Larder beetles may be the nightmare you don’t want. It’s 8:30 at night. You suddenly get an urge for some super chocolatey, fudgy brownies. You head into the kitchen, getting more and more excited about brownies with every step. Gathering all the ingredients (including those deluxe chocolate chunks), visions of warm gooey brownie and ice cream dance in your head. Until you open your bag of flour. AAAAGGGHHH! There’re little bugs crawling inside! Everywhere! Every-freakin-where! Larder beetles have infested your flour in all likelihood.
If they look like this, it looks like you have a problem with Larder Beetles. With what? Larder Beetles. They’re really common in homes, especially during the colder months since they search out warmer living arrangements like most bugs when the deep freeze of nature rolls around. Their name comes from the practice of ages past where before refrigeration, households had larders to store cured meats, cheeses, and the like along with other pantry staples.
As you can see from the image, an adult larder beetles is black or really dark brown with a tan-ish or yellow-ish colored middle – with dots on the back. You can’t see it, but they’re covered (especially their legs) with fine hairs the same color of their middle. An adult beetle can be up to a 1/4 inch long…eewwww. (Just a warning – I will probably be saying eww a lot in this article.) The baby Larder Beetle (larva) look like mealworms…if you know what they look like. If not, the larva are a brownish color and they can be about and 1/2 inch in length. This is where is gets really gross – each larva, on the last body segment (so, the butt of the bug) has these two curved spine-type things that stick out. AND it’s covered in hair like its adult counterpart. Double eewww.
Damage from Larder Beetles
These beetles are confused for cockroaches a lot. Not only do they look quite a bit like one another, but they act similar to one another as well. Just like cockroaches, a larder beetle has developed a taste for decomposing material and meat…aka rotting stuff. Eeewww. While this love of dead and decaying stuffs ala Miss Havisham (if you don’t know, read Great Expectations…or at least sparknotes it) makes them helpful to the decomposition process out in the wilds of nature, it makes them really annoying roommates to humans who want to keep them out of their home.
So. Since they love dead, decaying, rotting, etc. things, this bug is attracted to anything rich in protein and fats (hence why they were such an issue back in the days of larders where cured meats and cheeses and other goodies were left out at room temp). These things include animal food, baking mixes, nuts, solid cooking fats, meat scraps in the trash, and cheeses if you follow the European custom of leaving them on the counter.
Interestingly enough, Larder Beetles are a frequent problem for museums and taxidermists as well – these buggers like to feed upon furs, hides, feathers, and other organic material like parchment and vellum (both of which are made out of incredibly thinly stretched animal hides) that are used in the creation of old manuscripts. So if you are an avid hunter or fisher and you have some Larder Beetles in the kitchen, be on the lookout for them attacking and infesting your prized trophy buck head, big mouthed bass, or mallard; or, if you collect ancient texts, it might be a good idea to safeguard your many leather-bound, mahogany scented books.
So, you now know for sure that you have these gross little creatures roaming freely around your house like wildebeests on the Serengeti. How are you going to get rid of them?
“KILL ‘EM! KILL ‘EM WITH FIRE!” you might scream in your best Braveheart impression, torch in hand. That might be a bit on the drastic and hazardous side…let’s start with less arson-ish ways first, shall we? To be honest, though, arsonish ways to get rid of larder beetles just happen to be more fun.
Best Tricks, tools and advice to get rid of Larder Beetles
Feel up the challenge of attacking your Larder Beetle problem on your own? Awesome! You are made of stronger stuff than I, my friend.
Clean the Kitchen. This is a no-brainer (at least I hope it is), but it should be stated – throw away any foodstuffs that have been infested. You can tell if Larder Beetles have been in something if there are holes bored into the sides of the packaging and if there are the shed skins of the larva hanging about in the product under question. Or if the bugs are in it, obviously. Throw it all away and start fresh, but only after you go about vacuuming and scrubbing down all the surfaces down with hot, soapy, bleachy water.
Plastic/Glass storage containers. If you are a person who likes to transfer dry-goods from their original bags or boxes into storage containers, now would be a good time to invest in high quality (read: thick, name brand ones not the cheap dollar store ones) plastic or glass storage containers with tightly sealing and fitting lids. Larder Beetle larva have been known to be able to bore through wood and some thinner metals, so thick plastic and glass are your best bets. If you’re tight on cupboard space, you can check out these modular options from Rubbermaid, sold at Amazon.
Dried Bay Leaves. Now that you’ve cleaned up your cupboards and shelves, here’s an old-timey farmhouse wife trick I learned from my Gran – put dried bay leaves every so often on the shelves AND inside your dry goods. I have no idea why this works (the great search engine wasn’t much help in giving a definite answer), but it works. It. Just. Does. Also, they’re pretty inexpensive for a lot of them, especially Bay Leaves from Amazon.
Chemical treatments.If there are some lingering Larder Beetles around your house a few days later, there are sprays available to help. The ones you want to look for the ones labeled “barrier protection” or “indoor/outdoor pest control”, since Larder Beetles are one of those lovely crawlies that like to come in from nature. Both of these will help to kill the lingering population in your home and well as create a barrier to prevent any others coming in (and most any other crawly from outside as well – double winning!).
However, there’s always the “pay someone else to do it” route.
Exterminators to Get Rid of Larder Beetles
One of the easiest, potentially least stressful, and unfortunately expensive options is to call the exterminator. They are the professionals after all, and they love hunting after all those crawly things so might as well have them help you out of want nothing to do with removing Larder Beetles from your home.
According to the knightly bug slayers of Orkin, the process of killing off Larder Beetles would be very similar to any other bug – they isolate the main epicenter of buginess, bait them with poison, and clean up the casualties; or they tent the building and gas the buggers.
Either way, you are looking at having to spend some time away from your abode while your Larder Beetle infestation is vanquished. So, on top of the cost of the exterminator you might also have to foot the bill for a stay at a hotel – and if you have pets and can’t find a place to stay with them, kenneling them as well.
Larder Beetles are gross – well, anything that takes up residence in your flour and sugar or pet’s food is gross. If you happen to find some free-loading in your foodstuffs, hopefully the tips and tricks in this article will help you kick them to the curb.
Sources used: U of Iowa, Orkin, Penn State