Bugs finding their way inside my dry foods
September 4, 2009
Dear Bugman,
These are little (1 to 1.5 mm in length) black bugs that are beginning to appear everywhere in my apartment. Inside a box of oatmeal there were hundreds. Inside bags of rice, flour and sliced almonds, again, they appear. I’ve had to waste a lot of food recently because they keep finding their way overall.
In of the pictures attached, you see one that crawled inside a photo frame and died because he was trapped between the glass and the picture. Crazy.
I live in Dubai, UAE, and I suspect these are some sort of desert bug. Also, there is high humidity here, as we live in front of the sea.
Please advice: are these disease-carrying critters? How do I get rid of them?
You can see their size relative to the grains of rice on the pic attached.
Thank you!
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Grain Beetles

Grain Beetles

Dear Fran,
You have Grain Beetles in the genus Oryzaephilus, either the Saw-Toothed Grain Beetle or the Merchant Grain Beetle.  In your case, we don’t believe exact species identification is an issue since both species have similar habits.  The Grain Beetles are lumped together with other stored food pests and are collectively called Pantry Beetles.  According to Charles Hogue in his book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:  “Several species of small beetles are counterparts to the pantry moths in that they infest dried food products.  Though the larvae rarely consume an appreciable quantity of the food, their presence alone is sufficient to render it unpalatable.  Pantry beetles are likely to be found in all kinds of dry organic material used by people as food.  They may infest such common foods as dry breakfast cereal, rice, oats, wheat, peas, candy, spices, dried fruit, noodles, and spaghetti, nuts, pet food, and beans as well as materials not usually thought of as food, including tobacco, red pepper, drugs, herbs, and even certain types of upholstery stuffing.”  We would add dried mushrooms to Hogue’s relatively comprehensive list of foods.  Later Hogue writes:  “The appearance of these pests in a tightly sealed package of dried food is a source of wonder to housekeepers.  Entry is commonly by way of minute imperfections in the seal, but some species may bore through paper and cardboard containers to get at the contents.  In other cases, infestations occur when the foods are stored in bulk in railroad cars, warehouses, and at other stops along the processing line.”  This means you may have introduced your current infestation by purchasing food that was already infested.  Our best advice is to clear out your pantry in its entirety and begin anew.  Do not store dried foods for lengthy periods of time and use containers with tight seals.  Some species of Pantry Beetles, according to Hogue:  “act as intermediate hosts and vectors of the human tapeworms Hymenolepis nana and H. diminuta.  People acquire infections by ingesting beetles containing the larval (or cysticercoid) stages of the tapeworm, which will often remain viable in infested corn meal and wheat flour that is undercooked.”

Grain Beetle

Grain Beetle

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4 Responses to Grain Beetles

  1. Chyrese says:

    How do you get rid of grain beetles

  2. Misagp says:

    My husband wrote to me today, “One of the black bugs hitched a ride to work in my lunch bag today, and I found him after he had survived 2 minutes in the microwave. I opened the door and he was walking around on the glass plate. They may be harder to get rid of than we think.”
    We are moving to a new house and hoped to leave them all behind, but I’m sure some will come with us. What can be done to really be rid of these pantry beetles? I know you don’t advise extermination, but they’re happy to eat crumbs or invisible stuff on toys. Then again, I don’t want to cover everything I own with pesticides either.

  3. Jean Kelly says:

    Hi there, I have something like this. Small, dark brown reddish oval bugs that appear on floors, walls and ceiling at the top of my stairs, bedroom and upstairs loo. They’re smooth and a single colour. They have wings but I’ve never seen them fly.
    Can you help?

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