Natural Pest Control in the Pantry

Discovering pests in your pantry may well bother you but should not surprise you as these critters enjoy eating the same foods we do. Our kitchens are warm, provide food water and shelter so are a natural haven and breeding ground for several common pests, including mice, cockroaches, ants, weevils, beetles and meal moths.


Store all dried foods in pest-proof containers preferably tight fitting screw top glass or metal containers, this will prevent escape or entry of insects. Ideally do this as soon as you bring a susceptible product home like rice, grains, cereals, flour and nuts. It is best to store these high risk products in a cool dark place. Always use older food products from your pantry before new ones. If you discover any of these pests in your pantry, it is important to identify the pest and locate the source as soon as possible.

Give your cupboard and kitchen a big clean out, wipe all the shelves cupboard doors and bench tops with warm soapy water, vacuum out cupboards paying particular attention to cracks and corners then remember to throw away your vacuum cleaner bag to prevent re-infestation. Check the toaster, microwave and stove for any crumbs and clean them away if present. Mice are known to collect a food supply, often dry pet food and hoard them in walls, behind cupboards or appliances which can make locating an infestation difficult at times.

Closely examine all food products in your pantry. These common pests can get into cardboard, paper and plastic wrapping so examine all items thoroughly and implement some simple, natural pest control measures. Sadly traps or baits are the best way to get rid of rodents if you want them out. If you find a little ant trail, firstly clean the kitchen and try to find the product they are eating, usually the sweetest product in your pantry. By removing the food source, hopefully the ants will relocate; if this does not solve your ant problem, try 'Ant-Rid'. Not exactly non-toxic as it kills the ants, but a simple and effective treatment that targets the queen ant and the nest, has no impact on your pantry products and is environmentally considerate. Ant-Rid contains honey to attract the ant and borax which the worker ants take back to the nest and passes onto other ants before dying. Non-toxic treatment methods for moths, weevils and tiny beetles that can be done at home includes placing the infested product in the freezer for 5-7 days or if appropriate heated to 60oC in the oven for 1 hour.

Pantry Moth Traps are very effective in detecting an Indian Meal Moth infestation, are safe to use around food and freely available in supermarkets and health food stores. They work by emitting a synthesised female sex hormone that lures the male moths within a 3 metre radius to the sticky trap. Each trap last up to 3 months and whilst only attracting male moths, it is a way to monitor infestations and reduce much of the population.

Actually locating the infestation and appropriate treatment is still needed to solve the problem. Dried bay leaves in your pantry have also been used for many generations deterrent for pests and will certainly do no harm. Prevention is always better than cure and certainly less toxic for all involved. Keep all food well sealed, including pet food. Ensure you compost bucket has a tight fitting lid, take your garbage out regularly and ensure all bottle, cans and wrapping that has food on them are washed out before home storage for recycling.

Routinely placing newly purchased susceptible products in the freezer before placing in the pantry is very worthwhile, especially organic products that have never been fumigated. It is worth considering allocating some freezer space just for this, especially in summer.


The Australian Food Standards requires that all food businesses have a program for the management of pests. Specialist processors and wholesalers, like Honest to Goodness and a select few retail outlets also conform to the strict Organic Standards and the business is audited to ensure it is complying. These businesses are 'certified organic' and you will see they proudly display their 'Certified Organic' logo as they have natural pest management challenges that conventional wholesalers and retailers (quite often selling organic products) do not have.

It is fairly routine that conventional wholesalers, some selling organic products, mist their storage areas with some form of insecticide sometimes as often as weekly. This is usually carried out around dusk as this is the time that insects like meal moths are airborne and therefore more likely to be struck by the spray. As a certified organic supplier we are forbidden to do this, therefore our program uses things such sound cleaning practices, separation of waste away from food storage areas, pheromone traps and other traps/attractants. We understand, as do many consumers of organic products that unfortunately moth eggs are a reality in clean food coming from natural farming processes and the organic food chain.

After extensive research Honest to Goodness is in the process of developing a specialised, food safe, non toxic treatment program that complies with not only the Organic Standards but also our own strict in-house standards. This non-toxic treatment will ensure as few moths as possible end up in our warehouse or your pantry! To truly ensure your food has not been fumigated, even organic food it is important to selectively source your products from reputable certified organic suppliers.


Australian Quarantine Inspection Service (AQIS) and the Imported Foods Inspection Program (IFIP) have strict guidelines for individuals and businesses when importing certain foods from overseas for example

1. AQIS have developed risk profiles for various commodities, countries of origin, overseas producers, packaging and means of transit, intended use and where the goods will go before they reach there intended use.
2. Depending on the risk profile AQIS may take any combination of the following steps;
a. Insist on fumigation or other treatments of the goods at origin and get certificates issued to that effect.
b. Inspection on arrival.
c. Direct product for destruction or re-export.
d. Direct product for further processing like cooking it.
e. Direct product for fumigation on arrival.
f. Direct product for freezing on arrival.

Depending on the risk profile the IFIP can insist on the taking of samples from consignments and subject the foods to testing for contaminants like heavy metals, nasty moulds like aflatoxins, pesticide residues, prohibited ingredients and additives. Many locally made foods are not subjected to this type of testing.

Honest to Goodness imports Certified Organic foods and fumigation of the goods prior to export or on arrival in Australia is strictly forbidden, as methyl bromide is not an accepted form of treatment for organic products. We therefore have to carefully evaluate products and select organic foods that represent a low quarantine risk in the first place. If treatment is required, we make sure that freezing or further processing, like cooking here in Australia will be an acceptable form of treatment by AQIS.

It is more difficult for an individual to import food through the airport when they have been travelling because it is very difficult for AQIS to determine where the food is coming from and how it has been prepared, what the person bringing the product into the country intends to do with it. These uncertainties result in AQIS classifying most of these products with a very high risk and therefore subject to destruction on arrival.