Preventing Pantry Pests

White rat chewing on food

When it comes to food, humans have it made. While the rest of the natural world scrounges for sustenance, we are rarely more than a few footsteps from our stockpile of calorie-rich foods. Other animals can’t help but take notice–after all, they’re hardwired to do so and equipped with extraordinary sensory capabilities for tracking down their meals. 

This article will share why it’s important to make sure you and your family are the only ones eating your food, and strategies for preventing unwanted moochers. Here, prevention is the name of the game: proper food storage, pest repellants and early pest detection will help ward off problematic critters and deal with issues before they arise. Familiarize yourself with the potential invaders, know their tastes and weaknesses, and take immediate action at the first signs of an infestation–this is work best left to the professionals at Termiguard. Read on for some tips for preventing that outcome.

Common Pantry Pests

Rodents: Mice and rats are the most common members of this family to make your home theirs. Unfortunately, they are some of the more serious infestations, since they pose potentially serious risks to human health and can be extremely hard to exterminate. Of the rats and mice that live in North America, the Deer Mouse, House Mouse, Norway Rat, and Roof Rat are the most common home invaders. 

Cockroaches: There is a reason cockroaches have crawled this Earth for 300 million years–they’re resourceful, social, and well-adapted to living with humans. Some can go without air for 45 minutes while others have survived more than 12 hours at -18 degrees Fahrenheit. While they don’t directly spread diseases in the way rodents do, they can carry and spread pathogens and allergens on their bodies. 

Moths: The Indianmeal Moth–also known as the Pantry Moth, Weevil Moth, and several other monikers–is another all-too-common kitchen insect. Their larvae have the ability to bite into sealed cardboard and plastic containers and make homes for themselves without notice. While they aren’t associated with major diseases, they can be extremely difficult to eradicate and cause significant food waste if not dealt with properly.

Ants: For ants, your pantry is like a 24/7 picnic. These hypersocial insects are known for showing up by the hundreds and thousands to a food source and not leaving until the scraps have been wiped away.  A variety of ant species will take interest in your stored food; the distinctions between them are not important. With ants, as with other pests, avoiding getting their attention is the best way to keep them away from your pantry.

Risks of Pantry Pest Infestations

Nobody wants ants or mice in their pantry, but beyond a vague aversion, not many can name the actual risks these animals and insects pose. Pantry pests are most of all dangerous to human health by spreading disease as well as financially destructive through causing food waste.

Health Risks

According to the CDC, rodents spread over 35 diseases either through direct contact with humans or through carrying ticks, mites, or fleas. Most famously, rats spread the bubonic plague that killed between 30-60% of Europe’s population in the 14th century. While the Plague is no longer common, other rodent-carried diseases pose serious risks to human health. Perhaps the foremost of these are hantaviruses, a group of viruses that can cause a rare but serious disease known as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome (HPS). While symptoms can take up to 5 weeks to develop, they can include fever, muscle aches, fatigue, and in more serious cases trouble breathing. The viruses are primarily spread through certain rodent droppings, underscoring the importance of keeping a clean pantry.

Ants, moths, beetles, flies, cockroaches, and other insects prove problematic in their ability to carry viruses, bacteria, and fungi on their bodies and spread them to everything they touch. Think about it: wherever that cockroach has been, it has picked up microbes on those surfaces and brought them into your home. Perhaps don’t think about it too much.

Food Waste

It’s never a good idea to eat food once one of these pests have already had their meal. This means all the food implicated in an infestation is wasted, adding to the billions of pounds of food wasted across the globe each year. Exacerbating the sadness of throwing away your favorite snack is knowing that to enjoy it again, you’ll have to pay for another. The financial damage of food waste by pests is real.

Prevention Methods

The best way to get rid of pantry pests is to prevent their appearance in the first place. Once they’ve arrived, it’s time to call the experts (we’ll talk about that next). But to prevent the need of ever making that call, there are four main ways of cutting down the risk of large-scale pest infestation: proper food storage, pest repulsion, seasonal awareness, and early detection mechanisms.

Food Storage

This is perhaps the single most important set of actions to determine whether or not your pantry will experience an infestation. Here are some extremely useful tips:

  • Avoid leaving open food out for extended periods of time. Keep kitchen areas clean of crumbs and food scraps. 
  • Frequently dust and vacuum food storage areas
  • Think about how long your food has been sitting around, and try your best to prevent it. Shop for dry goods by purchasing for a short period of time–no longer than 6 months.
    • Use old food before using newly-purchased goods
    • Regularly check food for freshness
  • Store food in insect-proof containers. This means glass, heavy plastic, or metal. Many pests can easily chew through cardboard and thin plastic. 

Seasonal Awareness

A knowledge of which pests are most likely to arrive in which season can help you prepare and defend your pantry. While each climate is unique, you can think about seasonal pest activity in terms of warmer and colder weather. Warmer weather generally means more bugs: flies, roaches, and other insects are generally most active as things heat up. Prepare for this time of year by double-checking your food storage methods and doing your best to avoid attracting insects by keeping a tidy kitchen and pantry.

In the cooler winter months, rodents often seek the warmth provided by human dwellings and make their way inside. Preventing rodents in your pantry expands to preventing rodents from entering your home. Termiguard can help you develop and implement comprehensive rodent prevention plans by checking your home for any vulnerabilities that rodents might exploit. 

Detection Mechanisms

Educate yourself on ways you yourself can detect pests. Know how to spot urine, droppings, larvae, webs, and other signs of bugs and rodents. Beyond your own senses, there exist tools at your disposal to assist you in detecting critters before they become too much of a problem. Sticky traps, also known as glue boards, provide non-toxic ways to catch insects that may be passing by. Inspecting these traps can be useful in catching infestations early. Pheromone traps work similarly, but deploy chemicals used by bugs to communicate to lure specific species. Overall, knowing to look for specific signs of rodents and insects and enlisting tools to detect them is the best way to prevent a pantry full of thieves.

Already Infested? Call the Experts

Once an infestation happens, it requires specialized knowledge and tools to tackle the problem fully, otherwise, the culprits will keep coming back. If you see critters or the signs they leave behind, it’s time to call Termiguard for pest control that will take care of the issue for good and develop a new pest prevention strategy to keep your pantry clean in the years to come.