The Pantry Pest You May Be Overlooking

stored product pests
Rice infested with rice weevils

By Hope Bowman, Technical Specialist, Western Pest Services

Rodents, roaches and flies tend to be the three most dreaded pests by restaurateurs and diners alike. While these pests are infamous for good reason, it’s important not to overlook the threat of another less talked about pest – the stored product pest.

Food storage and preparation areas can attract a host of stored product pests. Also known as pantry pests, stored product pests include a variety of moths and beetles that can infest foods commonly found in restaurant kitchens or pantries such as grains, beans, spices, nuts, candies, dried fruits, meats and cheese.

If left unchecked and untreated, these pests can contaminate and damage valuable food supplies and even lead to kitchen closure. Some stored product pests can secrete chemicals that alter the taste of food, and if digested, some larvae can irritate the digestive tract or even cause an allergic reaction.

Since these pests reproduce quickly, it’s critical to address infestations in a timely manner.

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Most stored product pest problems result from accepting an infested product shipment. However, inadequate sanitation practices in a facility can cause them to breed and multiply – not to mention attract other pests.

To minimize the threat of stored product pests, work with a pest management professional to implement an Integrated Pest Management program that not only focuses on sanitation and maintenance to eliminate pest attractants, but inspection and monitoring to help identify issues as soon as possible.

Here’s what you need to know to help prevent stored product pest infestations in your restaurant.

Incoming Shipments

It’s important for foodservice professionals to know how to inspect incoming food shipments for stored product pests.

  • Inspect incoming food shipments thoroughly. Look for webbing, damaged packaging or ingredients, and live or dead pests and larvae.
  • Make sure suppliers have high pest management protocol standards and ask to see their third-party audit scores.
  • Check packaging dates to ensure freshness.
  • If you find signs of stored product pests, do not accept the shipment and notify the supplier immediately.

Storing Shipments

Once you’ve inspected the incoming shipments and stored them away, it’s important to continue to monitor for pests even if the shipments initially appeared to be pest-free.

  • Implement a first in, first out, or FIFO, system to rotate products. This helps keep products from sitting on a shelf for too long undisturbed and becoming vulnerable to stored product pests.
  • Keep products in hard plastic or metal containers for storage. Insects (and rodents) can get through plastic or paper.
  • Store products at least 18 inches away from any walls and six inches off the floor. This creates easier access for inspection and cleaning.
  • Consider keeping a sample of each product shipment in a sealed and labeled jar and monitor for larvae or adults that may appear.
  • When possible, store products in cool (below 65 degrees), dry, well ventilated places. Stored product pests typically can’t survive in temperatures below 65 degrees.
  • Use pheromone traps to monitor for stored product pests. Pheromone traps use a synthetic mimic of pheromones (chemicals insects use for communication) to lure them to a sticky trap. These sticky traps can be used to evaluate how much pest activity is present and if action is needed.

Addressing an Infestation

Stored product pests can multiply quickly, so the sooner you can identify and treat an infestation, the better. If you find evidence of larvae or insects, take the following steps.

  • Contact a pest management professional immediately who has experience with stored product pests. A professional can help properly identify the insect and cause of the infestation, and recommend appropriate treatment options.
  • Isolate any contaminated products immediately and quarantine the area until inspected.
  • Check adjacent inventory for signs of infestation also.
  • After the infested inventory has been removed or treated, vacuum cabinets and shelves and wash storage areas and shelves with soap and water.
  • Be on the lookout for any maintenance issues that may have contributed to the infestation. Look for cracks in walls or floors where pests can hide, or hard to see places around equipment.

Don’t let a stored product pest infestation negatively affect your restaurant. Inspect and monitor food shipments and work with a pest management professional to address any issues that occur as soon as possible. Detecting issues early on can help save a lot of trouble down the road

Hope Bowman is a Technical Specialist and Board-Certified Entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern markets. Learn more about Western by visiting