You scoop out a cup of brown rice and pour it into your rice cooker. Just before you add water and turn the rice cooker on, you look a little closer-some of the grains of rice seem to be moving. On even closer inspection, you find that some of the rice isn't rice at all: your rice is actually infested with small, wriggling creatures. You have weevils.
Has this experience ever happened to you? If not, you might have had this same problem with other foods. Maybe you pulled out a half-eaten box of graham crackers only to find the surface of the cracker you wanted to eat was swarming with oblong brown bugs. Maybe you scraped the bottom of your sack of flour and came up with a half-cup of reddish-brown specks instead.
No matter the situation, the experience was alarming, disgusting, and expensive, since you had to throw out whole bags and boxes of food that the bugs claimed for their own.
Below, we'll talk about bugs that threaten pantries everywhere: granary and rice weevils. These small little bugs can wreak havoc on your kitchen, but it's possible to prevent them or exterminate them completely if they invade your pantry.
What Are Granary and Rice Weevils?
Different species of weevils infest everything from cotton to hemlock to whole-wheat flour to dry lentils. Even if you've never had weevils before, you've probably heard of pests like the boll weevil, which can destroy entire cotton fields. Wheat and grain weevils have a similarly devastating effect on your pantry.
Weevils are small beetles that usually don't grow longer than an eighth of an inch. Their size allows them to infiltrate any type of food that isn't sealed in an airtight container. Rice weevils and granary weevils are red-brown and similarly sized.
The main difference between the two is that rice weevils can fly while wheat weevils can't, and granary weevils look glossy while rice weevils look dull. Also, if you live in southern California, you're more likely to encounter rice weevils than wheat weevils because they prefer warmer climates.
The good news is that consuming rice weevils might be disgusting, but it won't actually harm you. In fact, it's more than likely that you've consumed rice weevils before. Most food manufacturing plants do everything in their power to keep rice weevils away, but one slips through every once in a while.
Of course, no one would willingly choose to consume weevil-infested rice or grains. Weevil infestations can spread quickly, so once you find weevils in one bag of rice or flour, you usually have to throw out any open box or bag of dry goods, including cereal, crackers, and pasta.
How Can You Keep Weevils Away From Your Rice and Flour?
Take these steps to ensure weevils leave your pantry alone.
1. Deep-Clean Frequently
You probably sweep and mop your kitchen floor at least once a week, but how often do you take everything out of your pantry and scrub down the shelves? Probably not often enough.
At least every few weeks, remove everything from your pantry. Use hot water, soap, and a dishrag to rinse off all the shelves. Make sure you get into the back corners-weevils love to lurk just out of sight, and they're so small that they're easy to miss.
Cleaning out the pantry also gives you an opportunity to get rid of old, partially eaten boxes of crackers and other dry goods. If you don't clean out the pantry that often, you might find open boxes of pasta or Saltines that make the perfect undisturbed habitat for a weevil infestation to grow. If you aren't going to eat the food soon, put it in an airtight container or throw it out.
2. Seal All Containers Completely
The best way to keep weevils away is to store your flour and rice in airtight containers rather than the paper sacks or plastic bags they come in. Invest in large Ziploc bags or storage bins that keep bugs out.
You should also make sure everyone in your family reseals boxes of cereal and crackers. Roll the inner plastic bag up tightly, and then close the cardboard lid.
3. Use Herbs That Keep Bugs Out
Some herbs and spices, especially cloves and bay leaves, naturally repel weevils. Hang small bags of whole cloves or dried bay leaves around your pantry and switch them out when they start to lose their scent.
What If You Already Have an Infestation?
If you already have an infestation, throw out all the infested food immediately. Rinse the sides of your pantry down with vinegar, soap, and water, and vacuum out crevices and hard-to-reach corners.
If you pantry's shelves are removable, there might be small holes or notches up and down the pantry's sides that let you adjust the shelves' height. Your bug infestation can recur if bugs hide in small spaces like these, so cover the holes or notches with masking tape to cut off the bugs' air supply.
Following these steps should help you keep weevils out of your home and destroy an infestation if one happens. If you want additional advice or assistance as you protect your pantry from rice and granary weevils, call our professionals. We're happy to help!