Several insects commonly infest home-stored foods in Colorado, such as grains, flour, nuts, spices, packaged herbs and dried fruit. If infestations are prolonged, foods may be seriously damaged and may need to be discarded. |
Many people will discard food products that are even lightly infested by insects. These insects typically pose little health hazard, although some species (notably carpet beetles), can produce irritation or allergic reactions.
Indian meal moth, flour beetles and sawtoothed grain beetles are particularly common in Colorado homes and are found throughout most of the world. Sometimes insects that infest food, such as: carpet beetles, enter homes through natural migrations. More often, insects enter homes on food already infested during storage or transportation.
When insects are first detected in food products, try to identify all sources of infestation in the home. Check all susceptible food items in cupboards. Pay particular attention to items that have not been used for a long time. Also check areas of spilled foods.
If you know the identity of the insect, it will help you focus your search. If flour beetles are present, look only through finely-milled materials including crumbs and other spilled material. Sawtoothed grain beetles may infest a wider range of food, including oatmeal and coarsely milled food. Indian meal moths or cockroaches infest pet food or bird seed and other ornamental items that involve the use of grains or dried fruits and vegetables. Carpet beetles most typically are established in woolens, furs, among dead insects and household lint.
The physical presence of the insects is the most obvious means of detecting areas of infestation. Also look for old cast skins left by flour and carpet beetles. The presence of webbing is an easy means to detect items infested by Indian meal moth.
Items infested by insects that live within the food (carpet beetles, flour beetles or Indian meal moth) should immediately be discarded or temperature treated to kill the insect. To control with cold treatment, put infested items in a deep freeze for three to four days. To improve the effectiveness of this treatment, alternate freezing treatments with a period of rewarming to room temperature. For high temperature treatments, heat the oven around 133 to 140 degrees F, introduce the food items and hold for 20 minutes. Injury to the food is possible with excessive high temperature treatment.
Heat- or cold-treated objects can be reinfested. Keep them in the refrigerator or store them in tight-fitting containers until household infestations are eliminated. Adult Indian meal moths and flour beetles deprived of food might live three to five weeks. Carpet beetle and cockroach infestations typically take much longer to eradicate. Because insects also can develop on spilled food, thoroughly clean areas where food is stored by vacuuming or sweeping all spilled food. Bleach or other sanitizing agents often are used during this cleanup phase but have little effect. These agents can kill a few exposed insects and eggs, but have no residual effect unless spilled foods are completely eliminated.
As a routine precaution, materials suspected of having insects can be treated by freezing after purchase. Purchase smaller amounts of food and use food products directly after purchase to prevent infestations from being established by insects brought in on the food.
Use of insecticides within the pantry area is not generally recommended and normally will give little additional control in the absence of an aggressive sanitation program. Some household formulations of pyrethrins are labeled for use as crack and crevice treatments near food storage areas. There are also some formulations of pyrethroid insecticides (bifenthrin, permethrin, and tralomethrin) that allow general use in the home and may help manage insects that are widely dispersed.Never apply insecticides in a manner that allows direct contact with food or food utensils. Often it is best to remove all food and utensils during insecticide treatment to avoid accidental contamination.
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