What sort of pests completely consumed two bags of rice in my cupboard?
November 17, 2023 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Today I discovered that two plastic bags of rice that had been sitting in my pantry cupboard had been completely emptied with seemingly surgical precision. What critters coukd have done this?

I had two bags of rice in my pantry cupboard — an unopened plastic bag of brown rice and an opened but reclosed bag of Kirkland basmati, the kind that comes in a bag made of soft plastic fabric with a zipper at the top. I had put them there say 4 months ago. Today I go to get something else and both bags are completely empty! There were a few holes, around an inch in diameter, in each bag. The holes were near the top of each bag rather than the base (i.e. where I would expect a rodent to start chewing). The edges looked kind of scalloped, like when a caterpillar has been eating a leaf. The bags were sitting in a plastic basket, and at the bottom of the basket, in little piles, were very small fragments of what used to be the bag material — the size of pencil eraser crumbs. I have had pantry moths in the past, but they have laid eggs and left sticky spider web type tendrils in the food. Here the rice was COMPLETELY GONE. I have two cats and have never seen mice or found droppings. Raccoons have gotten into the house on occasion, but they tend to go right for the cat food. They also invariably make a huge mess, not at all like this precision ninja strike. Somebody please help — It’s driving me crazy trying to figure this out!
posted by Turtles all the way down to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
Best answer: Mice did this exact neat, tidy, surgical extraction of rice I had in the basement for emergencies. Not one grain left, just a fully empty bag. Even the same Kirkland packaging!
posted by potrzebie at 2:38 PM on November 17 [16 favorites]

Small cleanly cut hole and food taken elsewhere? I'm guessing ants, although google varies on whether ants are actually interested in rice.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:38 PM on November 17

My guess would also be mice, since I've had them do this too. They will fill their cheeks and take it elsewhere. Cats are only really a deterrent in places they can reach, but will often keep mice from fully moving in, which would explain the lack of droppings.

I've never known ants to be interested in grain, at least in the US.
posted by aspersioncast at 2:55 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]

Probably mice. Over months or years, you will find little stashes of rice that the mice have hidden away somewhere in your house (I found a little pile inside a glove recently).

Time to set some traps and figure out where they are getting in to the house, because once they figure it out, they will keep coming.
posted by ssg at 3:01 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]

Anywhere there have been mice, there is mouse poop and the sharp stench of mouse piss. Rats are tidier.
posted by scruss at 3:05 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]

Mice have moved the rice to caches you'll find for months. They are incredibly diligent. Get snap traps, 8 or 10, set all of them one night along wall in the pantry. Get rid of deceased mice by putting the whole trap and dead mouse in a plastic bag in the garbage. Continue this.
posted by theora55 at 7:01 PM on November 17 [2 favorites]

It's mice. I also have two cats and they are completely useless when it comes to small mammals inside the house. Spiders? ALL OVER IT. But mice? It's like they've never heard of them.
posted by cooker girl at 7:01 AM on November 18

Anywhere there have been mice, there is mouse poop and the sharp stench of mouse piss. Rats are tidier.

I think this is likely context-dependent, as I’ve only experienced it in places where mice were well-established enough to nest. Since I started having cats every place we’ve lived has had a very occasional mouse sighting (and consequent murder) but no droppings, smell, or other evidence, aside from the couple of grain-stealing excursions that manifested exactly as described until I discovered their route into the pantry. It was definitely mice, as both times I was subsequently presented with a literal corpus delecti from one of the feline members of the household.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:34 AM on November 19 [2 favorites]

Incidentally if you want to prevent this in the future, plastic tubs are really easy for mice to get through. I now have metal-lined bins and keep beans/rice in glass jars. I hang the yearly 10 Lb bag of rice from a high hook in the kitchen. I’ve seen mice since, but they haven’t managed to get into anything.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:38 AM on November 19

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