Pest infestations have a lot of distressing consequences, but the main one that bothers most people is the possibility of food tampering. Pests have a mission when they infiltrate a home: get food. Whether that food turns out to be some crumbs under the dinner table or a loaf of bread in the pantry, it’s all good for them.
No one wants to think about sharing their food with a dirty pest. It’s unsanitary, unhealthy, and just plain gross. These are the ways common pest infestations affect food and what you can do to stop them.
The Indian meal moth, also known as the “pantry moth,” is the most common food infester in Midwestern homes. Adult moths don’t actually feed on food, but they lay eggs on and in food. When the eggs hatch, the larvae feed on stored food until reaching the pupae stage. Look for silk webbing on the food in your pantry, particularly on bread, cereals, flour, pasta, or grains. Moth-infested food is inedible, unless you like the taste of larvae and webbing.
Along with their food source, adult moths look for dark, moist places to lay eggs. Make sure the grains you store in your pantry are tightly sealed in airtight, hard plastic containers. For instance, if you have a moth problem, consider taking cereal out of the box it comes in and seal it in a plastic container. Look for sources of moisture in your kitchen or pantry and control them so they can’t create the right environment for moths. If you keep having a problem, consider investing in a dehumidifier.
Did you know that mice never stop teething? Their teeth grow throughout their lives, so they need to keep munching no matter what. And rats…rats will feed on just about anything they can get their snouts on. That includes dry foods like grains and preserved fruits, as well as anything you’re keeping in cabinets or your fridge. Rodents don’t discriminate, which is part of the reason why they’re so dirty. Mice that feed on your bread or fruit leave behind their muddy footprints, shed fur, dirty saliva, and even their droppings. That doesn’t sound appetizing!
The big thing that brings rodents into a home are baked goods. Leaving muffins, cakes, or cookies out on the counter may be convenient, but that lovely smell isn’t just attracting your housemates. Rodents also love to chow down on crumbs left behind after meals or bake-offs. Be sure to thoroughly scrub all surfaces that come into contact with food. Do the dishes immediately after meal time, and take out the garbage every night. Vacuum or mop thoroughly and frequently. Without an attractive smell to draw them in, rodents should leave you alone.
You’d think the name kind of gives this one away, huh? Well, you’re partially right. Fruit flies are quite attracted to fresh produce, but they’re attracted to wine, beer, and liquor too. Fruit flies love ripe fruit, and alcohol is basically very ripe fruit. The little flies don’t need much to attract them, either. A drop or two here and there is more than enough, so make sure that cork is tight and you’re thoroughly rinsing out empty bottles and cans.
Fruit flies aren’t only attracted to ripe fruit for feeding, either. Like moths, they lay eggs on fruit so their offspring have something to feed on. Fruit flies can lay eggs on anything with any sort of moist film, and they lay a lot of them. A single fruit fly can lay up to 500 eggs! These buggers can’t really hurt anything, but they’re annoying, and we’re guessing you probably don’t want to eat their eggs anyway. Keep fresh produce in tight grocery bags inside your refrigerator, preferably in a specialized, temperature-controlled compartment. When produce starts to get overripe, just throw it out--in your outdoor dumpster.
If you’ve owned a home for any length of time, you’re probably particularly aware of this nuisance. Ants love to get into kitchens, and it seems like they can come right out of the woodwork--because they often can! Ants come into homes looking for food they can transport back to their colonies. The easier that food is to access and transport, the better it’ll work for them. That’s why ants love bread crumbs, leftovers, and cluttered countertops.
Ants don’t really ruin food, but you’re probably not thrilled about the idea of eating an ant’s play ground. Keeping ants away all comes down to disciplined kitchen cleaning. Scrub countertops and tables after every meal, never keep food out in the open, vacuum up crumbs, put dishes away, take out the garbage every night. Ants are relentless when it comes to finding food, but even they can’t find food that just isn’t there.
The bottom line is: even if pests can’t ruin your food, per se, you don’t want them all up in it. That’s nasty. Following good, basic preventative tips like these will help keep all kinds of pests out of your home, not just the ones we’ve covered here.
And remember, of course, that if you do end up with a pantry infestation, we’re the service to call. We’ve got the experience, the techniques, and the expertise to clear those pests out in time for dinner.