Today's TF News is about Identifying and Eliminating Pantry Pests. We have a great article written by Harlean Greathouse on the subject.
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Identifying and Eliminating Pantry Pests
By Harlean Greathouse
Pantry pests are one of the biggest problems in the home. There are dozens of pests, and to cover them all would take a very large book, but I will try to include the most common ones here. They actually fall into about 3 groups ---- the Cockroach, Beetles, and Weevils.
The Department of Entomology at the University of Nebraska has been kind enough to let us use the photographs by Jim Kalisch to help identify those "little critters" that you find in your flour, your pasta, dog food and many other foods stored in your pantry.
The cockroach is one of the most invasive pantry pests, and one of the hardest to get rid of. They are usually associated with "dirty" kitchens, but this is not always the case. Every home, even the cleanest, can be invaded with roaches. They can move in along with, perhaps, a used couch that you purchased. Another common method is in a grocery bag, perhaps even under a loose can label. Or it could be a box of merchandise from a thrift store, or yard sale. And it only takes one to get started if that one happens to be a female with eggs to lay.
Although there are several different roaches, but the German Cockroach is the one that usually is found in the home. Since roaches usually come out in the dark, if you are seeing them in the daylight, you probably have a very heavy population. It is possible to eradicate them, but not so easy. They have become resistant to insecticides. The first step is to keep all crumbs, etc. cleaned up. Clean under counter top appliances like the toaster, and microwave.
You will also notice "roach specks" where they spend a lot of time. Place bait traps in these areas. Gel baits seem to work well. Boric Acid dust seems to help in some cases. If the roaches walk through it, it sticks to their body and feet, and they ingest this slow-acting poison as they groom themselves. Another remedy is to mix flour, sugar, a little boric acid (even Twenty Mule Team Borax will work here) and enough water to make a stiff dough. Take bits of the dough and roll into tiny balls. Let these harden and stick them in dark places where roaches might be hiding. If all else fails, there is a Cockroach Control Manual that is available from the University of Nebraska. It seems a little expensive, but the expense is relative to the degree of the problem I suppose. You can find information on purchasing the manual at http://pested.unl.edu/cocktoc.htm
Moths and Beetles
Moths and beetles feed on and contaminate many food products such as cereals, nuts dried fruits, flour, cake and quick bread mixes, pasta, rice, spices, candy, etc. They can also be found in Dog food and bird seed. Some of these products are already infested when we buy them. I have seen moths flying around the birdseed bags in the store at times. My worst Indian Moth infestation began with a large bag of in-the-shell Pecans at Christmas a few years ago.
It is common to find beetles and weevils in the same infested food as the moth larvae. The means to eliminating them are pretty much the same. And the same precautions are necessary to avoid re-infestation.
I could tell you about all the things I have read, but the best information is always first-hand, so this article is about what I personally have done to get rid of my pantry pests. And some of the changes I had to make to my storage area. My storage area is not as attractive and pretty as it used to be. But it is nearly bug-proof. I used to have all these cute vintage canister sets that I picked up at yard sales.
Yellow Meal Worm
My War on Bugs
The first thing I learned is that a cake mix (or any boxed food for that matter) is not bug proof. They eat right through the bag. The second thing that I learned is you must seal everything....not only to keep the bugs from getting in, but also to keep the bugs from getting out. Many products have insect eggs in them when we buy them. Flour is one that usually does. I know, it doesnt sound very appetizing, but it is a fact of life. If you leave it in the sack in your pantry, and it is contaminated, you have those pests into everything else that is not sealed. If you seal it in a container, and it is contaminated, you can dispose of it before anything else is affected.
When I buy flour, or cornmeal, I store it in my freezer for 3 days before I pour it into my flour bucket. Since I do a lot of baking, my flour is stored in a 2 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid. I find many of the containers that I will mention here, by checking restaurants, donut shops, and delis. Sometimes they are even FREE. Of course you can buy many of these type containers at Wal-Mart. In fact, I have purchased a couple of the plastic storage tubs they sell and store all unopened cereal, crackers, chips, etc in the tubs.
Once I open a box of cereal, I pour it into a gallon jar with a screw on lid. These are also available for free some places. Hey, if you know a restaurant employee, ask them if they will save some for you. They are see through, so you can easily find what you are looking for. Once you get your containers ready, check everything in your cupboard, including your spices. Weevils love Paprika. Throw out anything that is buggy, and seal everything else up. Once this is done, be vigilant at all times.
All it will take is one time of putting half a bag of flour on the shelf, or a box of cornbread mix or package of hot chocolate mix. Oh, yes, I have found weevils there, too. Nothing is safe. Another thing that I did was purchase a couple Moth Traps from Gardens Alive. I set them on the pantry shelves for the hungry moths that were hanging around. It took a few weeks before I stopped seeing them flying around my pantry. But have not seen a single one in 3 years.
Ironically, a few days ago, just after I decided this was a topic that needed discussing, I got down my box of oatmeal. Now this is a cardboard box, but it is sealed with a plastic lid. I have saved it to store my oatmeal, since I have begun to buy my oatmeal in bulk. But have not had a problem with it and have been using it several years. It was full of weevils! It took me a minute to realize that they had not gotten into this container....they couldnt get out! Guess I will now add Oatmeal to the products that I freeze before storing. Good luck with your project, and I hope these methods work as well for you as they have for me. I am sure there are other tips out there, that I have not thought of, and I would love to see them as feedback.
About The Author:
Harlean Greathouse is a mother of three who has been married for 45 years. Long time readers of ThriftyFun will probably recognize her as Harlean from Arkansas, the name she has posted under as a valuable member of the ThriftyFun community. She specializes in wood crafts and enjoys designing crafts using recyclable materials, knitting, crochet and has been an arts and crafts vendor for over 35 years. Harlean has a CD available with 11 unique crafts designs for only $5.00 (including shipping). For more information visit:
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Years ago, I found a cabinet of cereal and crackers infested with mealworm. I washed it down and replenished it only to find them again. Again, I took great pains to make certain even the latches were washed, replenished, and found them again. Someone told me my mistake was washing (wetting) the cabinet as it created a breeding ground. I've since kept all my flour based products sealed, too, but hadn't known about freezing them first.
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