baking pies in the kitchen

Keep pantry pests out of your holiday baking

Tiffany Tenley

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and with it comes a lot of holiday baking. Avoid serving freshly baked pies, breads, cookies, and cakes sprinkled with pantry pests to your family and friends. Take a moment to freshen up your pantry, checking your baking supplies and the cupboard in which they are stored to ensure they are pest-free. Even new and unused bags of flour, sugar, baking soda or anything else that’s not in a sealed container can contain pantry pests. Learn more about what to look for and how to avoid a pantry pest contamination or an infestation.

What are pantry pests?

Pantry pests, which include red flour beetles, Indian meal moths, and merchant grain beetles, like to infest almost all baking ingredients. Some of their favorites are flour, dried fruits, nuts, and chocolates…all staples in holiday baking. Some pests will also target cake mixes, grains, seeds, and candy. 

All four growth stages (egg, larva, pupa, and adult) of a pantry pest’s development may be present in the food. Eggs prevent a unique issue, as they are rarely seen because of their small size. Most damage is actually done while they are in the larval stage.

women baking together

Common pantry pests identified

The Indian meal moth is the most common pantry pest found in homes. Easily recognized by its two-toned forewings (tan on the front third and reddish-copper on the back two-thirds). If disturbed, adults fly in a very irregular zigzag pattern. Indian meal moth larvae feed upon a wide variety of foods, including seasonal favorites like chocolate, dried fruit, crackers, nuts, seeds, cereal, and just about any other dried goods served during the holidays.

Sawtoothed and merchant grain beetles, are tiny brown beetles that have saw-like projections on either side of the thorax. They tend to feed on fine pieces of milled grain products. These pests can be a menace to your holiday food; feeding upon a variety of ingredients, such as dried fruit, sugar, chocolate, nuts, and seeds. Their small size permits them easy access into packaged foods, allowing them to squeeze into the smallest crevices where they can remain undetected.

Red and confused beetles, part of the flour beetle family, are frequent scavengers of flour and grain meals, which are commonly used to make seasonal cakes and breads. These reddish-brown beetles will also feed on spices, dried fruits, and cereal products. 

Where do pantry pests come from?

While some pantry pests enter a house through cracks and crevices like other pests, it is much more likely that the original infestation took place at the food processing plant, storage facility, delivery vehicle, or grocery store. Because of this, inspecting baking ingredients before storing them is extremely important. Additionally, because a few eggs can be hard to catch, products that aren’t used very frequently should still be inspected on a regular basis.

baking ingredients

What can I do about pantry pests?

Pantry pests can infest an area in a very short period of time, and can become a major nuisance very quickly. Here are some ways to avoid having your holiday baking season ruined by these pests:

Before baking

  • Plan ahead. Store your ingredients in air-tight canisters or containers. Additionally, ensure other susceptible items that are not being used in your recipe such as birdseed, dry pet food, and breakfast cereals are stored properly.
  • Inspect all the ingredients you will be using. Signs of infestation include visible pests, webbing, and damaged packaging.
  • Check all expiration dates on ingredients before adding them to a recipe.

After baking

  • Store baked goods in glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
  • Clean up all crumbs and spills from counters, floors, pantry shelves, cabinets, and sinks.
  • Dispose of and remove any garbage in timely manner.
  • While your baking ingredients are out of the pantry, take some time to vacuum and wipe down the shelves with soap and water.

If there is any sign of an infestation in your pantry, cabinets, or anywhere else in the house, Ehrlich Pest Control can help. Please don’t hesitate to contact us so you can enjoy a pest-free holiday season.

Tiffany Tenley
Tiffany Tenley

As a Marketing Content Manager, Tiffany has come to love and appreciate the diverse and complex world of pests—good, bad and ugly. Not only does she research and write about them, she admits to having eaten a few crickets on some cheese-laden nachos. When she's not working, Tiffany enjoys spending time with her family, exploring new restaurants, concert-going, reading, writing and traveling.

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