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Many people know from experience that certain ants, beetles and moth larvae infest pantries where they feed on stored food products, but mites are one of the lesser known pantry pests despite their commonality within homes. The 3 most common mite pests of stored foods in Massachusetts are frequently, and aptly, referred to as “cheese mites,” “grain mites” and “mold mites.” These three mites indulge in similar pest behaviors within homes, and they leave similar signs of their presence. Due to similarities in both their physiology and habitat conditions, there is very little variance in the remedial and preventive control of these 3 mite pests.

Cheese mites, grain mites and mold mites are tiny, light-colored pests that often possess long body hairs. In homes they feed on organic materials and a variety of foods, including grain, flour, cereals, dried fruits and vegetables, mushrooms, meats, pet food and cheese. Items like paper, tobacco, molds, and bird nests also provide sustenance for pantry mites. The arachnid pests frequently gravitate to high-moisture areas within homes, and the presence of a brownish dust, commonly known as “mite dust,” indicates that an infestation has been established.

Mite dust is most often found on pantry shelves, floors, around the base of flour sacs, and on the surface of foods. Any food source that has been, or may have been exposed to mites or mite dust should be considered contaminated and thrown out immediately. This is because mite dust consists of dead and living mites, their fecal matter and their previously shed skins. Making contact with mite-infested food can lead to an array of medical problems, such as dermatitis, asthma and dust allergies. If mite-infested food is ingested, gastrointestinal illness may result. Keeping indoor conditions, especially pantries, free of high-moisture will prevent pantry mite infestations. Unfortunately, mold often develops in pantries, which invites mites, so if necessary, a dehumidifier should be used to keep pantries and other food storage areas dry.

Have you ever experienced an infestation of pantry mites?