Like all other creatures, insects have to eat; and some of them have adapted to eating the very same stuff that people eat. In fact, some of them eat the food that we have stored in our pantries, which is why we call these insects, as a group, “pantry pests.”
Pantry pests include various species of beetles, weevils (basically beetles with snouts), and moths that feed on stored foods. The names of specific pantry pests often reflect their preferred or usual foods. Some pantry pests prefer specific types of foods, such as rice or corn, for example; and some prefer whole grains while others prefer meal or flour. But the truth is most stored-product pests aren’t very particular and will eat whatever is available.
At times they hitch-hike in a package of food that we brought back from the market, and then spread from there. The food may have been infested at any point along its manufacture and distribution, starting with the farm where it was grown. Usually it’s impossible to pinpoint the exact source.
What we do know is that once these pests get in your home, they usually spread; and what started as a few bugs in a bag of pasta can rapidly become a major pest problem.
You can reduce the chances of getting an infestation of stored product pests by following a few simple rules. The most important of these is to store food in tight-closing containers. Clear glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids will work, but so will heavy-duty (freezer-rated) zipper-type plastic food storage bags. The advantage to using clear containers is that you can see the bugs through the containers.
In addition to proper storage, proper sanitation will help reduce the chances of an infestation becoming established in your home. Spilled products inside cupboards should be promptly cleaned up, and the insides of pantries and cabinets regularly cleaned. If any product has gotten into the cracks and crevices, it should be removed. A strong vacuum cleaner is a good way to do this.
The use of sticky traps as monitoring devices is also a good way to keep an eye on things to make sure that a pest infestation isn’t developing. Unless you know that you have a particular pest problem, a general-use stored product pest trap that attracts a variety of insects is a good way to go.
One good thing about pantry pest is that they won’t kill you. They may (or may not) make the food taste bad, but you’re not going to die or get sick if you accidentally ingest them. So try to relax, and don’t go throwing away all the food in the house. Putting all your food in clear containers or zipper-type plastic bags is a good way to try to narrow a pantry pest infestation down. Throwing away all the food in the house is an overreaction and is unnecessary.