See a sudden onset of moths flying? Or perhaps a tiny web has formed in your cereal? You have pantry pests!
Sooner or later, if you have cereals, pasta, rice, and other grains sitting in a pantry unprotected, you may begin to harbor pantry pests. There are numerous species and each will develop rapidly of allowed to go undisturbed.
You'll spot each pantry pest in different ways. Pour out a bag of rice and you'll find tiny worms. A cup of flour may be filled with weevils. Or you'll find the quite decorative Indianmeal moth flying about.
In most cases, they are harmless, but truly not very attractive. And you certainly wouldn't want to have a guest witness a buggy event in your pantry. They do not spread disease and, in truth, we probably consume more of their carcasses than we want to imagine.
Where do they come from?
Pantry pests need oxygen and a moist environment to hatch and thrive. They may hitch a ride from the store as adults or the eggs may simply decide to hatch once they receive the right conditions.
How do I get rid of them?
Many foods are salvageable if you can get your mind past the presence of bugs. For rice, you can simply rinse and allow to dry. Flour and corn meal can be sifted. To be on the safer side, you can either freeze or heat the infested product. The former should be done in a deep freeze for 2-4 days; the latter can be baked for half an hour and 130 degrees F. This is wise to do with any like foods before introducing them to your pantry.
You can keep goods in the fridge, but remember that this can increase moisture content and is not recommended. Airtight, cool, and off the floor is better.
Heavy populations, however, should probably be a sign to discard the product.
The next step is to begin cleaning and take other precautionary measures. By the time you see moths flying, there is a real problem. The range of pests may be numerous, but so will their life cycles, from eggs, to larvae, to pupa, and then the adults - either beetles or moths.
Remove everything from your pantry and inspect each box carefully. Nuts and dried fruits are also susceptible as is dog food and bird seed. If there is room in the freezer, this is a wonderful spot for bagged and sealed dog food.
Clean every shelf thoroughly with any common household product. You'll also need to use an approved insecticide (read the labels). Be sure to get solution down in nooks and cracks where eggs can be hiding.
When dry, cover all shelving with plain protective shelf paper. This should be replaced during an annual cleaning as new pests can thrive underneath.
Pantry pest prevention
As noted above, you can freeze flour, corn meal, and other potentially buggy homes for a few days. This will kill adults and eggs both. Heating in the oven is more troublesome, but worth the effort if you don't have a freezer.
Store all open foods in airtight containers, preferably metal or glass. Plastic tends to attract humidity and most pantry pests won't be deterred by plastic bags. The only problem is that if you don't freeze or heat first, the bugs may still be active. You'll see activity if it's there.
Pantry pests are
not a sign of a dirty kitchen. Remember that you can't control what
hitches a ride in your grocery bags. Cleanup is painstaking and may
take time, especially with more annoying species. Whether you see the
common Indianmeal moth, beetles, weevils, or worms, attack the situation
immediately. Pantry pests do not go away without some dedicated assistance.
2005-2006 C.K. Kennedy
Pittsburg, TX 75686
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