Did you know that insects destroy an estimated 20% of the world's grain crop production every year ? Sneaky stored product pests continually find ways to infiltrate inventory at all points in the supply chain from storage to transport to processing to distribution and once they're there, getting rid of them can be a challenge. Here's what you need to know about stored product pests.
What is a Stored Product Pest?
Also known as pantry pests, stored product pests (SPP ) can have widespread infestations with more than one source. They can attack and contaminate many different types of food items, including whole and processed grains and spices. The eggs and larvae may go undetected in storage containers and packages for a long time. Many are classified according to the product they infest and can feed on multiple food types. Here are the major categories of stored products pests:
Beetles & Weevils
There are over 400,000 different species of beetles in the world but only a few hundred are considered to pose a significant pest problem. To identify the type of pest you're dealing with, pay attention to the color, body shape, and the type of stored product they are attracted to.
- Cigarette beetle: About one-eighth of an inch and reddish yellow or reddish brown. They lay eggs inside processed foods and tobacco products and will feed on anything from flour and seeds to spices and raisins.
- Dried fruit beetle: One-eighth of an inch and brown with yellow spots. They target ripe, fermenting, and dried fruit, especially figs, dates, and raisins.
- Larder beetle: A quarter of an inch and dark brown to black with a pale yellow six-spotted band across the front half. They feed on animal protein and will attack ham, bacon, meats, cheese, stored tobacco, and dried fish.
- Red and Confused flour beetle: One-eighth of an inch and reddish brown. Red beetles and confused flour beetles both feed on grains but they must wait for other insects to damage whole grain kernels first.
- Weevils: Rice, maize and wheat weevils have slight differences but are usually one-eighth of an inch and black, brown, or reddish-brown with a long snout. They attack whole grains such as wheat, rice and pasta and corn, barley, oats, rye, and buckwheat.
- Sawtoothed & Merchant grain beetle: One-tenth of an inch and brown to dark brown. They are found in foods that are high in oils and fats such as peanuts or birdseed but can also attack rice, cereals, cake mixes, chocolate, and pastas. They are highly mobile and can easily spread to packages near the original infestation.
There are several different species of moths attracted to stored products. Adults eat liquid food, but larvae can chew through some types of packaging and eat solid foods. Once they reach adulthood and can fly, moths can travel easily to lay eggs in different food sources and spread the infestation. Most stored product moths feed on anything from chocolate, dried fruit and spices to birdseed and pet food.
Common moth species include:
- Mediterranean flour moths: Up to a full wingspan of three-quarters of an inch and grey with black zigzag markings on the wings. Caterpillars feed on grain products, especially flour, and are often found in bakeries and warehouses.
- Indian meal moth: Around a quarter of an inch and range from reddish brown to dark grey. Also known as flour moths and grain moths, these moths target plant-based foods like cereal, soup mixes, bread, rice, spices, and pasta.
Signs of Stored Product Pests
Like the name implies, a stored product pest target is attracted to businesses that keep large quantities of food on hand such as restaurants, bars, hotels, food processing facilities and grocery stores. When there are large quantities of stored products, it's much easier for SPPs to remain hidden and cause damage undetected.
Even when you are extra vigilant, stored product pests can still become a problem. Watch for these signs of a stored product insect infestation:
- Signs of damage to product packaging and incoming shipments
- Live or dead insects in food storage areas, windowsills, beams, food processing machinery, food products and packaging
- Food spillages containing live insects, larvae, pupae, or silken webbing
So how do you protect your business from stored product pests when they can be so hard to control? Conduct regular inspections of new and existing inventory, follow proper food storage procedures using first in, first out (FIFO) system of stock rotation, and stay on top of sanitation and waste disposal. General repair and maintenance and overall pest control services can also help eliminate other types of pests that could increase the chances of stored product pests getting in.
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