How to Eradicate Pantry Beetles: A Step-by-Step Guide

Brownish black insect in your bowl of food? You’ve got a pantry beetle problem! Don’t worry; here’s how to get rid of pantry beetles the easy way.

Imagine you are about to eat a bowl full of your favorite fried rice, and all of a sudden, you find a tiny beetle crawling around in it. Gross right?

Such situations can happen when your house is infested by pantry beetles. But what are these beetles? How can you identify them? And most importantly, how to get rid of them?

All of these questions will be answered in this article.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Beetle
Cigarette Beetle

What Are Pantry Beetles?

Pantry beetles are a big family of beetles that infest food sources in homes and in commercial settings.

Most of them are reddish-brown to black in color, tiny in size, and can easily destroy entire batches of stored food items in a short period of time.

Pantry beetles are categorized into different types according to their feeding behavior. Here are a few of them:

Internal feeders

These are the beetles that spend their entire larval stage inside a carved cavity in grains that they infest. Weevils are a great example of internal feeders.

These insects can be easily recognized by their long snouts with functional mouthparts attached to its tip. The granary weevils and rice weevils are two of the common ones.

External feeders

As the name suggests, these beetles spend their entire life outside the damaged grains.

But unfortunately, these beetles are equally notorious when it comes to feeding and damaging food products.

Cigarette beetles, warehouse beetles, cabinet beetles, and drugstore beetles are a few of the prime examples of external feeders.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Beetle

Secondary Feeders

These insects feed on the grains that have already been damaged by some other insects or are wet, moldy, and old.

The motive behind attacking damaged grains is to be able to consume fungus and mold growing on the grains. Mealworms and spider beetles are two great examples of this type.

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Scavengers

These pantry beetles do not damage whole grains; they only feast on the broken grains that are already damaged by the top two types.

These beetles also consume processed grain products. Red flour beetles and sawtoothed grain beetles are two examples of scavengers.

Difference Between Pantry Beetles and Pantry Moths

Pantry beetles and pantry moths are both troublesome creatures for stored food grains, but in order to keep them away from the grains, you must learn to differentiate between the two.

Pantry moths can fly, while most pantry beetles crawl. Also, if you notice closely, the moths usually fly in a zig-zag route.

While the adults in both species can be easily identified, it is tough to differentiate between the larvae.

The moth larva has several legs near the abdomen area, while the beetle larvae have either three pairs of legs or are legless.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Beetle

Ways To Control Pantry Beetles

To control the pantry beetles, you must keep an eye on the food that comes into your house.

Pantry beetles, like rice weevils, attack grains in the field before the harvest. After harvesting, the infected rice travels to storage houses, and from there, it gets to your nearby store.

When you buy the infected rice, the weevil makes its way to your home.

Therefore as new food comes into your house, you should ideally store it in the freezer for a while. This will kill the already present pests in the food.

You must also store food grains in airtight containers to the attack of these beetles. Putting a few bay leaves in airtight grain containers can also help.

Ways To Prevent Them

Simply killing these weevils is not enough; you must take adequate measures to make sure that they do not return to your house.

If you find weevils in any of your grain containers and it is heavily infested, get rid of the entire batch.

Once that is done, clean the container thoroughly with soap water and do the same for the container rack before storing new grains.

Another way to get rid of them is by heating the grains at around 140 degrees F for about 15 minutes.

Doing so will kill the weevils and other beetles present in them. Also, since these insects can reside in the crevices of cupboards and drawers, keep cleaning them regularly as well.

How To Get Rid Of Pantry Beetle

What To Do With Infested Food?

If you come across a few of these pantry bugs in your food grains, try to keep the batch open in sunlight for a while, this will help you to get rid of the beetles.

However, if the batch is heavily infested, get rid of the entire batch and clean the container and the surroundings, as mentioned in the above section.

Pantry Pest Traps (Pheromone Traps)

These are ideal for trapping different pantry pests like the Indian meal moth, confused flour beetle, and more.

Here the insects are attracted to the trap with the help of pheromones that attract them (using the same method the females use to attract the males).

The insects reach the pheromone source and get trapped by getting stuck on the sides of the trap. Once they are caught, you can easily get rid of them.

You should place these traps in the area where the infestation was previously noticed. Moreover, it is important to keep replacing the traps regularly so that you can catch as many bugs as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes pantry beetles?

Pantry beetles mostly enter homes via infested food sources that you purchase from the market. Therefore you must be extra careful with the food items that you bring home.
Don’t ever buy food items with signs of damage in the packaging. There is a high chance that they are infested.

How do I get rid of beetles permanently?

You can permanently get rid of beetles by using effective insect traps.
The pheromone trap is one effective tool that helps you to locate and eliminate pantry pests like Indianmeal moth, confused flour beetle, and more.
Once you have identified the area where these beetles live, use the rap to get rid of them. When that is done, clean the area thoroughly with soapy water.

How long does it take to get rid of pantry bugs?

You can get rid of pantry bugs in a short amount of time by either heating or freezing the infested grains for a while.
Doing so will kill the weevils present in the food source. If you are heating the food grain, make sure that you do so for around 15 minutes at around 140 degrees F temperature.

What are little beetles in my pantry?

The little beetles in your pantry are most probably pantry beetles. They are a big menace to stored grain foods and are highly capable of destroying them.
You need to take adequate measures to keep these insects away from your food grains. Storing the food grains in airtight containers is a good start.

Wrap Up

The existence of pantry beetles in your stored food grains or even dry pet food is bad news. These bugs are capable of destroying good batches of grains like rice and more.

Since they mostly enter homes through the food that they buy from the market, you should be extremely careful about what you bring to your house.

If they have already entered your home, use the suggestions given in the article to get rid of them. Thank you for reading the article.

Reader Emails

Pantry beetles are the scourge of kitchen cabinets and other places where food is stored all over the world. Many of our readers have struggled with them in the past.

Read on to find out more about real experiences and techniques used by our readers – hopefully, one of these methods might work for you as well!

Letter 1 – Pantry Beetles hitch a ride!!

 

Hi there:
I found your site today and have looked through it but couldn’t find anything that even remotely resembles the bugs I’m dealing with. I’m completely lost and desperate – please help! Here is my situation – I have bugs in my car! I live in an urban area of the hill country of central Texas. Several months ago (I’m thinking maybe in March?) I started noticing these bugs in my car. At first it was just a few, but they have become more plentiful. The bugs are a little larger than a flea, smaller than a tick. They are completely black. This is where I’m going to sound dumb – I’m not sure if they have wings or not. They have no visible wings, but I think they may lay against their body, if they do have them. I think I have seen a few of them fly, but only for a short stint. Most of them do not fly. I’m not sure if it’s possible that only some would have wings while the majority wouldn’t. They don’t move fast. I can pick them up with ease, they don’t run away. Lately I’ve also found their larvae. The larvae look like tiny meal worms. The picture of the beetle grub that you have on your website closely resembles this larvae, but these are much much smaller and a more "normal’ larvae color. I’m guessing that these bugs are some sort of beetle but I have no idea what type. Shortly before I started noticing them I found a lady bug in my car. A friend indicated that she had similar bugs in her house once and they turned out to be baby lady bugs, but I’m not really sure that she knows what she is talking about. The bugs are most abundant in the backseat but are also showing up on the floor boards, headliner, sun visors, etc. The bugs seemed to originate from the area where the back part of the back seat and the seat part of the back seat meet. My back seat doesn’t fold down so I have no way of getting in there to clean it out really well. I have tried vacuuming in this crevice many times but I can’t get rid of the bugs (although I have decreased their population). I’ve also tried spraying the area where they are most prevalent with bug spray. This also hasn’t been fruitful, I think in part due to the fact that I have no idea what I’m trying to kill. They seem to be attracted to "bread" type products like crackers (and crumbs) and they attach themselves to any fabric items that I leave in the car (jackets, sweaters, diaper bags, etc) but they seem to avoid my umbrella. I washed several items that had been in my car recently and found LIVING larvae still on the items after I removed them from the washing machine. I’m so confused and I have no idea what to do. I’ve searched the internet for information on these bugs but have come up empty. My next options are to bug-bomb my car or sell it. If you could help me figure out what I’m dealing with I’d really appreciate it. If you could give me some hints to get rid of them, I’d be forever grateful.
Thanks for your anticipated help with this desperate situation!
Infested in Texas
Cindy Mooneyham

Hi Cindy,
It does sound like you have pantry beetles munching on a stash of food under the seat. Since you are unable to clean up the problem, I think fumigation might be the answer. We don’t like to recommend that, but I can’t imagine what else to tell you.

Letter 2 – Pantry Beetles

 

bugs everywhere now
I’ve had these bugs at least a year. I thought they might die out with the winter but it was wishful thinking. They flock to my light fixtures in the kitchen and die there. They are all over my kitchen stove when I get up each morning . They are attracted to white surfaces. Now they are also in the bathroom, all over the bathtub, in the sink. Can you please tell me what these things are. They also get into the flour, cereals, herbs etc. Is there anything I can do to get rid of them? Thanks!
Lorna

Hi Lorna,
Keeping the pantry free of stored grain products and keeping your spices in tightly sealed containers should help you control your Pantry Beetles.

Letter 3 – Varied Carpet Beetle larva

 

Pantry Beetles?
I have been finding these around the house occasionally. But today I found 5 in one unopened package and one in another unopened package of saltine crackers. There were some very tiny cracks at the corner of the packages where crackers contacted though much smaller than these bugs. Can you tell me what they are and if they could have came in the packages or if they may have entered through the tiny cracks. They range in size from less than 1/8″ to almost 1/4″.
Thanks Merle

Yes Merle, you have pantry beetles. It is possible to buy pre-infested food at the market, which is a good reason to check the expiration date. They will quickly spread to other stored foods in your pantry.

Update:  July 20, 2019
We just received a comment for the scientific name of this larva.  It appears to be a Varied Carpet Beetle larva, Anthrenus verbasci, which is pictured on BugGuide.

Letter 4 – Unknown Pantry Beetle

 

Kitchen annoyance
Location: Southwestern Ontario
November 7, 2010 10:10 pm
Hello,
These bugs pop up every once in a while in my kitchen.
I lived in a different house where we had a complete infestation of them. They were in the sugar, flour, SALT, really just everything. We had to throw it ALL out and completely bleached our kitchen and cupboards – and now keep EVERYTHING sealed.
In our new place, I haven’t found them anywhere near the food. In fact, when I do find them, it’s only one at a time, and they are at the other end of the kitchen from where the food is stored.
Could you tell me what type of bug I’m dealing with? It doesn’t really look like anything I’ve found information about on the internet…
Signature: Kimbah

Unknown Pantry Beetle

Dear Kimbah,
There are many different Pantry Pests from many different beetle families that infest stored foods.  Though the antennae do not look right, your beetles look most like the Grain Beetles in the genus
Oryzaephilus which are well represented on our site under Pantry Beetles as well as on BugGuide.

Unknown Pantry Beetle

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Pantry Beetle Larvae

 

Help Please!!
Hi,
I have been finding these bugs in my pantry (mostly in dry pasta and flour) and they must relocate!!!! I have found one in an empty bowl cupboard and one in the soap dish in the bathroom. I find only one at a time (not in groups), sometimes live and some dried up or skins. The image is scanned and enlarged about 100 times; actual size is about the size of a grain of rice.
Thank-you so very much!!!
Amy
Canada

Hi Amy,
You have Dermestid Pantry Beetle Larvae, a common household pest that infest stored grain products. The best remedy is to toss out all perishables in the pantry and stock anew, keeping only what you can use in a short period of time.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

20 thoughts on “How to Eradicate Pantry Beetles: A Step-by-Step Guide”

  1. I have the same problem and they do fly and have a shell and they seem to come out more wen is hot i had that problem last year and i bomb the car and nothing it didnt help now this year 5/2013 they started coming out again and i don’t know wat to do i want to get rid of them

    Reply
  2. I am having same problem with used car purchased last June. Did not start seeing the bugs until weather temp begin reaching 85 plus. We have tried all the things Cindy tried. They are coming from somewhere in back seat…After all the different bug sprays and vacuuming they disappeared for a while. Now temp up to 90 plus they have start appearing again but not as many as before. YET!!! We are baffled as what kind of bug and how to get rid of. Our next step is exterminator. I hope that works for us!

    Reply
  3. Hi,

    This is unbelievable! I recently moved to Texas and have had my car over 3 years with no problem. It sounds like I have the same bugs… they are in the crevice of the back seat. I only noticed them after a recent trip to South Padre, I took my car to be clean and the next day discovered the worms. I have tried bug spray, insect repellent etc., to no avail. Fumigating the car seems a bit extreme.

    Reply
  4. Hi,

    This is unbelievable! I recently moved to Texas and have had my car over 3 years with no problem. It sounds like I have the same bugs… they are in the crevice of the back seat. I only noticed them after a recent trip to South Padre, I took my car to be clean and the next day discovered the worms. I have tried bug spray, insect repellent etc., to no avail. Fumigating the car seems a bit extreme.

    Reply
  5. I have these bugs get onto my counter all day long. During the summer I get really bad carpet beetles in my window seal due to sage brush and dirt across the street. Now I have the larva and can’t get rid of it. Please help! It bad that I don’t want anything from my kitchen.

    Reply
    • Sorry, we don’t provide extermination advice. You might want to try vacuuming more frequently to control the larvae.

      Reply
  6. I should vacuum my kitchen. That makes no since. They are coming from my window seal it’s like I have a best in my wall

    Reply
    • The adult beetles are congregating in the window sills since they want to get outside. The larvae need to be controlled and they are feeding on organic materials in your home. Adults feed on pollen.

      Reply
  7. We have had the flour beetles in our cars, two cars. The first one we tried everything except did not take it to a professional, tried at home sprays and getting it cleaned and shampooed. This time we are going to a professional. They are flour beetles, no idea why they are in the car but there are some crumbs, not a huge amount though…

    Reply
  8. I have the same exact issue & have for about 2yrs now!!!! In the winter there is absolutely no sign of them, but come summer all h*** breaks loose!!! Please help, I have 3 young children, 2 are babies that have to sit in my backseat & I have no idea of what to do. Desperate is an understatement!!

    Reply
  9. If they are multiplying chances are you have larvae living there.. Helped a sibling who had very tiny black sesame seed like bugs in back seat floor board. It was only a few each day same spot until one day there were 15-20 in front and back. We cleaned seats and found 2 living larvae and burned them. I was grossed out but something told me to lift up back seat so I did. What did I find??? Yuck.. HUNDREDS of mostly dried up larvae but no telling how long they were living there. She didnt notice bugs until 2 weeks ago. There were also orange peels, fruit snacks and cookie crumbs that were under there. So we vacuumed it all out and then put Diatomaceous Earth all over and letting it sit for a week since she is out of state. Waiting to see results when she gets back.

    Reply
    • Has she returned? It sounds like what is going on in my car and it is freaking me out. I noticed these little black bugs but only in summer(philadelphia, pa)… But last week i saw this huge grey looking beetle crawling up my sons car seat and it freaked me out i lifted a flannel blanket i had on the back seat covering little junk well there were larvae very small cream colored looking caterpillar like larvae swirling around. I have had the car vacuumed even the trunk as they look to be comin from the trunk into my back seat. Days later i see living larvae agaim i look at my spare tire really good… looks like shavings and dead larvae in the tire. I sprayed bug spray i know i need to lift up the tire. Ugh these little larvae and black bugs keep crawling into my back seat looks like there is food where the seatbelts are. My son has been havin spots on his head which looks like ring worm we’ve been trying to figure out what it is ugh. Maybe its whatever ia in my car. I felt like things were biting me inside of my clothes ugh. My biggest fear is tranferring them to others.

      Reply
  10. I have had this problem in my car and home but one thing I have that no one has mentioned is like a mist that comes from top of wall or too if wind shield this has been going on for about 1month I have them buried in my skin and they are Having my legs feel numb I hear people say about experience s from hospital so I dare not go..I am all alone and so tired I am thinkin of getting rid of car.my car is totally infested .I never cook or eat at home cause the bugs.My management thinks I have a screw loose cause they don’t see them and try and avoid me when call.Has any one got rid of bugs in car yet

    Reply
  11. Do these creatures bite? We found two live bugs on the rails of the bed when we turned the mattress and looked to see what had been biting us.

    Reply
  12. We have them as well in Phoenix they are an infestation the news says. They will be everywhere and vaccuming doesn’t get rid of them but does help at that moment.. They are harmless but very annoying and the hairy worms leave an irritation on your skin. Best bet abc 15 news says is call a exterminator and have them kill them. Other then that make sure no food is on the ground or your clothes they will chew them and you’ll have a big black crawling blob

    Reply

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