Bakers Journal

Guest Column May 2014: Spring pest divest

April 21, 2014
By Alice Sinia

Warming temperatures and longer days mean that spring is in the air.

Warming temperatures and longer days mean that spring is in the air. Though often an intimidating task, the annual ritual of spring-cleaning will be sweeping through bakeries looking to shed their winter clutter to prepare for the hustle and bustle of summer. Before you bring out the rubber gloves and begin scrubbing the usual germ-collecting suspects like sinks, counters, shelves and ovens, be sure to consider factors that attract every baker’s most unwanted ingredient and an active summer threat: pests.

Bakeries make ideal homes for pests by providing an abundance of their three survival factors – food, water and shelter. An Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach is the best way to prevent pests from becoming the next garnish for your baked goods because it focuses on proactive sanitation and facility maintenance steps to eliminate these survival elements. With spring-cleaning already on many agendas, now is a great time to incorporate proactive and preventative pest management steps that will help keep pests in their place and out of your kitchen.

Knowing where to clean and how to prevent pest intruders is key, but first it’s important to know which pests are looking to make your bakery their home.

Pantry pests
Pests such as Indian Meal Moths, dermestid and trogodema beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles and flour beetles find their favorite meals in pantries and dry food storage areas. These insects enjoy a range of baking ingredients, including flour, candy, cocoa, nuts, seeds, grains, sugar, chocolate and dried fruits. Signs of these pantry invaders include a silk webbing near the surface of infested products (for Indian Meal moths), frass (insect excrement and insect damage) and seeing the pests themselves in stored product.

These unsightly pests not only repel bakery customers, but also transmit more than 100 known pathogens, including e. coli, salmonella, staphylococcus and shingles. Flies leave behind bacteria every time they land.

Mice and rats can squeeze through very small openings and love the crumbs and moisture that can be found around a baking facility. They also carry more than 40 viruses and bacteria. Droppings the size of a grain of rice or raisin, gnaw marks, and dark, greasy rub marks along walls or baseboards are signs that rodents are nearby.

While fly infestations can be easily observed, pantry pests and rodents are stealthier when it comes to helping themselves to your inventory. Common sanitation measures are often not enough to detect and prevent these pests. Take your spring-cleaning a step further by adding pest-friendly locations into the rotation.

Moisture sources
Though water is a key survival factor for pests, many insects and rodents only need minimal amounts to survive. All sources of moisture should be regularly inspected, and standing puddles of water should be cleaned up immediately. During spring-cleaning, be sure to check for leaky indoor faucets, pipes and fixtures; clean floor drains; and inspect HVAC units for leaks and build-up.

Entry points
It only takes an opening of 1.5 millimeters for most insects to enter a building. Mice can fit through a hole the size of your pinkie finger. Check the interior and exterior of your bakery for cracks and crevices in walls and floors, making sure to look behind shelving units and cluttered areas for a thorough inspection.

Behind and under equipment
Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it’s not there. In fact, the areas hardest to clean are often the most conducive to pests’ needs. Rodents and other pests prefer to stay hidden and can usually find plenty of food and water in hard-to-reach areas. Consider putting your heavy equipment on rollers to make it easier to clean underneath and behind. Remember, an IPM approach is an ongoing program, not a one-time event – implement a deep-cleaning schedule to regularly clean hard to reach spaces.

Toss the clutter
Clutter helps hide pest attractants such as food debris, cracks and moisture, and can also serve as harbourage points for rodents. Take the following pest pre-cautions this year: clean out old goods from your pantry, get rid of cardboard boxes that have been piling up, and power wash trashcans and dumpsters. Consider incorporating these steps into your regular cleaning routine to help mitigate pests’ presence year-round.

Now that you know what to look for and where to look, consider different cleaning and pest prevention tools that will help you maintain a pest-free bakery. Use environmentally friendly cleaners to help eliminate the grease and grime pests feed on and breed in. Use tightly sealed clear plastic containers to store goods in your pantry. Make sure staff is using product on a “first in, first out” basis. Store or stack products off the floor and on shelves. Maintain aisles between shelves or perimeter space between shelves and walls. The space should be adequate enough to allow pest monitoring and proper housekeeping.

Make sure window screens and weather stripping on doors are intact and provide a tight seal.

Seal exterior cracks and crevices with copper mesh and weather-resistant sealant to prevent pests from getting inside.

Use insect light traps that attract flies using ultraviolet light and trap them on a non-toxic adhesive board inside the unit. These devices are silent, and the glue trapping board eliminates the contamination concerns associated with traditional “bug zappers”. Install insect monitors such as glue boards or pheromones in the pantry or dry food storage areas to monitor and detect early signs of infestations before infestation becomes a crisis.

Inspect all incoming shipments for signs of pests. Even if a contamination originates from a supplier, it’s your reputation that’s on the line as far as customers are concerned. 

This spring, don’t give pests any opportunities to raid your kitchen. Your pest management professional can offer additional pest management recommendations that are specific to your facility. And remember, an IPM approach is the best way to keep pests off of your menu all year long.

Alice Sinia, Ph.D. is resident entomologist – regulatory/lab Services for Orkin Canada focusing on government regulations pertaining to the pest control industry. With more than 10 years of experience, she manages the Quality Assurance Laboratory for Orkin Canada and performs analytical entomology as well as providing technical support in pest/insect identification to branch offices and clients. For more information, email Alice Sinia at or visit .

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