As the first hint of winter chill creeps up north, many “snowbirds” flock back to the warm embrace of Florida. However, upon their return in November, these part-time residents often find uninvited guests occupying their homes. Months of absence create a haven for pests like ants, cockroaches, and a particular nuisance category known as “pantry pests.”
These critters can be especially unsettling, as they invade some of the most intimate areas of your home—your food supply. It’s important to consider professional pest control to keep pantry bugs from contaminating your food. Drive-Bye Exterminators can help!
The term “pantry pests” is an umbrella category for insects that specifically target grain-based products in your pantry. While you may encounter a variety of bugs, the most common invaders in Florida homes are Grain Beetles, Rice Weevils, and Indian Meal Moths.
A grain beetle is a small, brown or reddish-brown beetle that is found in stored food products. They are about 2 to 3 millimeters long and have a flattened body. The most common species of grain beetle is the sawtoothed grain beetle, which gets its name from the six saw-like projections on its thorax. Other common species include the merchant grain beetle, the lesser grain borer, and the rusty grain beetle.
Grain beetles aren’t great news for snowbirds. They feed on a variety of stored food products, including grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. They can also infest pet food and birdseed. The larvae of grain beetles are the most destructive stage, as they can eat through food packaging and contaminate food with their droppings and cast skins.
The bad news is that these pests are difficult to control. However, there are a number of steps that can be taken to prevent infestations, such as:
A rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae) is a small beetle that is found in stored food products, especially rice. Similar in size to the grain beetle, it is 2 to 3 millimeters long. This pest also has a reddish-brown to black body with four light yellow or reddish spots on the corners of the elytra (the hard protective forewings).
Rice weevils are native to Asia but are now found worldwide. They are a major pest of stored grains and can cause significant damage to food supplies. The larvae of rice weevils feed on the inside of grain kernels, leaving them empty and inedible. They can also contaminate food with their droppings and cast skins.
Indian Meal Moths are a type of pantry pest that particularly targets stored food products. Adult moths are generally about 3/8-inch long, with a wingspan of about 5/8-inch. They are easily identified by their distinct two-toned coloration: their front wings are gray, while the rear half is reddish-brown or copper.
Though they are not picky eaters, Indian Meal Moths have a preference for grain-based foods. They are commonly found in flour, cornmeal, and various cereals but are also known to invade spices, nuts, dried fruits, and even pet food.
Early identification of a pantry pest infestation can save you time, money, and stress. Whether you’re dealing with Indian Meal Moths, Rice Weevils, or Grain Beetles, knowing the signs of their presence is crucial for prompt and effective eradication. These are the signs of a pantry pest infestation in your home.
The most immediate and obvious sign of an infestation is actually seeing the pests themselves. While Adult Indian Meal Moths may flutter around your pantry or kitchen, Rice Weevils might be spotted scurrying inside a rice container. Furthermore, Grain Beetles may be visible crawling within or around packages of flour or cereal.
Furthermore, webbing in food packaging corners or inside the food items is a warning sign, often associated with the larval stages of these pests.
Look for evidence of physical damage to food packaging. For example, Rice Weevils, Grain Beetles, and even the larval stage of Indian Meal Moths can chew through plastic and paper packaging to access food. Holes, gnaw marks, or tears in bags and boxes can be clear indicators of an infestation.
Upon closer inspection, you may notice grains of rice sticking together, clumps in your flour, or even tiny tunnels in various food items. These are classic signs of pest activity. In severe infestations, you may even find larvae or adult insects mixed in with the food itself.
A musty or oily smell can emanate from food products infested by pantry pests. These odors are a result of the pests’ feeding and breeding activities. If you notice any off-putting smells coming from your pantry, it’s worth inspecting your food stores more closely.
Though pantry pests can be a year-round issue, if you are a snowbird returning to Florida after months away, be extra vigilant. Prolonged absences can allow these pests to multiply undisturbed, making it more likely that you’ll encounter them upon your return.
When you left Florida to go home for the summer, your pantry was in good shape. However, what many snowbirds don’t realize is that the problem often begins much earlier than the actual sighting of these pests in the pantry. During the packaging process of various food items, an insect might lay an egg that ultimately survives and goes unnoticed.
This egg will undergo metamorphosis, hatching into an insect that will start feeding on your stored food. Given enough time—often the span of several months when snowbirds are away—the problem can escalate into a full-blown infestation. Meanwhile, the pests are wreaking havoc in your pantry and causing both financial and emotional stress.
Although pantry pests can be an all-year-round issue, the number of calls and reported incidents often peaks when snowbirds return to Florida. The extended absence from homes creates an undisturbed environment, which is ideal for the growth and multiplication of these pests.
Furthermore, months of disuse and lack of human activity allow these pests to thrive without interruption. The absence of preventive measures or early intervention during these months can lead to a more severe infestation, requiring immediate attention upon your return.
As a returning snowbird, you might face the unsavory task of dealing with pantry pests that have set up shop in your absence. However, understanding the problem’s origins and recognizing the signs early on can go a long way in managing these unwanted guests. If you find yourself overwhelmed by an infestation, remember that professional help is just a call away. Drive-Bye Exterminators is the go-to pest control for pantry pests, voted Best of the Best by Tampa Bay Times in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Call us today for help!