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Common Pantry Pests

 

There are hundreds of insect species that have adapted to living in and/or feeding upon stored food products, but the ones described below collectively account for a good percentage of infestations experienced by consumers.

Indian Meal Moths

Indian meal moth.Indian meal moth larvae."Indian meal" is another term for corn, and is a favored food of these common moths; but they'll eat almost any plant-based food if need be.

Indian meal moths are about 1/2" in length as adults and are gray, black, and brown in color. The larvae are creamy-colored and infest many plant-based foods, especially milled and processed grains products like corn meal, flour, etc.

Sawtoothed Grain Beetles

Sawtoothed grain beetle.Sawtoothed grain beetle larvae.Adult sawtoothed grain beetles are about 1/8" in length and reddish-brown in color. Their name comes from the distinct sawtooth pattern on the sides of the thorax. Their larvae are creamy white and feed on small particles of grain-based foods.

A related specie, the merchant grain beetle, has similar biology; but merchant grain beetles can fly, whereas sawtoothed grain beetles cannot.

Drugstore Beetles

Drugstore beetle.Drugstore beetle larva.Adults drugstore beetles are about 1/8" in length, are brown in overall color, and are good fliers. The larvae are cream-colored. They feed on cereals, cookies, chocolate, spices, dried plants, tobacco, and pet foods.

Drugstore beetles are closely related to the cigarette beetle, which has similar habits, but whose wing covers lack the ridges that are prominent on the drugstore beetle.

Confused Flour Beetles and Red Flour Beetles

Confused flour beetles.Confused flour beetle larvae.Adult confused flour beetles and red flour beetles are about 1/8" or less in length. The larvae are creamy yellow. They commonly infest milled grains, cookies, cereals, crackers, and pasta.

Adult red flour beetles can fly, but confused flour beetles cannot. In addition, the three most distal segments of the antennae of the red flour beetle are clubbed, but those of the confused flour beetle are not.

Dermestid Beetles

Larder beetle.Dermestid beetle larva.There are many species of Dermestid beetles, some of the more common of which are larder beetles, carpet beetles and cabinet beetles. They are mainly meat feeders and infest animal-based food products such as pet foods, bouillon soup, beef jerky.

Dermestid beetles can also feed upon furs, down or feathers, wool carpeting, cashmere sweaters, animal carcasses, and human hair. (They are fairly regularly encountered as pests in barber shops, in fact.)

Next: Pantry Pest Control