Watch out for those deadly bugs


Watch out for those deadly bugs

 Pay attention to your shelves and pantry. You could have a few unwanted visitors eating away at your grains.

Pantry pests live, die and hatch eggs among your grocery units. They are generally brought home through an infested food item. You will often not know of their presence until they begin to multiply.

They can cause quite the headache, if found in your kitchen cabinets, not to mention in your food. A variety of them attack products including whole grains, flour, peas, beans, dry fruits, spices, dog food and bird seed.

These little bugs would have hitched a ride home, even before you realised it, in a box/ package or bag that you’ve brought home. And if you are under the impression that cockroaches have the reputation of being invincible, you are wrong. These little bugs are no less uncanny. They hide in the cracks and crevices of the kitchen cabinets or shelves and floors and reproduce by feeding on stored food.

Common pests

The Indian meal moth is one of the worst enemies of stored food. If you notice flying moths around the kitchen, it is a sure sign of infestation. You may even find dead moths in a dark corner, which means they have laid eggs. Weevils are found in flour and cereals. The red flour beetle, the confused flour beetle and saw-toothed grain beetle, are among the various species of beetles that infest food items. If you have stored dried plant materials like herbs and spices, cigarette beetles and drugstore beetles are occasional visitors.

The eggs of these pests are so tiny that they often go unnoticed. It is possible that they may be present in the food in their different stages of development (i.e. egg, larva, pupa and adult). Signs like spun webbing through the food, tiny worm-like larvae or the eggs should not be ignored. The larval stage is when these pests are the most destructive. Remember, if the food item is recently purchased, it is possible that the pests are in the egg stage. If left unused for a couple of weeks, these eggs will hatch, feed, pupate and infest all food items in the cabinet.

How do pests enter your pantry?
How do these pests get into our food? Some find their way from outdoors but the majority of them are present in the food items brought into our homes. If these food items have been stored at a location for weeks before being transported, chances of infestation originating from the warehouse cannot be ruled out. From there to the delivery van, then to the retail stores and finally into our homes, it’s a jolly ride for these little pests.

Controlling the pests

Steps to take control of the infestation are:
Step 1: When purchasing, thoroughly inspect all groceries and packaged food items for signs of infestation – small holes in cereals and pulses or thin webbing in the packages of milled products. At home, find the source of infestation. Do not overlook bird seed, pet food, chocolates, candies, cake mixes and other unopened food items.
Step 2: Discard any or all infested food and store all pantry items in air tight containers or jars.
Step 3: Remove all foods and vacuum the area. Seal up cracks and crevices where crumbs tend to get lodged. Make sure that cupboards and shelves fit well against cabinet walls.

Here are a few ideas to keep away these pests from your pantry.
nDiscard infested food in sealed bags because many cereal pests can fly. They can stay away for a while and fly back to find another source to deposit their eggs.
nBuy smaller packages of milled products and flour so that they are consumed faster. Or else, place packages in the freezer for three days before opening them. You could also heat them in the oven at 130 degrees for an hour or two to kill all stages of the pest and its eggs. The moths/beetles must be sifted out of the flour before use.
nDo not mix old and new food items. If the old food stuff is infested, it wouldn’t take much time for the pests to invade the new.

nUse pest-proof glass, metal or plastic containers. Glass jars with rubber gaskets are the best. Do not go for jars with screw tops, as larvae of pests can lodge themselves in the screw threads.

nUse hot water and soap to cleanse corners and crevices after cleaning up all spills and food crumbs. Boric acid can be dusted around cracks and corners to kill pests.
nVacuum clean the pantry at regular intervals. Wash cans, containers and jars, sun-dry them to kill any microscopic larvae.

Traditionally used repellents

Bay leaves, garlic and black pepper can be used to keep weevils away. Dried citrus fruit peels, laid out in the shelves, act as a repellent. A few cloves or a few hot whole red chillies mixed in the rice bags or storage containers can keep weevils away. The strong smell of cloves is what the weevils don’t enjoy.

A bay leaf can be taped on the inner side of the lid to repel pests from entering containers.  A box of matches can also be placed in the cabinet. The sulphur content in the match sticks is said to keep pests away, but this idea is not advisable if children are around. Sticks of spearmint chewing gum can also be placed in the shelves.
All pesticides and insecticide sprays have chemicals in them and can be poisonous. Hence keep them out of the reach of children and pets. Take great care when disposing empty pesticide containers. Take professional help if you think the problem is too tough to handle.  

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