It happens to the best of us: You aspire to bake some cookies, reach for the flour, and then realize it’s moving.
Welcome to weevils, tiny pests that can infiltrate a host of food products like rice, flour, and other grains. And unless you watch out, they may take over your entire pantry!
So, in case you have your own close encounter one day, here’s more info on what weevils are, whether or not they’re dangerous, and how to get rid of weevils and keep them at bay.
What are weevils?
Weevils are a group of beetles that are distinguished by their elongated snouts. Although they’re most often found noshing on food products, they sometimes also feed on clothing in your closet or furniture.
While there’s a crazy number of weevil species in the world—more than 95,000!— only three species are pests of household stored foods, according to Scott Lingren, an entomologist and owner of Venus Pest Co. The three you’re likely see in your home: the granary weevil, rice weevil, and maize weevil.
He says these weevil species lay their eggs in corn, wheat, oats, barley, or other grains. A single larva will develop and pupate within a six-week period. New adults that emerge from the grain kernel will mate and seek out more grain kernels to lay eggs in, continuing the cycle. Adults live for about six months.
The good news: Weevils don’t bite. The bad news: gross!
Odds are high that a weevil-ridden batch of flour is pretty much ruined, unless you enjoy eating these little critters. And even if your food is in bags or packages, that doesn’t mean it’s safe.
“Their chewing mouthparts can penetrate plastic and cardboard packaging, which will enable them to spread the infestation,” says Dave Lofquist, technical training manager for Arrow Exterminators. And they can spread fast.
“The adults can live for many months and are capable of wandering a good distance from the original infested item,” he explains.
How do weevils get into your house?
In most cases, you’re probably unwittingly bringing the weevils home with you from the grocery store.
“Most infestations found in homes arise from grains that are already infested when purchased from the store,” Lingren says. “In our experience in pest control, we have found that birdseed or bulk grains are the most common sources of infestation.”
Weevils can be found in all parts of the country because they are found in stored products, and those products are shipped all over the country. And you might not even be able to see them.
“Weevils’ egg, larvae, and pupal stages all occur within the grain, which makes detection difficult,” Lofquist says.
So, what if you (gulp) accidentally eat some weevils? The good news is they’re not harmful to humans, even if the gross-out factor is significant. And unfortunately, the chances that you have unwittingly ingested them at some point in your life are unappetizingly high. (Just consider it a bit of extra protein.)
How to get rid of weevils
Insecticide isn’t recommended for control of weevil infestations in home pantries, but preventing and eliminating them is fairly simple. Here are some tips:
- Store grains safely. Experts agree the best way to keep weevils out of your food is to store your grains in sealed glass containers with tight-fighting lids instead of the bags and boxes in which they’re sold. Clear containers are a great option as they let you see more clearly if any weevils are in there. Always inspect your grains before using them.
- Clean up spills. Even if you don’t see any weevils, clean up any spilled grains immediately. Weevils may be lurking in there, and you don’t want them spreading.
- When in doubt, throw it out. If you find weevils in one product, go through your pantry and look for signs of infestations in other foods. Throw out any food that has signs. If you have unaffected grains, place them in sealed containers. Any remaining adults outside of these containers will have no food source and die on their own within a few days.
- Forget the freeze. Some people suggest freezing food to kill weevils, which may work, but there will still be weevil eggs in your food that may hatch later on. And a bunch of dead weevils.
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