When you were young, did your mom or grandmother fill the house with the sweet aroma of pie, during the holidays? Do you have fond memories of apple, cherry, and mince meat, melting on your tongue? I think we all do. But the memory we don't have, is what our mothers and our grandmothers had to go through to keep those ingredient safe from bugs. It takes diligence and attention to detail. And one slip can endanger all the food in your pantry. Here is a quick guide to what pests you'll need to watch out for here in Georgia, and what you can do to keep them from spoiling your holiday baking.
What bugs might you find in your pantry?
There are many pantry pests, but here is the short lists: drugstore beetles, cigarette beetles, rice weevils, granary weevils, angoumois grain moths, red flour beetles, sawtoothed grain beetles, mealworms, ants, and cockroaches. Some of these bugs chew on the outside of grain and kernels, like the cigarette beetle and the indian meal moth. Some insects, like the rice weevil, feed only on the insides, which can hide them from observation. If you see any bugs in your stored food, remove that item, in its entirety.
What do they get into?
Pantry pests feed on wheat, barley, seeds, whole kernels of oats, spices, dry pet food, macaroni, flour, cornmeal, cereals, rice peas, powdered milk, corn meal, dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate. Rotting food is particularly appetizing.
How do they get in?
The most common ways these insects get into your pantry are: hitchhiking from the grocery store, and squeezing in from the outside. Cockroaches, as well as many other insects, have a system of tubes called tracheae that are lined with cells that give them a powerful sense of smell. If you have something rotting in your pantry, it will be like a homing beacon. Many of these bugs are very small, and sealing your pantry can be quite hard. The best defense is a good offense. Here are some practices you can implement to keep those bugs from targeting your pantry.
Always check packages for holes or damage, before you purchase them from the grocery store.
Keep your pantry dry, clean, and well ventilated.
Don't let anything stay in your pantry past its due date.
Store as much as you can--even pet food--in sealed, hard plastic containers.
If you plan to keep grain for a while, store it in the fridge.
Don't mix old food with new food. Use up the old food first.
Clean containers before putting new food in.
If bugs can't smell your food, and can't get in your food, your pantry will be of no value to them. Keep it clean, keep it dry, and keep as much as you can in sealed plastic, and those pantry pests--and even rodents--will go somewhere else to forage.