By Marie Knox, PCO Technical Service Manager
Stored product pests offer several challenges for pest management professionals (PMPs). If they’re in a home, they’re generally brought in with the groceries — something the homeowner was unaware of and didn’t bargain for.
Many times, when a homeowner reports small moths on the ceiling in their kitchen or pantry areas, this is usually a case of an Indianmeal moth (IMM) infestation. Other signs of a stored product pest infestation include insects and/or webs in the food, even unopened packaged items. They’re the prize inside the cereal box that nobody wants!
Regardless of which stored product or pantry pest you may be dealing with, management is generally comprised of sanitation and exclusion. Eliminating and excluding the pest quickly are key elements in its control. If a homeowner discovers a population, it is best to remove and discard the infested food items immediately (preferably in an outdoor/off-site garbage can). If a homeowner does not want to throw the infested items out, he or she can opt for a simple heating or freezing treatment of the items. Freezing an infested food item for about four days should kill all life stages of most stored product pests. Customers need to realize, though, that it doesn’t make the insects disappear; it just kills them. Their little bodies will still be in the food items.
Inspection and exclusion are also vital in keeping infestations to a minimum. Communicate with the homeowner that food items (especially pantry food items) brought home from the store should be inspected for any telltale signs like insects or webbing before being placed in the pantry. It is also advisable to put susceptible pantry items in sealed containers. This includes dog food and birdseed; both are often-overlooked sites for infestation. Any meal or flour should be kept in the refrigerator if at all possible. If not, a sealed container will do as a minimum precaution.
Monitoring is also a component of treatment, especially to see whether sanitation and elimination have quelled the current infestation. Monitoring can be accomplished with pheromone sticky traps. In some cases of low-level infestations, traps can be used for control as well.
Lastly, communication is key in helping your customers understand the what, where, how and whys related to their pest issues. Demystifying the process can get your homeowner involved as part of the solution — and hopefully, reduce the number of callbacks in the future.