Foods such as flour, sugar and the like are actually considered to have a long shelf life. In exceptional cases, however, small black animals cavort in the container. This guide provides information and tips on the pests, how to combat them and the edibility of the food despite the infestation.

Which beetle is it?

There are different types of pests in flour or sugar. Unlike usual, the exact identification is irrelevant in this case, since almost all beetles cause the same damage. In the following, the guide provides an overview of the most common malware and how to identify it.

Bread beetle

  • body length of 3 mm
  • dark brown
  • hairy body
  • Larvae about 5 mm long
  • larva milky white with brown head


  • only 0.45-0.7mm in size
  • long bristles on the body
  • light body color

flour moths

  • small butterflies
  • silvery gray body
  • around 11-14 mm in size
  • appear as maggots when young
  • then weave themselves into a cocoon


  • Larvae of the flour beetle
  • 13-18mm tall
  • dark, elongated body
  • in the larval stage up to 30 mm long
  • yellowish-brown and shiny as larvae

Causes of an infestation

The disgust factor predominates the most when people find vermin in the food. Contrary to what is thought, poor hygiene is not the cause of an infestation. Small black creatures in flour and sugar can hit anyone. It is not mold or an unpleasant smell that attracts the animals, but the components of the goods. Since animals also gain energy from starchy products, the moths and worms primarily target the type of sugar. Other pests such as clothes moths or fur moths are looking for the protein keratin.

Dark storage cupboards are just right for the animals, as they offer the best conditions for explosive reproduction.

Note: Not only flour and sugar can be affected by a pest infestation. Processed goods such as pasta, cereals or rice still have a high starch content and are therefore susceptible.

detect pests

Many pests can be seen with the naked eye. The black body is particularly noticeable in rice or flour. Others of the animals mentioned are so small that consumers should orientate themselves on the nature of the food. These take on a pungent, sweet odor. The texture also changes. Noodles and rice dissolve into powder.

Flour moths in particular are easy to identify by their cobweb-like threads. The grains often stick together. Remains of cocoons are another clue.

Note: A single beetle in the flour or sugar is completely harmless. Those affected should nevertheless remove it with a spoon and check the package for other animals. In large numbers, the animals can cause health problems.

What to do with contaminated food?

In the event of a severe infestation, consumers must dispose of the pack completely. Consumption could trigger health problems such as:

  • tapeworms
  • allergic reaction
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Asthma
  • skin rash


Black animals in foods such as flour are not uncommon. Below are a few helpful tips for those affected to eliminate an infestation or to avoid it in advance.

Keep your eyes open in the supermarket

Flour moths and co. get to the pantry either through cracks or open windows. In most cases, however, the consumer drags them from the supermarket with an already infested package. Customers should therefore check before they buy whether they can spot small, black bodies in the goods.

Proper disposal

Infested packs do not belong in the household waste, but directly outside in the bin. In this way, consumers prevent the vermin from continuing to be in the kitchen and multiplying.

Shop according to need

The longer food is stored in the cupboard, the greater the likelihood that pests will settle in. Therefore, experts advise not to stockpile, but only buy the amounts that people will use in the foreseeable future.

Proper storage

Anyone who thinks they are on the safe side because a pack has not yet been opened is wrong. The bugs also eat through plastic. However, they don’t stand a chance against glass or Tupperware. It is therefore advisable to pour flour and sugar into airtight containers immediately after shopping.

Wipe out cupboards regularly

Even in the furthest corners there are breeding grounds for the little animals. Thorough cleaning is therefore essential after an infestation. It is best to use strong-smelling substances such as vinegar. A hair dryer can help in hard-to-reach grooves.



Essential oils such as citrus, lavender or tea tree do not always help. However, as long as the sufferer finds the aromas pleasant, it’s worth trying to repel the pests with smells.


Pheromone traps are synthetically manufactured adhesive strips that imitate the scent of a sexually mature female. The males fly onto the trap and stick to it. As a result, there is no reproduction due to the lack of a partner. Although this method makes sense, it takes time to have an effect. In addition, it does not prevent new pests from migrating through open windows. Non-toxic adhesive strips are available to consumers in specialist shops.


Predators are the most natural way of fighting pests such as black animals in flour and co. Unlike in the garden, however, only a few species are suitable for indoor use. Ichneumon wasps have proven themselves in the fight against flour moths and the like. They are also available in specialist shops, are hardly noticeable thanks to their small size and disappear as soon as the pest population has been destroyed. However, they claim the following conditions:

  • Release immediately at the breeding sites
  • Room temperature never cooler than 15°C
  • do not use any other fragrances
Idea: Food packaging has small holes or smells suspicious, but no pests can be identified? Place the pack in the freezer for about 10 days or in the oven at 60°C to 80°C for one to two hours. The temperature fluctuations kill off small populations. If the food tastes funny afterwards, there is no way around disposing of it for health reasons.

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