Newsflash: Insects invading kitchens!

    
mealworms in bran, stored product insects, insects in food products

Photo credit: Richard Chambers

Ever come across an insect invasion in your kitchen? Spring and summer time brings on pests that invade your space – not to mention your food!

Stored food insects enjoy breeding in warm temperatures, and what’s more, they contaminate your food! When it comes to food and my health, I am very pedantic. I remember the time when my brother joked that there are moth scales (the powder-like element on moth’s wings) in my corn flakes. Just the thought that I might ingest that extra bit of ‘protein’ along with my favourite cereal was reason enough to do away with the whole box, sies!

In fact, I have heard many stories of these pests. This was the case for one of my colleagues, who unbeknownst to him had moths breeding in his office that originated from a food sample he had received from a customer. As the weather warmed up, the unnoticed moths developed, and as he opened his office door a few days later he was welcomed by a whole swarm of them. Lucky for him, he had help at hand and could do a fumigation treatment to get rid of these bugs.

Stored food insects infest various food products including cereal foods (I might not have been as paranoid as I thought) such as flour, cake mix, rice, spaghetti and crackers; as well as seeds (including popcorn and dried beans), dried fruit, raisins, spices, tea, powdered milk – the list goes on! Even non-food products such as dry dog food, potpourri and bird seed can also get contaminated. Several insects that fall part of the stored products insects category include moths, and various species of mites and beetles.

Where do stored product insects come from?

Now, where do these insects come from is the question that has to be asked – after all, they arrive unannounced in homes as well as eat and contaminate our food. The last time I have checked, I did not send out an invitation for these unwanted guests to stay over and help themselves to my food.

These insects need a way to enter your house, and they usually don’t just come through the front door with you. They can enter through cracks and crevices around your property, or even infest foodstuffs via the food production process and then be carried into your home. Stored product insects lay their eggs on food or within, and here is a scary thought – they can be present in the foodstuffs we eat!

Most of the stored food insects also are pests of stored grain or other commodities that can be found outdoors. Food products that are left undisturbed on the shelves for long periods of time are also candidates for an infestation. A co-worker of mine mentioned that she found an infestation in one of her spices – and from now on only opts for well-known brands, avoiding the overcrowded spice store with the suspect storeroom! However, foods of any age can become infested. Most products are fumigated before they are placed in-store which is harmless to the consumer. Although, this does not mean that they cannot be re-infested afterwards if stored in a dirty or infested warehouse, store room or even pantry.

Some tips from on how to avoid a stored product insect infestation:

  • Always check the expiry date when buying products that are prone to a stored product insect attack.
  • Only buy what you need and be sure to use the product as quickly as possible.
  • Be sure to buy food from reputable retailers.
  • Remember, that insect development escalates in warmer temperatures as they need heat and humidity to survive, so be sure to store your food products in a cool and dry place.
  • Always store food in sealed containers to avoid contamination.
  • Clean away any product spillages in your cupboards.
  • Clean the storage area and shelves thoroughly with a vacuum cleaner and hot soapy water.
  • To ensure insects don’t enter your home, good screening is critical, and make sure to seal any gaps around windows and door frames.
  • If you have older food products and you are not sure if they are infested, you can either throw them out, or place these products in the freezer at 0 degrees for at least 4 days or in an oven at 60 degrees Celsius for at least 30 minutes. These extreme temperatures will get rid of any eggs or insects that may be present.

Ever since the joke of the possible moth scales in my cereal, I have been accustomed to checking the pantry regularly, and especially making sure open food packets are sealed and old food products are thrown out. It seems that my paranoia has been good to me, as I have not come across insects invading my kitchen…

However, it is also a good idea to call in the Rentokil Pest control experts to perform a survey of your property, should you have an infestation of any kind, just to be extra careful. You never know who you might be inviting in (willingly or not)!

 

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