Common Species of Pests in Food

Pests found in food covers a large variety of insects, including beetles and moths.

Learn more below about common species of Stored Product Insects (SPIs) found in Australia.

Almond Moth

(Cadra cautella)

The Almond Moth goes by the nicknames “Cocoa Moth” and “Tropical Warehouse Moth”. The almond moth infests stored products and the adults can fly.

A sign of infestation in the product is contamination with silk webbing, frass, cast skins, pupal cases and adult remains.

Appearance

  • The body is 7.5 – 10 mm long.
  • The adult almond moth has a wing span of 19 mm.
  • The forewings are grey to dusty brown.
  • The larva is white to pink in colour and has a distinctive brown head
  • There is a dark straight band across the forewing, which is paler on the inner edge.

Lifecycle

  • The female lays 150 - 200 eggs loosely and randomly on a food source.
  • The larva can grow to 12.7 mm in length.
  • When the larva is mature, it will actively leave the food source and search for a site in which to pupate.
  • The larva pupates in a silk cocoon.

Habits

  • The almond moth is found worldwide in processing facilities, warehouses and households.
  • It feeds on grain, cereal products, oilseeds and dried plant products, like nuts, fruit and tobacco.
  • The larva burrows into food and creates silk tunnels in which it will be concealed while feeding.
  • Large larva can burrow through packing

Australian Spider Beetle

(Ptinus Tectus)

Appearance

Covered in brown and golden hairs, the Australian spider beetle has a spider-life appearance and adults grow to an approximate 2.4 – 4mm in length.

Lifecycle

Australian spider beetles live for up to 3 – 4 months at 20 - 25°C.

Feeding Habits

Larvae are often found feeding on miscellaneous debris, and the Australia spider beetle possesses the ability to bore into various inedible materials prior to pupation. Active in dark, damp places, the Australian spider beetle is often associated with bird nests.

Bean Weevil

(Acanthoscelides obtectus)

Appearance

  • 2.0 – 3.0mm long, mottled brown in colour. 
  • They have a ‘tear drop’ like body shape and are covered in short hairs. 
  • Saw-tooth like antennae and elytra that do not cover the entire abdomen.

Lifecycle

  • Lifecycle usually lasts 2-4 months.
  • The larvae feed within the beans as they mature. 
  • The larval stage can take from a few weeks to many months to complete, depending upon temperature and moisture of the bean. Pupation is within the bean. Circular holes are cut for the adult to emerge. 
  • Development and breeding goes on as long as there is any food left in the bean and the temperature is right (warmer temperatures are preferred).

Habits

  • Larvae feed mostly inside beans.
  • These weevils attack all legumes, including kidney beans, green beans, peas and lentils. 
  • Heavily infested peas are often reduced to shells.

Biscuit Beetle

(Stegobium Paniceum)

Appearance

  • Adult — 1/16" - 1/8 in length. Humped thorax. Fine hairs cover the body. Elytra (wing cases) have ridges with indentations. 
  • Larva — active in early stages of development. Bores into hard substances. 
  • They are able to detoxify some poisonous substances.

Lifecycle

  • Life cycle — 200 days at 17°C, 70 days at 28°C. Adults live for 13 to 65 days.

Habits

  • Will often fly. Adults do not feed.

Booklice

(Various species - Liposcelis bostrychophila, Lepinotus patruelis)

Appearance

  • Adult — Size varies according to species. 1/16" - 1/8" long. Pale yellow–brown to dark brown in colour. 
  • Nymphs — very small, often appear transparent. No larval stages.

Lifecycle

  • Liposcelis bostrychophila — prefers high temperatures 25–30°C. 
  • Lepinotus patruelis — will breed at 5–15°C.

Habits

  • Liposcelis bostrychophila — Common in homes. 
  • Lepinotus patruelis — Common in factories and on pallets.

Broadhorned Flour Beetle

(Gnatocerus Cornutus)

Broadhorned Flour Beetle Gnatocerus Cornutus

Appearance

An approximate 3.5 – 4.5mm in length, male broadhorned beetles have two enlarged mandibles on the head, giving the appearance of horns and thus their name. Females are very similar In appearance to the confused flour beetle.

Lifecycle

With temperature limits of 15 - 32°C, broadhorned flour beetles cannot complete their life cycle below 10°C.

Feeding Habits

Feeds on flour, dough, semolina etc. Moth eggs and larvae may supplement the broadhorned flour beetle diet.

Cheese Mites

Appearance

Cheese mites have soft, hairy cream white bodies with 8 hairless legs and adults grow up to an approximate 0.5mm in length.

Lifecycle

The cheese mite favours warm, moist conditions and eggs mature in 10 days at room temperatures. Females can lay up to 900 eggs in a lifetime at a rate of 20 – 30 a day. Adult cheese mites can live for up to 60 – 70 days.

Feeding habits

With a preference for old cheese to young cheese, these mites also feed on nuts, dried eggs, fruit, flour and tobacco. Cheese mites are capable of contaminating foods to cause skin or gut irritation.

Cigarette Beetle

(Lasioderma serricorne)

The Cigarette beetle is a very common commercial pest.

Cigarette Beetle Lasioderma Serricorne

Appearance

  • The Cigarette Beetle is about 2-4mm in length.
  • The adult is whitish in color, with the head dark brown to tan, and are densely haired.
  • The cigarette beetle closely resembles the drugstore beetle.
  • The cigarette beetle has the head bent down nearly at right angles to the body giving it a humped back appearance when viewed from the side.
  • The larvae are about 4 mm long and somewhat bent.

Lifecycle

  • The adult beetles live from 2 to 4 weeks and during this time the females may deposit between 10-100 eggs.
  • The eggs are laid loosely on the infested material.
  • The larval period usually ranges from four to five months, but under very favorable conditions the development from egg to adult may occur in 6 to 8 weeks.
  • When the larvae are fully grown, pupation occurs and they remain in this resting stage for 12 to 18 days.

Habits

  • The Cigarette Beetle feeds off tobacco, dry stored food products, spices, seeds, grains and dried plant material.
  • They have also been reported in rice, dried potatoes, paprika, raisins, grain-based mouse bait and dried straw flowers.
  • Adult beetles often wander away from infested materials and may be found throughout the area.

Coffee Bean Weevil

(Araecerus Fasciculatus)

Appearance

  • Adults: 1.5-4mm in length. 
  • It is a dark brown beetle with light brown spots and long antennae. 
  • The footless, slim larvae are curved and hairy and grow to a length of 5-6mm.

Lifecycle

  • The beetle flies to fields and lays its eggs on damaged cobs. 
  • The larvae bore into coffee beans in which they pupate.

Habits

  • They mainly infest corn, cocoa, coffee beans, dried fruits, nutmegs, ginger etc.

Confused Flour Beetle

(Tribolium Confusum)

The confused flour beetle was named because of the confusion over its identity. It is a very common commercial and pantry pest.

Appearance

  • The confused flour beetle is 3-4 mm in length, the larvae are about 6 mm long.
  • The adult is red-brown in color and the larvae are a light honey colour and about.
  • It resembles the rust-red flour beetle, except for the antennae which is four segmented and gradually thickens towards the tip - another slight difference is in the shape of the thorax.
  • The sides of the rust-red flour beetle are curved, whereas the thorax of the confused flour beetle is straighter. It has well developed wings but seldom flies.

Lifecycle

  • Female lays between 400 - 500 eggs, with peak oviposition occurring during the first week.
  • Adults may live longer than 3 years, and females may lay eggs for more than a year.
  • Eggs are deposited directly in flour, other food material, or attached to the surface of the container. They are white or colorless and covered by a sticky material to which flour can adhere.
  • Eggs hatch in 3 - 5 days at 32 - 35°C. Larvae burrow into kernels of grain but may leave their burrows in search of a more favorable food.

Habits

  • Feeds off grain, flour, and other cereal products, beans, cacao, cottonseed, shelled nuts, dried fruit, dried vegetables, drugs, spices, chocolate, dried milk and animal hides.
  • They cannot feed on whole grain, but can feed on broken kernels that are usually present.

Copra beetle/Red Legged Ham Beetle

(Necrobia Rufipes)

Appearance

  • Adults: 3/16" in length. 
  • The upper surfaces of the body are a shiny metallic bluish-green. The underside of the abdomen is dark blue. Their legs are bright reddish-brown or orange. The antennae are reddish–brown with a dark brown or black club at the tip.

Lifecycle

  • Females lay up to 30 eggs per day in cracks or crevices of cured fish. The eggs take between four and six days to hatch. 
  • The larvae will grow for 30 to 140 days, become less active and look for a dark place to pupate. 
  • The pupal stage varies between 6 and 21 days. 
  • An adult will mate soon after emerging from its pupal stage and can live for up to 14 months.

Habits

  • The adults fly and can therefore easily disperse to new sources of food. 
  • They are destructive in both the larval and adult stages, although the larval stage is the most destructive. 
  • They are also cannibalistic, preying on their own eggs and pupae.

Dermestes Beetle

(Dermestes beetle)

Appearance

  • Adult – 1/4"–3/8" in length. Black with a whitish band across the fore–part of the elytra. 
  • Larva – comet shape. Quick moving. Brown in colour and hairy. Migrate to pupate in solid material.

Lifecycle

  • 2–3 months at 18–25°C.

Habits

  • Feeds on various animal products including cheese.

Drug Store Beetle

(Stegobium Paniceum)

The drugstore beetle (also known as the Biscuit Beetle) gained its name because it was frequently found feeding on drugs in pharmacies many years ago. Now, they are customarily found infesting all types of dry stored food products, spices, seeds, grains and dried plant material.

Biscuit Beetle Stegobium Paniceum

Appearance

  • Approx. 3 - 4 mm long, red-brown, oval beetles.
  • The larvae are small and white approximately 0.5 mm long.
  • The drugstore beetle is a red-brown oval-shaped beetle.

Lifecycle

  • The adult beetles live from 2 to 4 weeks and during this time the females may deposit between 20-100 eggs.
  • The hatching larvae are 0.5 mm long and very mobile.
  • The larval period usually ranges from four to five months, but under favorable conditions the development from egg to adult may occur in 6 to 8 weeks.
  • When the larvae are fully grown, pupation occurs and they remain in this resting stage for 12 to 18 days.

Habits

  • It is not a major pest in stored grains but will attack spices, seeds, grains and dried plant material as well as packaging materials such as paper and cardboard.
  • They have also been known to feed on leather, wool, hair and books.
  • Their presence can be detected from pinhead holes in the infested items.
  • Packaging materials such as paper and cardboard are also attacked.
  • Since the drugstore beetle can fly well, the source of infestation can sometimes be hard to find.
  • The drugstore beetle is not a major pest in stored grains.

Flat Grain Beetle

(Cryptolestes Ferrugineus)

Appearance

  • Adult — About 1/8" in length. Flattened body with very long antennae. Light red to dark reddish brown. 
  • Larva — yellowish–white. 0.5mm long growing to 4mm when mature.

Lifecycle

  • Prefers warm damp conditions. 69–103 days at 21°C, 26 days at 38°C.

Habits

  • Adults are winged but rarely fly. 
  • Feeds on cereals, dates, dried fruits and other commodities.

Flour Mite/Grain Mite

(Acarus siro)

Appearance

  • Adult — 0.5 mm long. 4 pairs of legs. White or pale brown. Slow moving. 
  • Larva — 6 legged and 0.5 mm long. White in colour. Passes through two, 8 legged nymphal stages.

Lifecycle

  • 9–11 days at 23°C and 90% relative humidity.

Habits

  • Under adverse conditions, may pass through a long and very resistant stage called a hypopus.

Foreign Grain Beetle

(Ahasverus adena)

It is frequently associated with hot spots in farm-stored grain. Although primarily a fungivorous species. The presence of this insect in farm-stored grain is taken as a warning that the grain is beginning to spoil and become moldy.

Appearance

  • The adult Foreign Grain Beetle is light brown and is about 2 mm long.
  • They are similar in appearance to the saw-tooth grain beetle, but they lack the tooth-like projections and are somewhat broader.
  • Larvae are initially white and gradually darken as they mature. They rarely grow larger than 3 mm and have no forked process at the tip of the abdomen.

Lifecycle

  • Adult females begin laying eggs around 3 - 4 days after emerging.
  • Mated males and females have an average lifespan of 159 and 208 days, respectively.
  • Eggs, which are laid singly or in clusters of two or three, hatch in 4 - 5 days.
  • Larval development is completed in 11 - 19 days. When ready to pupate, the larva constructs a chamber of food particles cemented together.
  • Pupation occurs after a prepupal period of 1 - 2 days, and adults emerge 3 - 5 days later.

Habits

  • The adults are long lived, fly well and run very rapidly.
  • This species occurs on a wide variety of foodstuffs, including grains, cereal products, oilseeds and their products, dried fruit, and spices.
  • It is a scavenger that feeds on molds, dead insects, and damaged foods.
  • On cereal grains, the embryo is a suitable food material. However, when found in large numbers they are probably feeding on molds present in the food.

Fur Beetle

(Attagenus pellio)

Appearance

  • Adult — 3/16"–1/4" long. Elongate oval. One small patch of white on each wing case, otherwise red–brown to black. 
  • Larva — 1/4" long. Long orange tufts of hair on the last abdominal segment. 
  • Larvae have a banded appearance. 
  • Pupa — formed in the last larval skin.

Lifecycle

  • Mating takes place outdoors after which they fly indoors to lay eggs. Normally one generation per year but development may extend to three years.

Habits

  • A common inhabitant of birds nests. Adults feed outdoors often on Spiraea plants. 
  • Larvae attack furs, skins, woollens, etc. and stored grain.

Furniture Mite

(Glycyphagus domesticus)

Appearance

  • Adult – 0.3–0.7mm. Hairy soft cream–white body with yellow/brown legs.

Lifecycle

  • Egg to adult in 22 days at room temperature. 
  • Adult lives for approximately 50 days.

Habits

  • Capable of tainting foods and causing gut irritation. 
  • Commonly feeds on flour, cereals and fungi. 
  • Favours moist environmental conditions; common in damp poorly ventilated rooms.

Golden Spider Beetle

(Niptus hololeucus)

Appearance

  • Adult — 1/8" - 3/16" in length. Ovoid abdomen with a pinched waist. Whole body covered in golden-yellow hairs. 
  • Larva — similar to Australian spider beetle.

Lifecycle

  • 6 - 7 months at 20°C. Adults can live up to 9 months.

Habits

  • Sometimes linked to the damage of textiles in the domestic home. 
  • Adults appear in greater numbers in June/July and October/November.

Grain Borer

(Prostephanus Truncatus)

Appearance

  • Brown body colour. 1/16" to 3/16" in length. 
  • Antennae have 3 large segments at the end forming visible antenna clubs, reddish in colour. 
  • The humped thorax covers the head, its front rim has teeth–like indentations. 
  • Elytra (wing covers) are heavily punctated and drop off sharply at the back, giving the impression of a square end when seen from above.

Lifecycle

  • The female lays an average of 10 eggs on a grain of maize and the hatched larvae bore into the grain. 
  • The larva undergoes up to 4 development phases and pupates inside the corn grain. 
  • Lifecycles can be quite short, in good conditions (25 days at 34 °C, 75% relative humidity) there are several generations per year.

Habits

  • Adult beetle is a pest of stored maize, but also infests other types of grain. Larva bores tubular passages into the grain, typically making one main tunnel with smaller ones branching off. 
  • Brought in from tropical Central America in cassava roots and tapioca products, as well as in starchy fruits and tubers.

Granary Weevil

(Sitophilus Granarius)

The Granary Weevil is among the most destructive of all stored grain insects. The larvae develop inside kernels of whole grain in storage. This makes an infestation difficult to remove in the milling process.

Appearance

  • Dark brown-black in colour.
  • It is about 2.5 - 5 mm in length.
  • They possess a long slender snout and cannot fly.
  • In the larval stage the weevils are legless, humpbacked, white to creamy white, with a small, tan head.
  • Weevils in the pupa stage have snouts like the adults.

Lifecycle

  • The egg, larva, and pupa stages of these weevils occur in the grain kernels and are rarely seen.
  • Emergence holes of the granary weevil are fairly large and tend to be more ragged than smooth and round.
  • Females drill a tiny hole in the grain kernel, deposit an egg in the cavity, then plug the hole with a gelatinous secretion.
  • The life cycle is about 30 to 40 days during the summer, and 123 to 148 days during the winter, depending on temperature.

Habits

  • Most of their life is spent within the grain kernel.
  • Both larvae and adults feed on grain.
  • Grain weevils will also attack hard cereal products, e.g. macaroni and spaghetti.

Indian Meal Moth

(Plodia Interpunctella)

The Indian meal moth larva's is a very common commercial and pantry pest.

Appearance

  • Adult has wingspread of about 14 – 20mm.
  • Has pale gray wings, but the front wing is reddish brown and coppery on the outer two-thirds.
  • Mature larva is usually dirty white, but may vary to greenish, pinkish, or brownish, depending on the food it eats.
  • Head region is yellowish to reddish brown

Lifecycle

  • The Indian meal moth female lays approximately 200 eggs, on food material during a 1-18 day period of time.
  • Temperature and availability of food determine the length of the larval stages.
  • The last instar larva leaves the food to find a suitable place for pupation.
  • The complete life cycle takes 25-135 days, with 4-6 generations per year.

Feeding habits

  • The adult Indian Meal Moth causes no damage.
  • Their larvae produce the web material commonly found in food, such as dried fruits, whole wheat and, cornmeal, and shelled or ear corn.
  • Attracted to grain, grain products; corn, lots of different dried foods, such as fruit, nuts, seeds, also, biscuits and powdered milk; chocolate, candy; dried red peppers; dry dog food.

Khapra Beetle

(Trogoderma granarium

The Khapra Beetle is considered to be the world's most destructive pest of stored grain and grain products. If left uncontrolled, this beetle can cover the surface of stored grain making it appear alive with crawling larvae

If you do find something like this, please report it through the Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881

Appearance

  • The male is about 2 mm in length and the female is slightly larger (up to 3 mm).
  • Dark-brown beetle with yellow-brown to red-brown markings on the wing covers.
  • They are also covered with fine hairs which may trap dust, giving a dirty appearance.
  • The larvae are yellow to golden brown and reach a length of up to 5 mm. They are covered with thick, red-brown hairs with two tufts at the end of the abdomen.

Lifecycle

  • Adults are short-lived, completing their adult life in one to two weeks.
  • Mating occurs almost immediately after adult emergence, with oviposition for one to six days following.
  • In ideal conditions the life cycle can be completed in as few as 30 days.
  • The female lays up to 125 eggs loosely in the infested material.
  • Eggs hatch in five to seven days.
  • The larvae undergo 4 - 7 molts, resulting in the shedding of numerous cast skins.

Habits

  • It is also considered to be a dirty feeder as it breaks or powders more grain than it consumes.
  • They also contaminate the grain with larval skins and setae which have been known to cause gastrointestinal irritation.
  • Feeds on rice, peanuts, dried animal skins, as well as its preferred natural foods such as wheat and malted barley.

Larder Beetle

(Dermestes lardarius)

Appearance

  • Adult — 1/4"–3/8" in length. Black with a whitish band across the fore-part of the elytra. 
  • Larva — comet shape. Quick moving. Brown in colour and hairy. Migrate to pupate in solid material.

Lifecycle

  • 2–3 months at 18–25°C.

Habits

  • Feeds on various animal products including cheese.

Leather Beetle

(Dermestes maculatus)

Appearance

  • Adult — 1/4"–3/8" in length. Uppermost is black, underside is white. 
  • Larva — as D. lardarius but with an orange stripe running down the length of the back.

Lifecycle

  • 2–3 months at 18–25°C.

Habits

  • Feeds on various animal products and dried fish. Pupates in solid material, e.g. wood. 
  • The quantity of white on the underside may vary according to species. Adults fly readily.

Lesser Grain Beetle

(Rhyzopertha dominica)

This beetle lives and feeds in warehouses and stores, especially feed and health food stores.

Appearance

  • The lesser grain borer is black-brown in colour.
  • It is about 2.5 - 3 mm long.
  • The body has a slender cylindrical form and the head is hidden under the round neck-shield.
  • The larvae are whitish with a yellow head.

Lifecycle

  • Adult females lay eggs singly or in groups of up to 30.
  • The eggs are laid on the outside of the grain and a female can lay from 300 - 500 eggs.
  • In hot summer conditions it may take as few as 30 days, but the average is about 58 days.
  • Pupation takes place inside the hollow shell of the seed or in the "flour" that accumulates with infested grain.

Habits

  • The lesser grain borer is primarily a pest in stored wheat and corn.
  • It can infest tobacco, nuts, beans, bird seed, biscuits, cassava, cocoa beans, dried fruit, peanuts, spices, rodenticide baits, and dried meat and fish.

Lesser Mealworm

(Alphitobius diaperinus)

Appearance

  • Adults - 1/4" long. Newly moulted adults are reddish-brown turning black. 
  • Larvae - 5/16" long. Slender, segmented and worm-like with three pairs of tiny legs on the thorax and one abdominal proleg at the rear.

Lifecycle

  • Females can lay up to at least 110 eggs a month and eggs hatch in 4-7 days. Larval development takes up to 7 weeks. Mature larvae seek a sheltered place to pupate for between 7 and 11 days. 
  • An adult beetle may live up to two years.

Habits

  • The beetles are attracted to poultry operations, which have ideal conditions for their development. The damage to insulation is carried out by lesser mealworms seeking a safe place to pupate because the darkling beetles prey on the lesser mealworms.

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