Insects, just like wildlife and people for that matter have food preferences. Some insects eat and destroy our food. Some insects eat wood or damage furniture and harm our plants.
Wintertime is a common time of year when we see insects in the home, especially the kitchen or pantry. The usual insect we find in these places is called stored product pests. These insects might be found in a bag of flour, on the floor under a bag of bird seed, in a basket of potpourri, in a container of spice or maybe in the old bag of dog food left after FIDO ran away two years ago. Sometimes I will get calls from clients who have insects working an old bag of dried beans or peas in the back of pantry or left over garden seed stored in the house.
You might have the Cigarette Beetle, Drug Store Beetle, Flour Beetle, Indian Meal Moth, Larder Beetle, Pea Weevil, Rice Weevil or the Saw-toothed Grain Beetle. These pests can come into your home with infested food or products or just migrate to an area where there is a source of food. Every insect has a different life cycle but basically an adult beetle, moth or weevil lays eggs which hatch within 2 days to 3 weeks depending on the season. The larval stage comes second and we typically see a small, whitish grub or a whitish worm in the case of the Indian Meal Moth. The larval stage is where we typically see the most destruction. The 3rd stage of their lifecycle is the pupae stage where the immature insect is motionless and goes without feeding for 2 weeks up to 4 months. The fourth and final stage is the adult stage. We might find adult weevils on the top of our stove where they have been slid off a top shelf of your cupboard with a bag of flour or meal. You can find adult Indian Meal Moths flying in other rooms but their source of infestation is always in the kitchen, pantry or in a cupboard.
Once you have identified an insect pest regardless of the kind, control is not that hard. Grab a can of pesticide, right? But in the case of these stored product pests your first step is to identify what the boogers have infested and remove it. Second thoroughly vacuum the area to remove any traces of their food. And third inspect other products in this area for signs of damage. If you just cannot bring yourself to throwing away that expensive bag of potpourri or meal you can place the product in the freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 days, or microwave it for 5 minutes or heat it in the oven at 120 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 hours.
When bringing in new pet food, bird seed, or other items containing grain inspect the packaging carefully especially the seams. Look for small holes in the container possibly with powdered product sifting out. Any food or seed kept in the house should be stored in plastic bags or re-sealable containers to prevent entry by insects.
Some residents are ashamed to admit they have an insect problem in their home. However, finding insects in food products or pet foods is not a reflection of the cleaning practices of the homeowner but says more about the food retailer or distributor. Besides, beetles and weevils found in cooked foods have a higher protein content. And beetles cooked in with your usual biscuit recipe have a crunchy texture with a slightly smoky flavor. Yum.
Britt West is the extension agent for Barrow County. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.