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Blackwelder column: Kitchen, pantry pests common in Rowan

SALISBURY — Cooperative Extension has received a number of inquiries concerning pests not associated with outdoor plants. Kitchen pests seem to be problem, with increased baking just around the corner during the holidays. Cooks are already complaining about insects in the kitchen around the cabinets or on the ceiling. After a bit of investigation, many discover bags or boxes of baked goods are infested with small insects.
The Indian meal moth is the most common pest found in stored grits, flour and other baking goods. There are many other pantry pests, but this is the one found most often in Rowan County. The larvae are pinkish-white in color with brownish head capsules.
The larvae spin silk webbing over the surface of their food. The adults are small moths with coppery-colored wings. As the larvae finish their development, they often crawl from their food source and onto walls and ceilings.
Signs of an infestation will be larvae or webbing on surface of infested material. The larvae may also be in crevices along walls, ceilings, or cupboards. A good indicator is adults flying around the room. There are a number of stored products pests can find their way into on our kitchen or pantry shelves, and it is often difficult, if not impossible, to tell when the item becomes infested. A sealed container does not mean that insects have not made their way inside anytime before packaging, during storage in a warehouse, retail store or even in your home. Sometimes, pests show up in places other than a pantry. Regardless of where you find them, the key to solving the problem is to locate the infestation’s source.
If you discover you have pantry pests, follow these tips:
• Discard infested materials. Items that do not appear to be infested, but you think may contain eggs that have not yet hatched can be placed in a freezer for four or five days.
• Thoroughly clean storage areas, particularly the corners and edges of shelves.
• Store uninfested items in sealable containers or in the refrigerator.
• Always use up your oldest materials before opening new packages.
Pesticide applications to storage areas are not necessary if you clean the area thoroughly. Visit the N.C. State University web site at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/pantry.htm for more information about stored food pests.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970, Facebook or online at www.rowanextension.com.

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