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Guide to Common Insects and Bugs Found in Kitchens
This article describes some of the most common kitchen bugs and insects. Not all of them are reason for concern, but a few are serious pests that may require the services of an exterminator.
How to use this guide: Get a good look at the bug in your kitchen that you're trying to identify. You may want to take a quick picture so you can check the features, like color and number of legs. Scroll down and see which of these kitchen insects most closely matches your bug.
Identification Chart for Insects Found in Kitchens
Small, tan and black moths
Larvae infest stored grain
Stored Grain Beetle
Small brown beetles
Larvae infest stored grain
Rounded, multi-colored, very small
Larvae attack wool and other organic fibers
Tiny black flies, occur in swarms
Found near drains, where larvae live
Small black or brown ants
Attracted to spills and sweet substances
Pale brown flies; quick-flying
Hover around rotting fruit, esp bananas
Shiny, shaped like a fish
Nocturnal; feed on organic matter
Leathery brown wings, long legs
Feed on anything; common in kitchens
Two claws and a stinger on tail
May be found hiding in kitchens, esp in the South
You may see these little moths flying through the air in your house, especially near the kitchen. A meal moth infestation is irritating but usually not catastrophic, since they occur in low numbers and only infest limited amounts of stored food. However it can be downright disturbing to open up a canister of flour and discover the weird, webby nests that the caterpillars construct. They live communally in these webs, feeding on stored flour and meal, before pupating and hatching out as the adult moth.
The only good way to deal with a meal moth infestation is also the most drastic: meal moths have to be dealt with by throwing away all of the infested flour or meal. If you don't, hidden larvae and eggs may remain, and your problem will start all over again. Discard all potential food sources, buy new, and store it in air-tight containers.
Stored grain beetles, also known as larder beetles, are essentially the beetle version of clothes and meal moths (above). Like moths that feed on wool and stored grains, it is the larvae that do the damage, since the adults feed little if at all. You may or may not see actual beetles in your kitchen, but if you do you can be sure that there's an infestation somewhere.
To clear out stored grain pests in your kitchen, you'll need to throw away all of your flower, corn meal, grains, and probably dried beans. Buy new and store it in air-tight containers. The pests will be unlikely to return to your kitchen, since their food souce is now out of reach.
You may or may not have carpet in your kitchen – though most of us don't – but you may still find carpet beetles there. These small, rounded beetles are similar to stored grain beetles, except they feed on wool and other natural fibers. Like other pests of this kind, the adult doesn't cause the damage – it's the larvae, pale brown, bristly little caterpillar-like worms that have a voracious appetite.
While you're on the lookout for larder beetles, keep in mind the difference between the two; throwing out your grain if you find a carpet beetle is an unnecessary waste!
Like meal moths, clothes moths do not feed as adults. It's the caterpillars that cause all the damage.
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Phorid flies are little black flies that live and multiply in drains. They are most commonly occur in basements, but can be found in kitchens, particularly in seldom-used drains when the conditions are right. Damp, unsanitary conditions are ideal for little black phorid flies to establish a colony and start reproducing.The larvae live and feed in drains and pipes, so the best way to attack a phorid fly infestation is by cleaning up the drain and applying vinegar or another killing agent. Insecticides that contain Permethrin are especially effective.
Sugar Ants and Others
For the purposes of this guide, I'm clumping together a number of different ant species under the general rubric of sugar ants. These ants seek sweet food sources, although they will gather at any source of nutrition that suits them. There are significant differences between them, but for the typical homeowner those differences will be fairly meaningless.
If you have ants in your house, whether they are technically sugar ants, odorous house ants, Argentine ants, or pavement ants, the solution is basically the same: a number of affordable, inconspicuous ant traps, placed around your kitchen, will noticeably diminish the number of ants you see around your kitchen.
Anyone with a kitchen will recognize the ever-present fruit fly. These small, frustratingly quick flies tend to become more of an issue as the summer wears on; in my kitchen, they are a hovering swarm by mid-August.
Fruit flies lay eggs on bananas and other fresh fruit; the eggs hatch into tiny maggots that bore into the fruit and feed and grow for a week or so; after that they make a tough little cocoon, and hatch into the adult fly soon after. This lightning-fast reproduction schedule is one reason that their numbers explode in late summer and fall.
You can make a simple and effect fruit fly trap by making a paper cone (a cone coffee filter is ideal) with a small hole in the bottom. Drop a piece of banana or a little red wine into the bottom of a jar, securely tape the cone pointy side down on the top of the jar, and put it on your counter.
In a few days, you'll have a swarm of fruit flies in the jar. Simply put the whole thing in the freezer for a few hours to kill the flies; take it out and put it back on your counter. You can repeat this process indefinitely.
An Effective, Simple Fruit Fly Trap
You can make a simple and effect fruit fly trap by making a paper cone (a cone coffee filter is ideal) with a small hole in the bottom.
Drop a piece of banana or a little red wine into the bottom of a jar, securely tape the cone pointy side down on the top of the jar, and put it on your counter.
This prehistoric-looking animal lives in your pipes and walls. If you ever see one at all, it is probably in your sink where it has become trapped during its midnight ramblings. Wash it down the drain if you will, but it will almost certainly survive.
Silverfish are an essential part of your home's all-night housekeeping crew along with centipedes. They consume all of the dead insects and other organic debris that drifts down to the basement and lowest levels of your house. Even though they may creep you out a little, they're actually on your side.
Interestingly, the silverfish is an insect, even though it looks nothing like the butterflies in your garden.
There are many species of cockroach, but the German cockroach is one of the "bad ones" that can become a major pest in your kitchen. Most of us already know a cockroach when we see one: the German cockroach is typical, with brown with long legs and leathery wing covers.
Cockroaches are incredibly successful animals that have been around for millions of years longer than our species has. There's a reason for that—they can live anywhere, eat anything, and survive any catastrophe. Roaches hide from light and spend their time reproducing. If you see one, you likely have hundreds or even thousands. Then it's time to call the exterminator, because there's really no other way to clear out an infestation.
One From Left Field: Scorpions
Everyone knows what scorpions look like, but not many people have actually encountered one. I met my first scorpion in Panama, when it dropped from the thatched ceiling of the kitchen where I was chopping onions. So even if scorpions aren't technically either limited to kitchens or insects, I chose to include them in this guide.
This is partly because they are so effective at hiding during the day. At night, scorpions come out to prowl the floors and counter tops of your home looking for roaches, crickets, and other small insects. Their sting is painful, similar to a wasp sting, but they mainly use it to kill the bugs that prowl around your house. So, yes, scorpions are beneficial!
The following resources were consulted for this guide:
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.