Ready or Not #229: Icky Weevils

Have you ever wondered about the weevil?  We have all heard about them and at various times we have all probably seen little tiny baby weevils, or at least their discarded shells. (Yeuwww.)  I live in the mountains in the West and our winters are cold enough that we really don’t have a big problem with bugs like fleas, cockroaches and other pesky critters. (I’m a bit of an innocent; it wasn’t until I was 22 years old when I saw my first cockroach while visiting a southeastern coastal state.)

It is well known that if you have weevils in your pasta, oats, wheat, rice, corn, or grain of any kind, that it was because it had come with the grain.  Okay, whatever.  When I bought stuff and brought it home I would look for little weevils, but I never found any and I had never had any problems so I felt pretty good about the whole weevil issue.

If I was ever a little unsure of any of my grains or pasta, I would just throw them into the freezer for about a week or so, just like the experts said – and I never had a problem with weevil infestation.

Perfect.

Then I bought some feed corn – and it had weevil.  Of course I didn’t know that it had the weevil larvae that were gestating inside of the corn kernels.  After finishing my project I had about a cup’s worth of the feed corn left that I put in a baggie to use for a later project.  I then forgot about it.

And they grew.

My husband was the first to notice these odd looking bugs and he researched them.  Sure enough they were weevil – the non-flying (thank goodness) granary weevil. (The rice weevils FLY!)  Weevils weren’t anything like what I had envisioned them to look like (I didn’t have a clue about cockroaches either).  They weren’t that big, but they were certainly bigger than what I expected (about a 1/4” long).

And they didn’t look like ANYTHING I expected.

They were long and brown and they had these freakishly long mouths; nothing like the squirmy little wormy things I was used to (that would be the larvae stage).  I know this because my husband made me look at them beneath the lens of a magnifying glass.  I’m not an entomologist and I don’t want to do that again. (Yeuwww – again.)

Now I became curious.  After I got past the yuck factor, I wanted to find out how they came in with the corn – and how I never saw it coming.

Think Trojan Horse – they snuck in INSIDE the corn.  Sneaky.

Actually the adult female weevils bores inside a grain, any grain, lay their approximately 300-400 eggs in the different kernels and then seal up the holes with a gelatinous type glue.  Like I said, sneaky.  That is why you can look one day and see NO trace of weevil and the next day you have all these little larvae wriggling about.  And then they grow up.

If you do see the newly hatched larvae, don’t panic – just pick them out and then freeze the grain or pasta.  The good thing about weevil is that they won’t hurt you if you eat them and so if you don’t have a huge infestation in your grain, just freeze it and the weevil will go away.  If you do happen to eat some by default my dad always used to say, “It’s not going to kill you, it’s just more protein”.  Yum.

Fortunately my infestation was short lived and it originated in a grain that I never intended to eat.  And because of my husband’s dedication to track down the source, they were confined and eliminated.  AND from now on when I bring a grain in my house, any type of grain, for ANY reason – it is going into the freezer for a short stay.  A microwave burst on high for about five minutes will do it too (of course I microwaved it TWICE for five minutes – I tend to go for the over-kill).

And that is final.

If you are unlucky enough to live in a climate that is conducive to the bugs’ comfort zone, or you have an unlucky bout of bad luck like I did, I have a couple of tips to help you.

1. Find the Source: Search your cupboards and find the source of the problem and throw it out – outside.  Take it directly out to the outside trash.  You want it as far away from your house as possible.  After you find the main culprit, check your other bug food sources (cereals, grains, sugar – basically any dry ingredient that you can eat, they can eat).  If you don’t find any other obvious signs of infestation, put the items that you want to keep in the freezer for a minimum of four days (I always keep it in for a week and sometimes I will even “forget” it in the freezer for two weeks – just because.)

2. Clean, Clean, Clean: First clean out anything that is obviously contaminated.  Next vacuum your shelves out while paying special attention to the crooks and crannies.  Final, wash everything down with soap and water.  If at all possible, seal all of the cracks with silicone – just in case.

3. Use the Freezer:If you like grits (like I do), whole grain cereals, or anything else that might be tempting to them, throw it in the freezer for about four or five days before storing them back on the shelves so that you won’t have to wonder and worry.

4. Storage: Storing your food correctly is vital, especially for anyone that lives in a moderate climate.  How you store your food is going to be key to keeping these little critters at bay.  After removing the grain product from the freezer, remove it from the original packaging and make sure that you store your food in air-tight containers (e.g. plastic containers with tight fitting lids, glass containers – again, with tight fitting lids, or any other type of container that won’t rust, can’t be gnawed through and has a tight fitting lid).  If for some reason one of the containers is somehow still contaminated, storing things this way will help cut down on possible cross-contamination.

I like moderate temperatures and wish I could live in a warm climate, but I will continue to suffer through my freezing cold winters in order to not have to deal with little creepy crawlies.  Like weevils.

28 thoughts on “Ready or Not #229: Icky Weevils

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