How to Check Food Products for Insects – Advice From the Pros

By Chris Williams on April 5, 2011.

You’ve seen a couple of tiny beetles in your kitchen and you’re worried that you may have infested food products. How can you know if the beetles are in your food and how do you know which products are infested? You don’t want to throw everything out and start stocking the pantry all over again. There are some things you can do to find out if you have a stored product pest infestation and how widespread it is.

First, understand that if you want to do this right you will have to check even unopened boxes and bags. Food pests such as flour beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles, cigarette beetles, and Indianmeal moths all are capable of entering sealed packages by boring tiny holes or working their way under flaps and folds. And, you will have to check all kinds of products from flour to cereal to pasta, even cookies, chocolate, and spices. Don’t overlook dry pet food and bird seed which may even be in the garage next to the kitchen. These products are often the source of food pests.


You may be able to narrow your search by starting with the oldest food products on your shelves. These pests are most often found in foods that are old, past their use date, or that have become damp. If you’re lucky and have caught the infestation early, it may be limited to one or two boxes on the back of a shelf. However, once adult beetles or moths have emerged from the food product, they are capable of laying eggs in any other food products in your kitchen.

Empty each box or bag of product onto a cookie sheet in a well lighted area. Use a knife or spatula to spread out the product and examine it closely. A flashlight may help. What are you looking for? You may find tiny, dark adult beetles or moths in the food product. Harder to see are the whitish beetle or moth larvae. Look for movement. In a large infestation, you may also see the shed skins left behind when the larvae molt. In an Indianmeal moth infestation, you can also see webbing in the food material. Don’t forget to check the bottom of the box or bag itself and look under the liner for insects or cocoons.

If the product is infested, discard it in a sealed plastic bag. If the product is pest-free, repackage it in a pest-proof container like a plastic or glass container with a tight-fitting lid. You can also protect products from infestation by keeping them in the refrigerator.

If you discover that you have many infested products, you may need professional help. Even if you throw out all of your packaged food, there may still be eggs on the shelves that could reinfest new foods. Call Colonial. We can safely treat around shelves and cracks and crevices in your kitchen where pests and their eggs may be hiding and help insure that your restocked kitchen will be pest-free.


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