will add an interesting twist to your incessant attempts of establishing a home of cleanliness and keeping those unwanted pests at bay. It’s not a task for the faint of heart.
There are a few key habits that can keep you pest-free. Whether you’re mid-battle with a colony of beetles discovered in your legumes or there was a rabble of small black bugs that were tracked down in your white organic flour, there is hope. Restoration of peace, sanity, and control (in your pantry) can indeed be had.
What Bugs Am I Most Likely to See in My Pantry?
There are several pantry bugs that are considered pests. Although they may be a pain, there is great solace in knowing that these bugs do not bite, sting, or cause serious damage to your home, and can become a nuisance of your past. These bugs are:
- Indian meal moths, also known as pantry moths
- Pantry beetles, whether they be sawtoothed grain, cigarette, drugstore, flour, spider, or warehouse beetles
- Pantry weevils, either rice weevils or wheat weevils
- Yellow Mealworms
If My Kitchen Is Clean, Why Am I Seeing Bugs in My Pantry?
Regardless of the tidiness of your kitchen, food hungry bugs will attempt to take up residence. If they find that there aren’t unsealed plastic bags of penne pasta, tucked away and half-nibbled dark chocolate bars, sprinkled grains of cane sugar, or paper bags of unbleached white flour in your pantry, they will leave.
These residential attempts come because of bugs that you may have accidentally brought into your home. They, their offspring (larvae) or their eggs will hitch a ride in that box of your favorite low carb/no grain cereal or other dried food items that became contaminated at the food processing or packaging plant.
What Foodstuffs will Bugs Infest?
Bugs will infest a number of foodstuffs, especially those that are dry or grain-based. So, finding weevils in your closed bag of pasta (meaning that it was brought home contaminated), worms in your sticky rice, or tiny bugs in your organic flour should not completely disarm you. Here is a full list of foods that pantry bugs may infest.
- Whole grains, like popcorn, brown rice, or oatmeal
- Cracked grains, like bulgar or polenta
- Grain-based products, like flour, cereal, pasta, and baking mixes
- Dried fruit, like raisins or figs
- Dried vegetables, like corn
- Dried beans
- Nuts, like peanuts
- Sweets, especially those high in sugar
- Powdered milk
- Cured meats
- Pet food
- Dried flowers
How Do I Know If I Have an Infestation?
Infestations are easy to overlook, as the bugs (and their evidence) are quite small and the bugs themselves often resemble the color of the food they’ve been digesting. With that said, there are a few telltale signs of an infestation. Let’s hope that you don’t have moths in your pantry.
- Droppings or smear marks, specifically for cockroaches
- Webbing along the corners of packages or on the product inside
- Shed larval skins
- Off-odors, flavors, or colors, especially with flour or cereal products
- Sticky secretions that cause grains to clump together
What Are 8 Ways to Make Sure I Never See a Bug in My Pantry Again?
Follow the "first in, first out" (FIFO) Food Rule
When stocking the pantry, use older foods first. Severe infestations generally occur in containers of food that have been stored for extended periods of time.
Inspect Food Products
Immediately after food purchase, do a food inspection and look for any insect activity. If in doubt, either freeze any item for at least four days in a freezer at 0 F or place the item in a shallow cookie sheet in the oven at 130 F for 30-60 minutes. (The timing depends on the item, as it will need to be heated all the way through.) It’s important to note that heating whole or processed grain may alter the characteristics of the food and that finely ground foods, such as flour, should never be heated due to the danger of fire or explosion in the oven.
Keep Food Properly Stored
Proper food storage is of utmost importance. Store all dry food products in air-tight plastic containers, glass jars, or metal containers, as insects can chew through paper, plastic or foil storage bags. My personal recommendation is glass jars that have pressure seal with rubber gaskets. Regardless, ensure that your containers of choice have tight-fitting lids, as many pantry pests are quite small and can crawl under loose-fitting lids.
Immediately Clean Up Food Spills
This is especially important when cooking with grain-based products. Do not allow crumbs or food particles to build up where food is stored or prepared.
Regularly Wipe Pantry Shelves
Vacuum and wipe all areas where food is stored (making sure to empty the vacuum to prevent reinfestations). I recommend wiping your pantry shelves with my Six Feet Under Non-Toxic Insect Spray, which is safe to use in and around your kitchen and the best non-toxic bug-killing spray on the market. Washing spills with soap can create a food paste in shelving cracks that is favorable to insects.
Use caulking to seal cupboard or pantry shelving cracks or anywhere food is stored to reduce food particles.
Keep Out a Pantry Moth Trap at All Times
Pantry moths are one of the most common pantry pests. Keeping a trap out is a preventative measure to avert any new moths from gaining a foothold. (Note: Opened, the traps are good for three months from the date of manufacture; unopened, they are good for three years).
Use the Insect Buster
Utilize this incredible tool to apply diatomaceous earth, or DE, (which must be purchased separately) around the edges of your pantry floor and shelves—where you think that bugs might be gaining a foothold. Don’t apply generally or too lightly, as too sparse or thin of an application will result in not enough DE contact with the insect.