At every single commercial kitchen I have ever worked at, we’ve had weevil or pantry moth problems. In a business this is tantamount to disaster; hundreds of kilos of ingredients need to be thrown out, and a day of production is wasted in emptying food storage and cleaning. At home it is just as bad opening the pantry to find moths flying at your face or seeing movement in your bags of flour and grains. The sad but true fact is that the eggs of pantry moth and various types of weevils already exist in most grains, nuts, flours, seeds; if you have an infestation, it is likely to have occurred because one or several ingredients already had the pest potential in them and spread to your other dry goods. Weevils lay eggs inside the grain kernel and over several months the weevil grows large enough to emerge from the grain kernel and seeks out other weevils. This is our guide to dealing with an infestation and protecting against one for the future.
Shop with care
- When you’re shopping for dry goods, inspect the bag or bin carefully, even when you’re buying in a bulk store. If you see any cobweb like substances sticking grains together or sticking to the side of the bag, any movement at the bottom not caused by you, or the obvious tell-tale sign of a small moth or bug crawling around, then don’t buy it. And certainly alert someone in the store.
- When buying sealed plastic packs, never buy one with broken packaging where air and pests could have gotten inside.
- It’s better to buy dry goods in a bulk store or ethnic food store where turnover is high and the likelihood of a package having sat around for months is quite low.
- While we generally recommend buying large quantities of dry good to save money, when you buy at a store where you can purchase product by weight, then you can buy a small quantity for the same price as a large quantity. If you’ve had dry good pest problems before, you’ll feel better about purchasing small amounts that you can consume quickly
- Chuck bags of dry goods in to the freezer for a week to kill any pest eggs
- Alternatively you can also just store grains, pulses and flours in the freezer if you have the space
- Store dry goods in containers which seal tight; you can use plastic if they seal well but glass and metal have been found to be more difficult for pests to get through.
- Grain weevils – which are different from the typical wheat weevils which we tend to get – have the ability to chew through thin plastic and paper.
- Weevils, moths, ants and cockroaches are said to be repelled by the scent of bay leaves.
- Place a couple of bay leaves in each container of grain, flour, rice, pulse and beans. You can also tape them to the door, sides and undersides of shelves. Change the leaves every 3 months as they lose scent over time.
Inspect the Pantry
- If you ever see a tiny white caterpillar crawling along a shelf or wall, then you’ve got a sure sign of pantry moth. These horrible creatures can wriggle from one container to another
- Pantry moth is even more obvious when there is the mysterious presence of little grey brown moths in your pantry
- Check for small movements at the bottom of jars or in handfuls of flour. It takes a moment for your eyes to adjust, but the movement might turn out to be some tiny weevils; definitely discard the item and clean the container thoroughly.
Discard and Destroy
- If you’ve discovered a pest in one thing then you’ll have to go inspect every last thing in your pantry. Do a thorough inspection, open and sift through everything, even things that are unlikely
- Pantry moth and weevil have been found in spice jars quite surprisingly. Moths can hide and create webby cocoons in the lids of jars; you’ll have to open them up to make sure.
- Discard anything that is infested and be watchful and suspicious of everything else that is not. Get rid of all the things that have not been stored in a sealed glass or metal container.
- Vacuum out every crevice of the pantry to ensure no bits of offending grain are hiding
- Take all the garbage outside and put in the outdoor bin – don’t let them come back through the rubbish bags
Clean the pantry
- Once you’ve taken everything out of the pantry and disposed of any infested ingredients, wash the shelves down with hot soapy water
- Dry all surfaces thoroughly with a clean cloth
- Next wipe down the shelves and cabinet surfaces with straight white vinegar
- Thoroughly wash out all containers with hot soapy water
- If you’re suspicious of any of the other grains, chuck them in the freezer for a week to kill any pantry moth of weevil eggs. If you see any actual eggs or bugs in the bag, don’t attempt to save it.
- Essential oils such as peppermint, ecualyptus and tea tree also deter pests
- It is a good idea to change the containers of other apparently non-infested ingredients too
- It’s a good idea to set traps in the weeks after the discovery of an infestation
- Organic glue traps can be found in supermarkets and organic stores and they can be attached to the inside walls of pantries with double sided tape. These come with a little patch or pack of pheromones which attract things like pantry moth where they will get stuck and die.
- Set several traps in different places to ensure good coverage
Yes pantry pests are a truly awful thing, but with these measures you may ensure against an infestation in your home.