Everything You Need to Know to Get Rid of (and Prevent!) Pantry Bugs

updated May 26, 2020
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Credit: Jill Chen/Stocksy

I don’t want to be an alarmist or anything, but there are a few different types of bugs that could be in your pantry at any given time. (And don’t forget about mice!) One of the most common? Grain beetles, which resemble a reddish-brown alfalfa seed that can crawl around or even fly.

I’ve had them. The first time I started noticing them, we thought they might be flying in from outside. We weren’t worried about our food supply; after all, we keep our grains in zip-top bags and corral small ones in sealed plastic containers.

Eventually, though, the bugs seemed to multiply. We noticed them flying around the kitchen and spotted a few on the ceiling. Time to act. We asked the exterminator who stops by our building once a month to come over, and he immediately deduced that we had grain beetles.

What Are Grain Beetles?

From their name, you might imagine that these tiny beetles like to live in containers of flour, cereal, or rice, and you’d be right. There are two main types of grain beetles: merchant grain beetles, which fly, and sawtoothed grain beetles, which don’t. These guys are also similar to another pantry pest, weevils, which are also beetles.

Confused? Don’t be: Whether you have merchant or sawtoothed beetles or weevils, getting rid of them is basically the same.

How to Get Rid of Grain Beetles

So, you’ve got them. Now how to get rid of them? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Here’s what you need to do.

  1. Eliminate infested foods: Our exterminator told us to clean out our cabinets, inspect flour and rice, where grain beetles like to nest, and toss any old, questionable food. (All of our bags of rice, oats, and flour seemed perfectly fine — until we spotted a half-sealed box of Bisquick on the top shelf. Bullseye! It, along with an box of cornstarch, were the party palaces for the grain beetles.)
  2. Don’t forget to check your spices: We have a friend who had a grain beetle episode at the same time, and her exterminator immediately zoned in on her spices. He said old spices are an often overlooked spot where grain beetles like to flourish. They found a real zoo underneath her oregano, paprika, cumin. Yet another reason to toss old spices that have lost their zing.
  3. Clear and clean cabinets: Next, we removed everything from the cabinets, vacuumed, and wiped them down with a soapy sponge. Vinegar also works — or a diluted bleach solution. Our exterminator also squirted a bit of insecticide in the corners of the cabinets.
  4. Make sure everything is stored properly: We were feeling pretty smug about our grain storage, but clearly not everything was appropriately tucked away. Airtight bags and containers are one way to go — or you can also store your grains in the freezer!

Have you dealt with grain beetles in the past? Any tips?