As we enter the season of warmth and fun in the sun, we are also welcoming a whole host of insects and pests that can take over our cupboards and pantries. Mostly, these pests — usually moths or flour beetles — enter the home on paper packaging in a larval or grub stage and are very small. These insects feed on grains, nuts, dried fruits and other dried plants, including dried flowers and season-dried plant displays like dried corn.

What they eat and where they live

The larvae and some adults of these insects feed on grains (rice, barley, corn, wheat, birdseed), grain products (oatmeal, cornmeal, pasta, cereals, flour, cake mixes, pancake flour, granola, dry pet food), nuts, dried fruits and other dried plant material (dried flower arrangements, ornamental corn, seed displays).

Paper packaging can be a big source of infestation, particularly on bags of pet food and birdseed. These items should be stored, where possible, in a garage or shed. It's best if they are stored in a tightly lidded plastic storage container that is cleaned regularly. For foodstuffs that come in paper, such as flour or sugar, store the items in the freezer for a few days where possible, to kill any small pantry pests. You can also store these items in separate plastic or glass containers, but take care not to mix old and new products and clean well before replacing.

No infestations allowed

Generally, this does not reflect badly on the housekeeping skills of the homeowner, but there are things one can do, like using a pantry pest trap, to reduce the likelihood of a new or repeat infestation.

Here are some tips on getting rid of these nasty pantry pests:

  • Pantry pest traps for moths can be purchased and placed one per room. These attract moths with the use of pheromones, and only one per room is needed. More than one pantry pest trap will confuse the moth, rendering the panty pest trap useless.
  • Place a 3-1 mix of boric acid and cornmeal in shallow dishes inside cabinets to kill off moths and other pests. Do not let this mix come in contact with open food containers, kids or pets.
  • Regularly clean cabinets with a vacuum and wash down with a liberal vinegar rinse to reach all the crevices and small areas of the cabinets.
  • Soak cotton balls with eucalyptus essential oil to prevent a reinfestation of moths. It not only smells nice, but it will also keep the pantry pests at bay.
  • Do not store dried foodstuffs for long periods of time, as they can attract new infestations of moths and beetles. Once there is any sign of trouble, such as silky webbing or small moths in the area, get rid of any possible source of the problem and clean the area.
Pantry pests are an unfortunately common aspect of warm weather living; however, they can be completely eliminated by taking the few simple steps listed above and by keeping a sharp eye out for any potential problem areas.

This article was reprinted with permission. It originally appeared here on

Related on MNN:

Prevent summer pantry pests
Keep bugs out of your food by eliminating items they want to eat and killing off any larvae.