Stored product pests can be split into those than attack stored whole cereals and grains, and those that attach processed grains, cereals and other dried food. However, many species will attack both whole grains and a wide range of dried foods. There are a wide range of beetle pests, a few moth pests and a mite, that causes damage to stored grains and food.
In most cases it is the larval stage that causes most of the damage, although in some of the beetle species they also feed or cause damage to whole grains when they lay their eggs.
The real costs of stored product pests are significant:
Although they physically damage the food material, their presence is a visible contamination, their body parts and faeces cause allergic reaction and fungal contaminants are often introduced by their activity. They are considered the main pest problem for many food handing and processing businesses.
In addition to the individual species pages above, here’s a great article to help with identifying 8 of the key stored product beetles.
Both beetles and moths go through complete metamorphosis – hatching from an egg, they go through several larval stages before pupating into an adult.
Some lay their eggs near the food, some on the food and some, like the rice weevil, actually bore into grains and lay their eggs inside the food.
The length of the life-cycle depends on the species and is quicker in warmer temperatures. Under optimal conditions, the life-cycle can be completed in as little as 1-2 months, which means populations can get quickly out of control.
Stored product pests are a challenging pest, not only because they will attack a wide range of whole, grains, cereals and processed dry foods, but because of their ability to get inside packets and containers, even after processing.
The larvae of some species (and occasionally the adults) are capable of chewing through plastic bags and the larvae are sometime small enough to crawl around the thread of close screw top containers.
Due to their small size their presence can be hard to detect, until it’s too late and a significant population has developed. Often the adult and larvae will hide within the food source (they don’t like light), sometimes they feed within the grain itself and sometime the larvae protect themselves within webbing which gets coated by the surrounding food material.
Apart from whole grains and cereals, stored product pests will eat a wide range of dry foods including flour, breakfast cereals, rice, biscuits, pasta, spices, nuts, drinking chocolate, coffee, tobacco, dry petfood and even rodent bait.
Stored product pest not only physically damage the food, but their physical presence contaminates the food – bodies, shed skins and faeces.
Not only is physical contamination obviously undesirable in food, they contain allergens that can cause allergic reactions.
In addition, their presence and feeding habits can introduce fungi which further damage and contaminate the food.
Preventing a stored product pest infestation is all about inspection and monitoring
Sticky traps with a pheromone attractant (which are available at supermarkets and hardware stores) are useful for monitoring and eliminating adult pantry moths.
If you detect a stored product pest infestation, it is important to inspect all your stored dried foods and seal infested foods in a bag before throwing into the outside bin.
All lot of research focuses on the commercial management of stored product pests. Recent research has looked using lasers to detect stored product pests.
In the residential situation, a pest professional will spend time to find the source of the infestation and then ask you to throw out all infested material.
Once this is done, there isn’t always the need to carry out a spray treatment, but sometimes it makes sense to carry out a residual spray treatment to surfaces in the food storage areas.
Depending on the pest and situation, the pest manager may also suggest you install some monitoring traps so you can detect any new intruders before they can infest your foods.
In commercial situations, control of stored product pests is more complicated. The standard process for dealing with stored product pests:
Treatment may include fumigation of products or large areas and/or treatment of surfaces. There is a lot of research in looking for new fumigants, especially in the use of natural compounds as fumigants, which have a increased safety profile. The use of pheromones systems to monitor and control populations can also be considered. Here’s a bit of an explanation how pheromones can be used in managing stored product pests.
Prevention of stored product pests in commercial situations needs an ongoing management plan. Here is some more information on the use of monitoring systems for stored product beetles.