October 2, 2008 3:28 PM   Subscribe

My roommate brought some bugs along with her when she moved in. How do we get rid of them and protect the food?

Apparently my now-roommate had a small bug problem - the kind that likes to eat flour and pasta and the like. She threw out everything that was contaminated before she came here, but just last night found one swimming in the pasta she was boiling for dinner. We found a couple more containers that were compromised (those individual-sized rice pouches and some pickles that were in serving-size apple sauce cups). The bugs had eaten through the packaging. Once again, everything contaminated was thrown out.

So now what do we do? She lives off of those tear-off-the-top-and-throw-in-water pouch meals and has tons of them; do we need to throw them all out? Her food is separated from mine by several cabinets - do I need to throw out all of my flour and pasta? What's the best way to prevent them from coming back? I plan to do a very thorough cleaning of countertops and floors tomorrow, but what other prevention should we practice? What types of food are at risk? How careful do we need to be about keeping dirty dishes out of the sink and generally maintaining cleanliness in the kitchen?
posted by backseatpilot to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You may get other opinions on this but....flour and pasta is relatively cheap. If it's open, throw it out. This is what I did during a pantry infestation and it really did the trick.

You may not see bugs yet in there, but you might have....eggs.
posted by availablelight at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2008

Been there -- yuck! This works (and I can't take the credit for the idea) - stick flour, pasta, all that stuff in the freezer for a couple of days and it'll kill those suckers -- I hate them so much that generally speaking I throw my flour and pasta in the freezer right when I get home from the store.
posted by nnk at 3:42 PM on October 2, 2008

I've had these and they're easy to get rid of, usually. I wiped down ALL the cupboards and counters with Lysol kitchen spray and vacuumed and mopped the floor with good floor cleaner. They're not very quick, but they pretty much don't stop moving.

Anything that isn't airtight and was in a cupboard where you found them is probably a goner. If they haven't invaded a space, it's probably OK, but you'll want to close them up in zip bags or put them in the freezer or something until you get them under control.

I wouldn't use any pestcides, but they are sort of like moths, so maybe cedar closet inserts would work to help keep them away in the meantime. They like to hide in strange places, so be sure to look everywhere.
posted by fiercekitten at 3:44 PM on October 2, 2008

Oh, and it's not about how clean your house is -- you're bringing them in from the store -- and yeah, they like the carbs.
posted by nnk at 3:45 PM on October 2, 2008

Check your spices/herbs, too - we've found that buying paprika seems to bring in tobacco weevils with distressing frequency, and they spread very quickly into anything that seemed tasty to them - even books.
posted by batmonkey at 3:48 PM on October 2, 2008

Those bugs are tenacious, and don't need much to live on. I had some that were living in my cookbooks (presumably dining on food spilled on the pages, though there may be some that can eat adhesive). I got rid of them by freezing the books for two weeks.

Any time you bring dry ingredients into the house, you might be bringing bugs/eggs in too. Go ahead and freeze all your new purchases of flour, pasta, etc. Many grain products and nuts keep better in the freezer anyway; stored at room temperature after opening, they can get stale or rancid faster than most people use them.

To protect existing foods, try to store everything in airtight glass or metal containers. You don't have to spring for anything fancy - you can get canning jars and lids in various sizes, stick some labels on them, and you're done. I don't know if standard spice jars are airtight enough.
posted by expialidocious at 4:20 PM on October 2, 2008

When I worked in the supermarket, we used to get worms / moths in the dry cat / dog food. We would load it into shopping carts, park it in the walk in freezer for a day and then put it back on the shelf.

This supports the above posts of a.) putting them in the freezer kills the bugs and b.) you are probably bringing them home from the store.
posted by monkeydluffy at 4:47 PM on October 2, 2008

Yeah, we had pantry moths, and ended up throwing out everything, and wiping out the cabinets. Then we bought new dry goods, and plastic containers to store them in.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 4:51 PM on October 2, 2008

We get these in rice sometimes. The only thing that worked was throwing anything away that they might have infiltrated and vacuuming the crap out of pantry. Incidentally, I've often heard these referred to as pantry moths; I know there are some old threads here discussing them. In my limited experience, they tended to come back, either from places we had missed or from new rice. Constant vigilance and consistent freezing is the best way to keep those suckers out for good.
posted by MadamM at 5:01 PM on October 2, 2008

I took a page from (failed) US foreign policy ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend"), and agreed to a limited ceasefire in the War on Spiders.

for now...

never trust a human
posted by -harlequin- at 6:19 PM on October 2, 2008

Those things are EVIL. I had an infestation in my dorm room of all places. Brutal.

I managed to beat it by getting rid of anything I knew they were in or that they might like. I then spent a solid month killing moths and worms (ew) so that they wouldn't come back. If you see one, squish it.

The only funny thing about the whole situation was seeing 25 girls crowded around my door screaming because there were worms crawling on the ceiling.
posted by riane at 7:39 PM on October 2, 2008

You have meal moths. Try this thread.
posted by susanvance at 7:50 PM on October 2, 2008

Are they flour moths? Larvae look like maggots, and hatch into very small, dirty looking moths? Total pain to get rid of I'm afraid - they can chew their way even into sealed plastic packaging. We had an infestation many years ago, and had to throw away all pantry contents, thoroughly clean all storage areas with very hot water and start from scratch storing pantry staples in glass jars for a while. They're a beast to get rid of, and I'd recommend doing it properly so you only have to do it the one time.
posted by bifter at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2008

It sounds like pantry moths. They are a bother. I've read that one bug can lay up to 200 eggs and their life cycle is 8 weeks so it takes a few months without a sighting to know that they are really gone, but you can get rid of them.

Here's a site with basic information on getting rid of them.

Throw out anything with the bugs or the larvae and seal everything else up. Take everything that is uninfested out of cardboard or paper containers and store the contents in glass or plastic containers or ziploc bags. Clean the cabinets or pantry well, including corners and the ceiling. Don't forget the interior of doors.

Your roommate's pouch meals should be closely and individually inspected for the larvae. It sounds like a pantry moth's idea of heaven.

Good luck!
posted by k8to at 3:56 PM on October 15, 2008

« Older How do I make my Mac Mini do bridging over...   |   Help me wire my basement office for sound Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.