For the purposes of this article, a pantry pest is defined as one of any number of grain beetles that enter a home or business and infest stores of food or other commodities. They insinuate themselves into food products such as grains, cereals, flower, processed food etc. as well as pet food, potpourri/dried flowers, birdseed, and other non edible products. They are capable of feeding and reproducing throughout the year.
How can I tell if I have a pantry pest infestation? What are the signs?
The presence of small, dark-colored beetles, worms, or moths in or around food is a sure sign of the presence of pantry pests. They can be seen inside the food itself regardless of whether the package appears open. They can also be found in or around drawers and cupboards, especially in the nooks and crannies around the kitchen such as in the corners of a drawer.
For reference, what are some of the most common types of Pantry Pests?
Indian meal moth
saw-toothed grain beetle
maize and rice beetle
How do I get rid of Pantry Pests for good?
Call a licensed exterminator.
Keep the kitchen or food storage area clean and crumb free.
Carefully inspect anything the insects could be feeding on to look for signs of contamination. Seal any affected food or materials and remove them from the house immediately.
Thoroughly vacuum the area and disinfect with soap and hot water or other cleaning solution.
How can I prevent an infestation from happening again in the future?
“All that is necessary for the triumph of weevil is that good men do nothing”
Purchase smaller quantities of food so that they do not require long-term storage. Avoid storing food products for longer than four months at the most.
Inspect food products to insure that their packaging is sealed and unbroken.
When in doubt, 3 days in the freezer will eliminate any insects that a food or material may be harboring.
Use heavy-duty containers to seal food. They may be able to penetrate common packaging materials such as cardboard and thin plastic.
Contrary to popular belief, rats are actually extremely intelligent creatures. Although movies often portray them as self-serving and greedy, rats are actually highly social and capable of working together in cooperation. Scientists studying the social intelligence of rats found that often times a rat will free a fellow rat from its cage even if they have nothing to gain by doing so.
Rats have a long history of living alongside humans, often competing for the same food sources and evading our attempts to eradicate them. In scientific terms they are considered a commensal species because they seek out humans to benefit from them. This is what makes rodent control so challenging- they are capable of learning to avoid our traps and adapt to our methods.
A group of mice can be referred to as a “pack” or a “mischief”
Both mice and rats are nocturnal, and are believed to be color blind. They have poor eyesight, which they make up for with a sharp sense of smell and keen hearing.
Mice and rats are excellent jumpers, swimmers, and climbers. Mice can scale vertical surfaces, balance on wires, jump up to 13 inches, and squeeze through spaces the size of a dime. Rats are particularly good swimmers and have been known to live in sewers and invade homes by crawling through the drains. They can squeeze through spaces the size of a quarter- much smaller than what appears possible!
Rodents often enter homes in the winter seeking warmth, or when a house is left vacant for long periods of time. Once they begin nesting inside they breed rapidly and can produce offspring year round. In a single year, One female mouse can produce up to 10 litters of 5 to 6 young each. This new generation of up to 60 mice can begin their own breeding within as little as 6 weeks.
Rats are used in laboratory experiments in part because they possess problem solving abilities and other types of intelligence usually only found in humans and some other primates.
Rats are known to carry several infectious diseases that can be transmitted to humans including the Hantavirus, which can be fatal. Other diseases rats carry include The Plague, Rat-Bite fever, and several others. For a complete list refer to the Center for Disease Control website covering the topic.
Rats are often dirty enough to leave oily stains on fabric that they pass over, and they produce a musky odor. As they burrow and feed within a home, they often destroy far more food through contamination than they actually eat.
When mice nest and forage inside of houses, they are known to burrow through wood, electrical wires, and other materials. Researchers believe that this may account for almost 25% of fires with “unknown causes”.
A good strategy for dealing with an infestation is to not only trap the rodents throughout the house, but also eliminate access points into the house. Make the property a less desirable target to the rodents by eliminating sources of food such as uncovered garbage containers or messy kitchens.
Certain traps and other methods are not recommended for various reasons. Poisons can pose a hazard to children and pets, can cause the rodents to die concealed within the walls, and may attract insects if left for a long time. Glue traps are considered inhumane, and live traps create more exposure to rodent urine or defecation which can transmit disease. Snap traps are most effective when administered by knowledgeable pest control specialists that are familiar with the behavior of the rodents and where best to place the traps.
Mice and rats are similar in appearance, although rats are generally larger in size, with heads and feet that are proportionally larger. Mice have a smaller and hairier tail whereas rats tails are hairless and may appear scaly. House mice are typically no longer than 20 Cm in length from head to tail.
Note the differences in size, proportions, and tail texture between the mouse to the left and the rat pictured above.