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.


  1. This is great. I recently heard about the bay leaf method, but haven't actually put it into use. This reminder will get me going.

    Grain moths are especially troublesome when you buy bulk grains like I often do. My preventive measure up until now has been keeping a cat who makes a snack of those pesky critters as soon as they flitter within 3 feet of the floor. Actually, that has worked pretty well!

  2. I'd have thought bay leaves were some old wives tale if the "old wife" hadn't been my grandmother! But they've worked for me for many years once I finally got religious about using them.

    Cats are useful creatures! Glad yours likes catching her own snacks LOL!

  3. Make sure you check everything, not just foodstuff. The worms were in dry packets of herb mixes, toothpicks, packets of matches!!!! They were inside sealed jar lids, things that were never opened. My boyfriend was ready to strangle me for throwing out all his lazy suzan stuff when I showed him his toothpick box. LOL!!!!! I think our infestation had to do with remodeling the house next door...they stripped the walls there, so the little critters came to us! Gotta be vigilant on this one!!!

  4. Very good advice - thank you! Just like with flour, other things can harbor weevils straight from the store, too. The Bay Leaf in an air-tight container is the trick. An air-tight container alone won't prevent hatching.

    Thanks so much for sharing this important point!


  5. The zip lock baggies have not been fool proof for me. What I've learned is that a female weevil will lay an egg in a piece of grain. The egg feeds on the grain then hatches, so it's possible to buy a new box of well sealed product but when the weevil hatches it eats through the box and then the zip lock bag. I know this because I have found bugs crawling out of little round holes in my baggies. Freeze everything immediately after purchase for a day or two to kill any eggs then store the product in baggies or, better yet, air tight plastic, metal or glass containers. Using bay leaves is a new concept to me but it's surely worth the try!

  6. Thanks for the heads up about the zip lock baggies. The bay leaves are the best prevention that I have found, because they prevent the hatching. As you point out, in case even one little critter has already hatched, something else, like the freezing, is needed. Thanks for sharing your tips! :-)

  7. I also place my sifter inside a ziploc bag with a bayleaf :)

    1. Reba, that is brilliant! I forgot about the sifter. Thank you for sharing a great tip :-)

  8. Reba, that is brilliant! I forgot about the sifter. Thank you for sharing a great tip :-)

  9. Silly question........fresh or dried bay leaf?

    1. Hi! Dried bay leaf. It will "work" for years :-)

  10. Replies
    1. Dried bay leaf. It will "work" for years. :-)



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