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Food Mites – Occasional Pests of Packaged Foods

By Chris Williams on December 17, 2015.

I’ve been finding little tiny, crawly things that look like mites on my kitchen counter. I’ve been looking on the Internet and it seems like it’s too cold out for chiggers or clover mites. Could they be bird mites? I haven’t seen any bird nests on the outside of the house.

B. L., Stratham, NH

It is definitely not bird nesting season here in the Northeast. Bird mites feed mostly on the young birds in the nest and they migrate to new locations when the young birds fledge and leave the nest. Bird mites are primarily a spring and early summer problem. If what you’re seeing are indeed mites (and you should have them identified), my first guess is some kind of food mite.

Grain Mites Like Damp and Moldy Stored Foods

Although stored food pests like moths and beetles can be common in homes, food mites are not as common since they are associated with foods that are damp and quite moldy, and in really poor condition. Consequently, you could expect to find them in packaged or bulk food products that have been stored and unused for a long time. A common source of food mites in homes is in large bags of dry pet food or bird seed that are stored in a damp basement or garage (see Food Mites in the Dog’s Food!).

Grain mites are the most common type of food mite. They infest flours, rice, corn, bulk grains, cornmeal, cereals, seeds, animal feed including dry pet food, and more. These light brown mites are barely visible to the naked eye and are usually only seen in large numbers on a surface. The mites normally remain in the food package or container where they are feeding but sometimes migrate, probably looking for new food sources.

Check All Your Packaged, Stored Foods

You, or an exterminator, will need to check for damp, moldy food products in your cabinets and pantry, or in damp areas outside of the kitchen. It shouldn’t be too hard to find the infested package(s) since the food will likely be damp, sweating, may have a moldy or minty smell, and may be covered with a brownish powder of mites and their shed skins (see Grain Mites Infest Older, Moldy Packaged Bulk Foods). Be aware though that mites may have infested other food products as well, and you may need to discard lots of items plus have your cabinets or pantry treated by an exterminator. Your pest control technician can advise you on food protection.

High Humidity Might Be the Real Problem

If you have a food mite problem in your kitchen, it’s indicative that humidity is too high which can result in other kinds of pest problems, not to mention mildew, wood rot, etc. Lowering humidity, rotating stored foods, and buying smaller quantities will help eliminate the mite problem. Call us at Colonial Pest. We can help you with kitchen pests…as long as they are not of the two-legged variety.

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