I Discovered How to Get Rid of Larder Beetles

Larder beetle is not a welcome site in your kitchen or pantry. Luckily, thanks to an accidental discovery, I know how to get rid of them.

One day when I was moving some things around in my house I came across a scattering of dead larder beetles - they all fell out of a cockroach trap I was moving. Apparently, larder bugs are attracted to the same pheromones contained in cockroach traps.

Read more about my accidental discovery on getting rid of larder beetles.

Otherwise, find helpful information in this article about larder beetles, their life cycles and how to identify them.

Larder beetles get their names from the place they are often found – in your larder (an old word for your pantry or cupboard, where you store food, especially grains and meat). Larder beetles are less-commonly known as skin beetles or by their Latin term, Dermestes lardarius. Some people may refer to them as the dermestid pantry beetle, but pantry beetles, pantry bugs, and cabinet beetles, are the more friendlier terms.

You may have seen these pantry beetles in your house but never knew what they were.  Some people refer to them as "pantry bugs."  Regardless, you want to know  how to get rid of a larder beetle. If you can’t wait, skip to the end to find out my accidental discovery of how to get rid of larder beetles.

Larder beetles are a type of carpet beetle, but they only attack woolens that have been soiled with blood, fish oils, or other high protein stains.  

What do larder beetle look like?

First of all, larder beetles and pantry moths are NOT the same insect. This page is about the larder beetle, as seen in the photo above. It looks like a small black house bug with a brown stripe. A larder beetle has a cream to yellow colored band across the top of their wing covered with six dark colored spots inside it, according to the University of Minnesota Extension Office. 

Some may describe it as a black beetle with a brown stripe or gold stripe.

Close up picture of larder beetle

Close up picture of larder beetle

Larder beetles have one of the hardest shells in the insect world. It takes a lot to crunch one of them! The adult larder beetle is about 1/4-1/3 inch in length.

Before you see the beetles, you will see the larvae. The larvae are about 1/2 inch in length,
worm-like, and distinctly hairy and reddish to dark brown in color (note the pair of spines on their tail end that curves backwards).

A picture of pantry larva

A picture of pantry larva

What time of the year are larder beetles found in the pantry?

In the winter, larder beetles often hide in crevices or other warm, sheltered places like your walls or garage. In spring, they emerge, looking for food sources and a place to lay their eggs. The adult larder beetle female prefers to strategically lay eggs on dead insect carcasses. Females will lay around 100 eggs, which hatch in just a few days, eat consistently, and reach maturity in about six weeks. 

I usually see the larder beetles in April here in the midwest (USA).

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Signs of larder beetles

According to Environmental Management, the signs that you have a larder beetle infestation are:

  • holes bored into your boxes, bags of pet food, or other food storage containers
  • larvae burrowed into a melon, potatoes, onions, or another food source
  • skins from when the beetles molt
  • beetle feces (aka frass, droppings, poop) - no current photos
  • holes in wood beams and other structural objects
  • larder beetles take shelter outside in the bark of trees and crevices of buildings as well as coming into homes

Larder beetle infestations

Worth noting, is that there have been reports of structural problems having occurred in poultry and mink operations that have undisturbed, protein rich food sources. It's hard to believe that this little beetle could cause so much damage. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Infestation on a wide-scale, such as a production building, might only be controlled by commercial pesticides. There are much more kinder and natural methods for larder beetle control in home environments.

Larder beetle life cycle

Larder beetles are scavengers that feed in the dark. According to Terminix, they "play possum" until the danger is passed. Walking about your house, causing slight tremors, is enough to send them into hiding. In reality, they scoot around pretty fast.

Pantry beetles enter the home as winter nears. They’re most active in the early spring as they mate and deposit eggs in food sources throughout the house (I usually notice them in April). The breed and take shelter in the same food container.

Adult pantry beetles can fly, but most people don't get to see them, because of their preference for being in the dark.

FACT: On the last molt cycle of the larvae, the skin is used as a plug to cover their burrowing holes in furniture and wood.

Believe it or not, pantry beetle larvae can cause large amounts of structural damage to buildings and furniture because of this. -Pestnet. Poultry buildings have been listed previously as one site that can encounter this. 

According to PennState Extension, "Tests have shown that they [pantry beetle larvae] can bore into lead with ease and tin with some difficulty. The boring is for the purpose of providing a protected place for pupation, not for feeding."

Pantry beetle life cycle diagram sources:
PennState Extension, Pest Net

Life cycle of pantry beetle.

Life cycle of pantry beetle.

What larder beetle eat

Larder beetle are protein eaters!  They especially love dead meat, and even spoiled meat, according to Penn State Extension .Technically, they are omnivores, which means that they will eat both meat and plant-based food. In your pantry, they are attracted to any animal by-product, such as dehydrated meat (like beef stick jerky, dried fish, or bacon bits).

Penn State Extension points out: "The use of refrigeration, the purchase of meats in small quantities, and the lack of home curing of meats, have decreased the economic importance of this insect." By "economic importance" it means that the larder beetle is not the problem it used to be compared to times when curing meats was more prevalent in society.

Foods that larder beetle eat.

Foods that larder beetle eat.

Surprising sources of food for pantry beetles

Larder beetles can find food not only in your pantry, but other surprising sources:

  • Pantry beetle pupae - yes, they cannibalize their own species
  • dry dog food, especially high-protein dog food
  • preserved animal specimens (like a mounted deer head trophy)
  • furs, hides, leather, and feathers
  • food hidden by rodents
  • carcasses of dead insects (such as the boxelder bugs that get into homes in late summer and fall)
  • bird nests near the home, or abandoned nests; abandoned bee and wasp hives (or specimens brought into the home), beeswax
  • trapped birds or mice that have died in your house
  • cheese and other bait food left on mouse traps, dairy
  • tobacco (have found no reason why this product is sectioned out)
  • human dead skins cells, sloughed off in bedding along with blood, sweat, and other human byproducts and dirty laundry
  • flies enter into windows in old houses or light fixtures where they are trapped, die, and accumulate
  • dried grains
  • wool that has high-protein stains such as sweat or blood, fish oil, etc.
  • garbage cans or tampon containers containing waste from female menstrual cycles
  • anything the "cat drug in" - or surprises your dog found and decided to bring inside your home
  • trash

Odd facts about pantry beetles

Pantry beetle food sources are not confined to houses, but museums, mills, livestock facilities, and any place that contains a suitable food source. Museums are a bit surprising, but not really when you think of stuffed animal specimens.

ODD FACTS: Close relatives of the larder beetle are used to clean the flesh from skeletons used in museums. University of Wisconsin Extension. The University of Wisconsin refers to this as their "Dermestarium" - related to the word Dermestidae a family of Coleoptera that are commonly referred to as skin beetles. Other common names include larder beetle, hide or leather beetles, carpet beetles, and khapra beetles.

Hunters I know in Iowa will boil deer skulls in water all day to assure that all meat, skin, etc. is removed from the bones, assuring a clean mount for displaying inside buildings that do not attract bugs.

Besides the food mentioned above, they can also eat carpet fibers and clothing. Obviously, it pays to keep your house as clean as possible!

Larder bugs can be found in homes, museums, mills, livestock facilities, and any place that contains a protein food source.

How to prevent larder beetles from getting into your home

Reducing the presence of larder beetles in your home will mean taking their food source away.

  • seal up all pet food
  • sweep and vacuum floors regularly
  • clean behind stove, refrigerators and appliances where food debris, especially protein debris, will fall
  • wash thoroughly any clothing or equipment involved in meat processing, don't allow either to dry with meat particles on
  • seal around windows and other entry points (such as into wall voids) into your home to prevent other insects from entering, dying, and becoming future larder beetle food source
  • check other parts of your home, such as your attic, that may be letting birds in, where they become trapped and eventually die
  • dispose of furs, hides, and feathers that attract larder beetles
  • wipe or clean off fly swatters or electric bug zappers that can build up dead bug remains
  • wash bedding on a regular schedule to remove human dead skin cells

All of these actions make sense. Even a kid's boa can attract larder bugs. To prevent larder bugs in your home, you have to think like larder bugs. As in all insect infestations, but particularly pantry larvae and pantry beetles, unkept homes, such as in hoarding situations that result in unsanitary conditions can equate to more bug problems than the average home or apartment.

How to get rid of larder beetles

I am aggressive about keeping household pests under control. One year, the neighbor had a cockroach problem connected with bringing dog food in the house. When I learned about that, I started putting out cockroach traps to be proactive.

Roach traps can be used for larder beetles to rid your home of the larder beetle pest. Change the traps once a year and place in corners that seems to accumulate crumbs that attract pantry beetles. 

One day, I accidentally bumped an old cockroach trap, and a slew of dead pantry bugs tumbled out! I had never heard of using a cockroach trap for larder beetles. Certainly, I had seen special larder beetle traps for sale, but here I was doing double-duty, getting both pests!

Roach traps get rid of pantry bugs!

I feel pretty lucky to have discovered roach traps for larder beetle control! To be fair, I will still mention other pantry bug treatments. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Horticulture Dept. gives a few more tips in killing pantry bugs:

  • clean up the food source
  • spray baseboard and electrical plates and other access points with any indoor ant spray (kills on contact)
  • Larvae and adults migrate away from food sources, so treating food source alone is not enough
  • Use dust or powder insecticides when treating foam insulation (liquid solvents may breakdown the foam)
  • Insect bombs are not effective because they don't penetrate walls
  • Sonic devices do not work on larder beetles
  • Heating objects to 130°F for two to three hours, or placing objects in a deep freeze at 0°F for 24 hrs, will kill larder beetle adults and larvae in objects or pet food. 

Larder beetles in bedroom

I know you're thinking "gross!." It always surprises me to see a larder beetle in the bedroom. I might be making the bed and uncover one, find one on the floor or in the hallway.

As mentioned earlier, pantry beetles are attracted to human dead skins cells, sloughed off in bedding along with blood, sweat, and other human byproducts and don't forget dirty laundry! If you have a trash can in your bedroom, and have any waste in there that has been in contact with bodily fluids, count that as another source.

Other prime sources of food for larder beetles in a bedroom include shoes made of leather, leather belts, and fur accessories, such as hats, scarves, and trim. Also consider any feathers that happen to be be part of your fashion clothing.

Strangely enough, I don't find them in my pantry. I treat larder beetles in the bedroom the same way as the rest of the house: cockroach traps. They are really effective.

I have not located any dedicated larder pantry beetle traps. The Pro-Pest brand advertises "pantry moths and beetles." I don't if people are actually using them for pantry beetles, the comments are limited regarding pantry beetles.

Larder beetle spray and other pantry pest control products

Cockroach traps aren’t your only defense against larder beetles, pantry bugs, and pantry moths. I just recommended cockroach traps because why put two traps out when one will do?

 There are larder beetle traps and moth traps especially made for their pest control. I would suspect that they are the same ingredients as the cockroach traps.

Some people ask about larder beetle spray, but the only products I could find on Amazon is Reefer-Galler SLA Cedar Scented Spray Kills Clothes Moths Carpet Beetles and Eggs and Larvae and Dr Killigan’s Six Feet Under non toxic insect killer spray.

So now you have all my secrets for getting rid of larder beetle. Remember, keep your pantry and kitchen clean, swept and periodically vacuum shelves. Don’t forget the other rooms of the house, too! Also, consider investing in food storage containers so you don’t give easy access to pantry larder beetles.

Larder beetle traps and natural extermination options

Larder beetles can be exterminated just by stepping on them or vacuuming them up. Of course, you don't know how extensive the problem is. According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, "when the larder beetles have exhausted the food source they will disappear...if the food source appear to be within a wall, letting the problem run its course is likely the best solution."

So... do nothing or remove the food source.

Your other choice is to put out a pantry beetle trap (pantry bug trap). As far as I know, there is only one on the market, and that is the Pro-Pest Pantry Moth & Beetle Trap.

Essential oils to detract larder beetles

If you're not interested in killing them, then maybe you just want to steer them away from your kitchen and pantry. In that case, essential oils can discourage larder beetles from entry, just like they do for pantry moths.

  • Use a natural scent to repel them, such as by placing bay leaves on pantry shelves
  • Use a botanical, plant-based repellent
  • Use a few drops of diluted essential oil in water: peppermint, citronella, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove, lemon, lavender, thyme, or tea tree will work
  • sticky traps or double-sided sticky tape - could be pantry moth traps or sticky mouse traps; it's not the pheromone that works on larder beetles, just the fact that beetles can accidentally get stuck to it

Just a couple of side notes. Some people or pets might be sensitive to the essential oils. You will have to pick your family or pet family over the larder beetle. It's not a bad idea to continue on with the sticky tape, even after it seems there are no more signs of beetles. The tape can give you a quick visual of new pantry beetles in the area.

Vinegar works as a repellent with pantry moth and pantry moth larvae, I can not clearly say that it is a weapon against pantry beetles, but you can try! Just leave out a small dish of vinegar or apple cider vinegar in your pantry or kitchen area.

Larder beetle bites

Larder beetles are more of a nuisance than anything. I would not consider larder beetles dangerous to humans. Larder beetles do not bite. A larder beetle larvae bite could be a complete accident and not a defense mechanism. They do love to eat.

As far as sensitivity reactions, ENVU Environmental Science, reports "Hairs dislodged from the larvae may lead to skin irritation or conjunctivitis in people exposed to the insects. They play only a very minor role in disease transmission."

Are larder beetles harmful to pets?

Naturally, people are worried if their dogs and cats can be harmed by pantry beetles. Larder beetles will not harm or bite your dog or cat. Larder beetles will only be interested in the pet food.

It would be a good idea to change out or clean regularly any dog bed or cat bed. Their dead skin cells can also be the source of attraction for larder beetles.

Larder beetles do carry and transmit disease, so that’s something you’ll want to talk to a qualified vet about if you’re worried.

get rid of pantry beetles

About the author 

Renee Matt

Renee is an Iowa farmwife with a background as a former kitchen designer. Supporting the family farm with hearty meals has been key to Renee's pantry readiness. She uses her professional IT background and expertise to bring the Everything Pantry website to life. Read more about this farmwife on her about page.

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