There is hardly a food item in the kitchen or food pantry that can escape being infested by some pest if it remains unused and exposed in some dark corner or drawer long enough. All items are susceptible, including spices, hot pepper, ice cream cones, and even cereals, grits, and cake mixes. Dried flower arrangements and stuffed furniture and toys often harbor infestations. |
Large populations of these food pests may develop in unused or undisturbed foods that were infested when purchased. A food package that is not tightly sealed after use can also lead to infestation. From the infested food packages, the pests may spread to other exposed food. Often the only way that one knows of their presence is by discovery of an infested and infrequently used food item or the encounter of flying or crawling adults coming from the pantry shelves. Moths and beetles are often attracted to lights or windows and may indicate an infestation. The presence of stored food pests is not an indication of uncleanliness, since infestation may be brought home in purchased food.
The first step to pantry pest control is to locate the source of the infestation. If all insects are confined to one package, simply destroy the package eliminates the problem. If you suspect insects have invaded other packages of food, place these packages in a freezer for 4-5 days. This will kill most of them, since most kitchen pests are tropical insects by origin and are vulnerable to freezing. When insects are discovered in several packages or containers or throughout the entire cupboard, more drastic action is necessary. An alternative is to place them in a low temperature oven.
First, remove all food containers. If practical, store them in their original packages in a refrigerator or freezer. All spilled foods, such as crumbs and sugar granules, should be cleaned up thoroughly. Pay special attention to all corners, cracks and crevices where eggs or larvae may be hiding. If possible thoroughly vacuum these areas. Scrub with hot water and soap or detergent. Sanitize all areas with a household chlorine bleach solution of 1 tablespoon liquid bleach per gallon of water. Spray the cupboard with a pesticide containing diazonon or chlorpyrifos. Keep all food containers clean inside and outside. Clean out all storage containers before filling them with fresh food and make sure the lids fit tightly. Keep the cupboard shelves clean and dry, and check packages and containers frequently.
To kill insects in the storage area, cabinets and shelves should be thoroughly vacuumed to pick up loose infested material and washed with warm, soapy water. Caulk cracks to limit harborage for insects. Stored food pests often hide in cracks and crevices or in corners of cabinets. These insects can be controlled using a crack-and-crevice insecticide application. Apply a residual spray to the cracks, corners, and surfaces of the shelves. Remove all food items from shelves that may become contaminated with spray. Allow the spray application to dry before replacing the food items. Be sure to remove and spray all drawers as well as the inside of the cabinets after cleaning.
Prevention is best. Keep flour, grain products, and spices in glass or metal, rigid containers so insects cannot move from one food to another. New packages of grain products can be placed in the freezer for 4-5 days when you bring them home to kill any existing insect eggs.
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