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The Top Four Pests Sneaking Into Your Stored Food

All pests are attracted to food, water and shelter, but some are more determined than others. With an abundance of raw ingredients and food product stored in your facility, there’s more pressure to protect it from pests.

Stored product pests, particularly larvae, can pose a real threat to your business. Depending on the level of infestation, pests’ secretion of uric acid can affect the taste of the food. Since this taste alteration can affect product consistency and potentially harm customers, it’s important to stay vigilant and recognize evidence of their activity.

The first step in preventing these food pests from entering your facility is knowing how to identify the most common ones. Being able to spot the early warning signs of these most common food pests can help you and your employees prevent a potential infestation that can hurt your bottom line.

Almond Moth

Almond moths are grey, and adults have a wingspan of about 1/2 to 3/4 inches. The tips of the Almond moth’s wings are a darker brownish- or blackish-grey. As larvae, they are dull white and appear striped. The life cycle takes about 60 days, and mating and egg laying begins almost immediately after adults emerge from the pupa, or cocoon. Female moths can lay 200-400 small eggs on or near their eventual source of food.

While this moth is a serious pest for almonds, as its name applies, they also infest dried fruit like figs and dates, as well as shelled nuts, grains and seeds. These pests are normally seen flying around areas where their food source is stored, especially at dawn and dusk. The larvae, however, prefer broken, damaged grains. Larvae create matted webbing as they feed, and since the larvae remain on the food product until they seek a place to pupate, the presence of almond moths can pose a real risk to your business.

Indian Meal Moth

Indian meal moths earn their name from their diet of grains. These moths appear segmented in thirds, with reddish-brown bodies and grey wings with brown tips. They typically are 5/8 of an inch long with a wingspan of 3/4 of an inch. Despite a lifespan of only two weeks, adult female Indian meal moths emerge ready to lay eggs, laying 100 to 400 eggs in their lifetime.

Indian meal moths lay their eggs within food, particularly packaged grains, seeds, dried fruit, pet food and spices. Like almond moths, Indian meal moths spin webs, which contaminate food supplies they inhabit. Additional signs of Indian meal moths include the presence of webbing, droppings and moving larvae. After hatching, the larvae spend time in the infested product and spin webbing, eventually leaving the food source in search of nearby surfaces to begin its pupal stage of life.

Flour Beetle

Two of the most common flour beetles are the confused flour beetle and the red flour beetle. The confused flour beetle got its name from people often confusing it with the red flour beetle. Both are small beetles, ranging from 3 to 4 mm long as adults, and are reddish brown in color. The difference between these flour beetles are their antennae, but since these insects are so small, it usually requires a magnifying glass to recognize these physical differences.

Flour beetles feed on the broken bits and dust from grain that collect in bags of grains, flour, cereal, and pasta. The pests usually get inside packaging at warehouses or grocery stores and are then brought into homes inside these infested products. They contaminate packaged goods with shed skins and feces, causing flour to become discolored and develop a disagreeable odor. Adult flour beetles can crawl into packages that appear to be sealed. In time, infestations can easily spread from one product on a shelf to several different products.

Warehouse Beetle

Warehouse beetles are compact and oval in shape. These beetles are mottled brown and black in color. When adult, these beetles measure around 2 to 3 mm long. The larvae grow to around 4.5 mm, however, and have distinct dark bands around each body segment from the front to the back.

Infesting grains, meals, cereals, pet food, pastas, dried vegetables, nuts, and spices, the warehouse beetle is one of the most destructive stored food pests in North America. As a result of their expansive diet, these beetles find homes in many types of facilities, especially in the food processing industry. Warehouse beetles are particularly damaging because they can cause severe intestinal pain if ingested.

Eliminating Stored Food Pests

If you suspect these pests have already made their way into your facility, clean and inspect your facility’s storage and keep an eye on incoming shipments. Empty the food storage areas and inspect shelves and food packages. Vacuum the empty shelves, door edges and all cracks, crevices and gaps to remove food sources and insects. Food covered with webbing should be discarded, and new food should be stored in sealed glass or plastic to help protect from pests.

In addition to taking precautionary measures against these most common food pests, work with your Pest Management Professional to develop a plan that’s right for your facility. Waltham Pest Services professionals are ready to seal your business from outside troubles, including the havoc of stored pests.

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