Monday, September 5, 2011
How to Prevent Weevils & Pantry Moths & Get Rid of Them Forever
In Home Economics class, they taught us how to sift flour, but never owned up to the real reason sifters were invented: to remove weevils from flour back in the days when throwing it away might have meant starvation. Some people call them flour moths, mealy bugs, Indian Moths, pantry webs... lots of names because good housewives everywhere have been plagued with them for centuries.
I will never forget how horrified I was in my first home when weevils were in my flour. It really freaked me out. That was when I talked to my grandmother to find out what to do. She told me 3 things: (1) Put a bay leaf in everything, (2) store in airtight containers, (3) if you have them, clean thoroughly to get rid of them, then follow (1) & (2).
Getting weevils in grains or moths in the pantry doesn't mean you don't keep a clean house but once you know how to keep them away, you never have to cope with them again.
(1) Put a bay leaf or two (a dried, culinary Bay Leaf) in each canister or bag. It will not put out any flavor or odor to the food, but will prevent weevils or moths. Mema told me that weevils come in the flour/grain, and that the secret is to keep them from hatching. That prevention is what the bay leaves do, and they really work. Even an airtight container may not prevent weevils, but the comination of a bay leaf in a closed environment well.
(2) Store everything in airtight containers. I like clear containers so I can see what I have. Otherwise I forget. And I like plastic because I'm a klutz, but glass is superior otherwise. Clear plastic, clear glass, or brand-name zip storage bags (like Zip-Loc heavy-duty gallon bags) are all fine. Tins and opague plastic, such as Tupperware, will work great too so long as you can remember how to find things.
I leave things in their original package, and use a container big enough to just drop them down into. The Bay Leaf can then go into the container and doesn't have to be directly in the package of flour or barley. Plus that way I can remember what brand I bought.
Keep birdseed and pet food in airtight containers too. These are notorious and easy to forget. If possible, keep both of these items outside the house, in the garage. Rubbermaid tubs are super for large quantities or for storing several kinds of items in their original packaging. Airtight & watertight, Rover and the red birds will love you for keeping their food fresh. Birds don't mind the protein from the bugs but still I'm sure they'd rather have the sunflower seeds!
(3) To get rid of a problem with them if you already see pantry moths or weevils, empty the pantry and brush it thoroughly, including the joints, with a stiff brush, then vacuum using the crevace tool or a dust buster- including the joints. If you don't have a vacuum, use a whisk broom or other stiff brush and give it a good brushing on all surfaces.
If it won't hurt the pantry to get it damp, wipe it down after that with soap & water and allow to dry completely. Don't use pine oil or anything with a strong scent as foods might pick it up. Just use soapy water and wring out your washcloth well. No need to rinse - the soap residue will also help keep pests away.
When you put things back, put them into containers with a bay leaf first. Inspect the stuff you took out to be sure it doesn't have weevils before putting it back. Telltale signs are small holes in the packaging, webby
clumps in flour or meal, and of course, weevils themselves.
All of this may sound like a lot of work, but it's not really. Once you get the pantry set up, it's only a matter of keeping it up. So when a new bag of flour comes in, straight away it goes into the flour tub. New boxes of cake mix can go into the same Zip-Loc bag the others came out of. Easy-peasy.
And it doesn't have to cost much at all. Some will be free: recycle containers you'd otherwise throw away. Start one at a time, with flour and grains, as you get a container, put something in it. Any kind of containers that fit your budget are fine. My stuff is stored in pickle jars, Zip-Loc brand bags, mason jars, cannisters that rice came in, Tupperware from garage sales, big cannisters from the dollar store, sugar in a plastic sherbet tub.
Voila! Vintage living at its best: no more bugs, no more waste, and no poisonous pesticides. Just clean, all-natural remedies and a tidy house.