As the people in Pittsburgh’s North Hills become increasingly dedicated to their health and quality of life, many are buying more real food and cooking their meals themselves.
To keep this practice affordable, people often purchase food in bulk and store it at home – which is a great strategy, as long as humans are the only ones eating your groceries.
But if you have mice, cockroaches, or other disease-carrying pantry pests crawling around in your stored food, that can more than negate the health and financial benefits of your nutritious bulk purchases!
What common pantry pests should you keep an eye out for?
Animals that can get into your pantry include:
- Beetles, including drugstore beetles – also known as cigarette beetles
- 4. Mice and rats
Can you get pantry pests even if your kitchen is clean?
Even if your kitchen is spotless, a variety of pests can get into your food at the store, while the groceries are being delivered, or even in the warehouse or processing plant.
They can also make their way into your pantry from other parts of the house, or sneak in through cracks in the walls or gaps around your doors or windows.
Mice can get through a hole that’s less than 7/10ths of an inch wide, and cockroaches only need a gap the height of two stacked pennies, so even a small opening can give pest infestations access to your house and food.
This is one reason why it’s important to seal openings in your walls and install weather stripping around your windows and doors.
Which food sources are pantry pests attracted to?
Most pantry pests are especially fond of grain products, such as flours and cereals. They also like beans, dried fruits, spices and nuts, but they’ll happily chew on virtually any dried food that’s stored at room temperature.
Packages that have been opened and not properly re-sealed make it easier for them to access your stored food, but even unopened packages can have holes chewed in them by species like mice, or be squeezed into by a sufficiently small or determined insect.
What are the signs of a pantry pest infestation, and what should I do about them?
Sign 1: You see bugs, bite marks or droppings near your stored food or on packages.
If you see bugs in an area where you store food, that might be an early sign of an infestation. Thoroughly inspect your pantry shelves and any packages on them for signs of gnawing, dead insects, or droppings.
Holes gnawed in walls or packages, smudge marks on the walls, and droppings left in a straight line can be signs of a mouse problem.
This should be addressed quickly because mice can spread potentially lethal diseases, they breed quickly, and they destroy a great deal more food than they eat by nibbling, pooping on and discarding multiple items.
Sign 2: You see a bug or two IN your stored food.
If you find a bug in a package of food, throw the package away, and thoroughly inspect all the packages stored near it. If you can’t examine it fully while it’s in the package, pour the food onto a baking sheet and inspect it under a bright light.
If you don’t find any more bugs, then this one was probably just an isolated incident, and the rest of your food should be fine.
If you suspect that a product might have been contaminated but you aren’t sure, and you don’t want to throw it out, you can heat it in an oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for a couple hours, or freeze it for three to four days to kill any insects or eggs in it.
If you happen to eat something that had a bug in it, there’s probably no need to panic; pantry pests aren’t poisonous. However, mice and cockroaches can carry dangerous diseases, so if you believe you’ve eaten something that they chewed or pooped on, pay close attention to your health, and visit your doctor if you develop any symptoms of illness.
Sign 3: There are large numbers of bugs in the pantry.
At this point, it’s time to go into pest control mode. Empty the pantry, inspecting every package carefully to make sure it isn’t contaminated or damaged, then vacuum the room thoroughly, including the floors, shelves and corners.
Next, wash everything down with soapy water. Avoid using toxic chemicals like bleach, pesticides or ammonia; if they get into your food, they can be more dangerous than the bugs you’re trying to kill, and they won’t prevent the infestation from coming back.
How do you keep your pantry pest-free?
Chances are, you’d rather prevent an infestation than clean one up. Here are some ways to keep the pests out of your pantry:
- Use food quickly.
The longer the food sits there, the more likely pests are to find it, so it’s best to buy quantities that you can use up in two to four months.
It also helps to follow the “first in, first out” rule: the first thing you buy is the first thing you use.
- Store food in pest-resistant packages.
When you buy food that pests find attractive, such as nuts, dried fruit, cereals and grains, you can protect it by putting it in containers that animals have trouble infiltrating.
Metal, glass and thick plastic containers are harder to damage or invade than cardboard, foil or paper, and they’re less attractive to bugs like termites that eat plant-based products.
Use containers with airtight lids to minimize the chance of an infestation, while maximizing the time your food stays fresh.
- Keep your pantry dry and clean.
Many nuisance species rely on moisture in the environment, so keeping your pantry dry and well ventilated will make it less attractive to them. If you happen to spill any food products in the pantry, clean them up quickly, and avoid keeping clutter that could shelter invaders and their nests.
- Avoid buying damaged packages.
If a package has dents, holes or scratches on it, that could be a sign that something’s already gotten into it. It also means the package will be easier for pests to infiltrate once you bring it home.
- Clean your pantry thoroughly every three to six months.
This will help you discover any bugs, nests, or other signs of infestation before they can become a serious problem. As a bonus, it also helps you stay organized!
Already got a pantry full of pests, and don’t have the time, resources or expertise to get rid of them?
We’ll be happy to get rid of your problem for you, so you can go back to enjoying delicious, healthy and pest-free food. Unfortunately, we cannot clean your pantry for you as well, but we might be able to help find someone for you to do that as well.
Call us today at (724) 601-3223, or email us here to arrange a time for us to give you a free inspection and quote.