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Oklahoma State University

Don’t let pantry pests ‘bug’ you

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Help keep pests at bay by properly storing foods in your pantry.

When the weather is cold and limiting outdoor activities, it is a good time to tackle some house cleaning projects you may have been putting on the back burner.

Cleaning out your pantry is a good way to ensure you have only the freshest foods available for your family, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“Buying foods in bulk can be a money saver when it comes to your food budget, but sometimes your family can’t eat it all before it goes bad. This can be especially true of foods such as cereals, flour, rice and other similar items,” Brown said. “These items are susceptible to infestations from weevils, meal months and grain beetles. Typically, you won’t notice these pests until they become abundant.”

So, how do these pests get into your food? Some may find their way inside from the outdoors. However, the majority of these pests are in food products that are brought into the home. The initial infestation can originate at the processing plant, the warehouse, the delivery truck or even at the store from which you purchased the product.

Brown said the key to successful control is to find the source of the infestation. Keep in mind that finding insects in one area of the home does not mean the infestation is in that area.

“Many cereal pests can fly so you may see them in various places in your home. Pantry or stored product insects can feed on anything edible, including cereals, various grains, crackers, spices, macaroni, dried fruit, chocolate, dried peas and beans, candy and nuts,” she said. “Don’t be surprised if you find them in dog and cat food, bird seed or fish food.”

Once you locate and eliminate all infested foods, the number of pests should decrease rapidly. Those you see will be adult beetles or moths looking for another food source in which to deposit their eggs. Store all pantry items in air-tight, hard plastic containers or jars. Thoroughly vacuum and wash cabinets, countertops, pantry shelves and floors to remove any spilled food items to help keep these pests at bay.

Story by Trisha Gedon

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