Black insects and white larvae can be seen swarming this reader’s pantry in the following photographs. This reader “ran across [our] website” and is hoping that we can identify the creatures in her pantry.
Firstly, we want to thank our reader for these photos, which are of excellent quality. Although she did not provide any context along with her query — besides finding the insects in her pantry — the photos alone are a big help. Secondly, we want to point out that the creatures our reader has been finding in her pantry may be of two different species, but that either way, our reader does not have to fear as the pests she has found are not directly harmful to humans and can be swiftly dealt with.
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It seems that our reader’s pantry has a case of pantry beetles, an insect that — interestingly enough — we have not touched on before, despite them being relatively common. Usually, when our readers have an infested pantry or kitchen, they are being plagued by Indianmeal moth larvae (pantry moth larvae). That being said, it is possible that this could also be the case for this reader, in addition to the pantry beetles. There are multiple species of pantry beetles, including the sawtoothed grain beetle, the red flour beetle, and the confused flour beetle (yes, that is its actual name, apparently so-named owing to confusion it invokes in observers as it is so similar to the red flour beetle). Judging solely on appearance, we think these are most likely to be sawtoothed grain beetles.
Pantry beetle infestations can occur at any time throughout the year, so one should always be cautious of them. They can enter the house either through already-infested food products that are brought into the home, or just by wandering in through an open door or window. Like pantry moth larvae, their primary source of food is unrefrigerated products such as grains, rice, and cereals. The first photograph above gives the best depiction of a pantry beetle’s physical characteristics. One can make out its ovate body, long antennae and six legs. Between the beetles, one can see white larvae with brown heads laying strewn about as well. To us, they resemble Indianmeal moth larvae more than they do pantry beetle larvae, but one of them does appear to have appendages extending from its body, which is more indicative of a beetle larva.
The fact of the matter is that our reader will need to apply the same methods to control and eliminate the infestation regardless if these are larvae of the sawtoothed grain beetle or the Indianmeal moth. The larvae of both of these insects feed on pretty much the same products and require the same level of attention to get rid of them. Any roaming larvae and adult beetles should be moved outside, preferably quite far from the house so they do not just wander back in. Alternatively (or additionally), our reader may want to use a vacuum to get any remaining organisms and eggs. The eggs are especially important to remove as they can be invisible to the naked eye and can make the difference between eliminating the infestation and merely postponing it. If our reader does vacuum her pantry, we urge her to throw out the vacuum bag immediately after use. The beetles/larvae vacuumed up can survive inside the bag and then create another infestation within the bag.
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Next, our reader will want to clean out her pantry. Expired products should be thrown out and shelves should be sanitized. Pantry moths and beetles alike are attracted to crumbs or spilled food, so our reader is going to want to make sure her pantry is consistently kept clean. Any grain-based foods should be stored in airtight containers that insects cannot access, preferably in see-through containers so that our reader can see if she has brought in any infested products before she starts eating the food. Although pantry beetles and moths are not directly harmful to humans, the detritus they leave behind in the food they infest (cast skins and faecal pellets, for example) is inedible and should not be consumed. Also, by storing all grains in see-through containers, our reader will be able to catch the infestation before it spreads to the rest of her pantry. Lastly, we want to add that our reader should definitely not use insecticides, as the risk of contaminating her food is too great. This could potentially be far more harmful than ingesting pantry beetle-infested food products.
In conclusion, the insects our reader found in her pantry are sawtoothed grain beetles, commonly referred to as pantry beetles, the umbrella term for any species of beetle that can be found eating away in the kitchen. She may also have found Indianmeal moth larvae, though they could also be the larvae of the beetles; it is unclear. Regardless, we are certain that if our reader applies the methods detailed above, her pantry will be pest-free in no time! We wish her the best of luck and encourage her to send us more questions if she has any.