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Do-It-Yourself Pantry Pest Control


Despite the variations in their biology and habits, the treatment of beetles and moths that infest stored-foods is fairly similar across the board.

Very often, infestations of stored-food pests can be controlled non-chemically. When pesticide treatments are necessary at all, they should be considered an adjunct to the treatment, rather than the treatment itself. Non-chemical measures are much more important, even if pesticides ultimately are used.

Proper control of stored food pests consists of the following steps:

  1. Find and discard all infested food products. All opened packages of susceptible foods should be discarded, and closed packages should be stored in heavy-duty Ziploc bags. (The fact that the packages are sealed doesn't mean they aren't infested; many stored-food pests can easily penetrate factory sealing materials.)

  2. Completely empty the cabinet where the infested food was stored, as well as the cabinets adjacent to it. Thoroughly vacuum the entire cabinet, paying special attention to the nooks and crannies. Remove any drawers in the cabinets and vacuum both the drawers and the places where the drawers fit.

  3. Scrape off any pupae that may have adhered to the corners, cracks, and crevices of the cabinets. Then thoroughly wash the cabinets and shelves with soap and water or a commercial cleaner.

  4. If the infestation was severe or the cabinet has cracks and crevices that you cannot get into to clean, you can apply an insecticide labeled for the type of insect to the cracks and crevices. (In most cases, this is not necessary.) Remember to follow all label directions.

  5. After the insecticide has dried, put the uninfested foods back in the cabinets. Store all susceptible foods (including pet foods) in airtight food storage containers.

  6. Install pheromone traps to catch any insects that may slip past your cleaning, or who may emerge from pupae that you missed.

  7. Monitor the infestation carefully for three months. It's not unusual to see a few insects several weeks after a treatment, since it's difficult to remove all pupae from the cracks and crevices and most insecticides will not kill pupal stages. If you suddenly see a few adult insects on the traps after a few weeks, but none in the food itself, just replace the traps and resume monitoring.

In most cases, following the simple steps above will solve your stored-food pest problems. But if you still see insects after a few months, then it's time to call a professional.