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Today my wife went to make some bread. She noticed some very small insects in the whole wheat and regular flour. Upon further inspection, many of our wheat based products were infested with these critters. The worst infestation was in some buckwheat noodles that looked like swiss cheese.

The bug looks like a dark, barely visible beetle. Maybe about half a centimeter in length. They seem to be depositing a powder everywhere. Maybe this is just flour they've carried around.

What are these guys? How do we get rid of them? How do we prevent them from coming back?

Link to picture: http://web18.twitpic.com/img/146355240-133d33091a2b839fc9d4fb35402c0cea.4c686a68-scaled.jpg

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the image link appears to no longer be working. –  Dinah Aug 23 '10 at 2:47
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8 Answers 8

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Ugh, I feel for you! Just based on the description, it's probably some type of flour beetle (normally either red flour beetle or confused flour beetle -- but check on wikipedia for pictures). I'm no exterminator, but I've dealt with infestations of both in my pantry.

The only thing that I've found that works is to go through all food stored in the pantry (including that in sealed packages) and make sure that you throw out anything that is infested. I'm not sure how you feel about chemicals, but at this point, I bug-bombed the house.

After you're sure that you no longer have an infested food, seal everything in plastic food storage containers. In theory, that should contain any further infestations to a maximum of one container.

The other thing that I've done is to store as much of my dry goods as possible in the fridge/freezer... so stuff like flour is now stored in a sealed container in the back of the fridge.

My exterminator has said that a lot of times the beetles come in a package from the grocery store (a couple beetles in a box of pasta, for example) and they just overrun/overpopulate as much as they can.

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Thanks, It sounds like even if I bug bombed, they can still come back. My research seems to show that most wheat products can contain these guys. And when summer rolls around--they might just get the right humidity to hatch. –  Doug T. Aug 16 '10 at 2:51
    
My mom had a similar infestation -- got into the flour and pasta pretty bad, we never did concretely track down the source of the infestation, but the pasta seemed to be the worse off; we had to start keeping everything in the pantry (well, shelves in the garage) in plastic storage containers, other than canned and jarred items, as we couldn't be sure we wouldn't get a re-infestation. –  Joe Aug 17 '10 at 3:24
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I recently had a minor infestation of these beetles. After inspecting various pantry items, it appeared they arrived in a box of Cheerios. I have found them in other food items in the grocery store: pasta, poppadoms and paprika.

I have learned to put these groceries in the freezer for 3 days before I put them in my pantry. This should kill any eggs, and prevent a new infestation.

The powder the beetles leave behind is what they excrete after eating.

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In college I lived in a large house with 4-6 irresponsible co-ed residents at any given time. Cleanliness was not only next to godliness; it was next to impossible. The kitchen was the worst. The best thing you can do beyond the obvious cleaning is to make sure they don't have access to more food. In my situation, the way I kept weird bugs out of my food was by keeping things stored in the microwave, refrigerator, freezer, or in air-tight containers like large Tupperware tubs. Extermination is a lot more difficult when they have the means to continue growth and reproduction.

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We do a lot of shopping in the bulk section, and keep everything in repurposed, cleaned, pickle jars. In the 9+ years I have shopped like this, I have had beetles two or maybe three times, but they never break out of their individual jar. (To be honest, when I had them in beans once, I put the jar in the freezer, then separated the beans from the bugs after two days. It was college, I was poor.). Other storage types, like plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc, will not be sufficient to contain the little critters. Once they are in your cupboards, they will be difficult to evict.

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A preventative, and possibly a short-term cure, can be found in the prepper community. They like to store large quantities of bulk food in 5-gallon buckets (with lids). One of the methods they use to preserve bulk wheat is to store the grains in the bucket, place a chunk or two of dry ice in the grain, and place (not seal) the lid on top. The ice will sublimate, and slowly fill the bucket with CO2, forcing the lighter O2 out of the top. Eventually, the bucket will be full of non-oxygenated air, and the beetles will have a hard time propagating inside your food stores. After a period of time, press down on the lid to seal it tight.

Combine this with the poor-college student's post about sorting out the wheat from the asphyxiated bugs, and you should have some critter-free storage. This does not help too much with eggs, until they hatch - and definitely does not do anything about their droppings. But between the sealed bucket, and lack of O2 inside - this should limit further infestation with bugs.

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I work around a flour mill, and I take home bags of flour and keep it for an extended period of time in my kitchen. The beetles don't hatch out in any of my flour because I keep my home air conditioned and it keeps the beetles from hatching!

I have kept bags for up to three years this way and never a problem. Heat and moisture are what they need to hatch and if you follow the age old way of "keep in a cool and dry place" you should not have a problem with these critters! Remember that large amounts of flour or grain naturally start the decay process in which gives off heat and moisture, so store in smaller quantities and keep cool.

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Insects have survived for millions of years. They have adapted to changing environment. This is the reason why we still have insect pests in our food product. It is not possible to totally eliminate these pests. In spite of all your efforts to remove these pests, they can still bounce back. It may be easier to remove the grown insect from an infested product but is next to impossible to remove the invisible eggs, these little rascals leave behind. The eggs can very well be inside the food grains or on thier surface awaiting a conducive environment to grow further. By routine inspection of storage areas and stored products you can minimise loss of food products. Infested products must be destroyed immediately on notice without spilling them on to good products or the containers. Containers that contained the infested product must be sterlized and cleaned before re use . There are a number of herbal remedies that control insect infestation of food grains. Most common one is placing dried neem leaves( make sure you select those leaves that are with out any blemish),place them in the containers along with grains. Some people in south india use red chillies in place of neem leaves. Talk to elderly people in your village or twon- they will have home remedies for pests. This way we can preserve the knowledge these people have for future research and possibbly use.

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try with uncrushed solid salt balls in grains . we want to preserve wheatfloor

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Perhaps you could expand this with a more complete description; right now, it is fairly incomprehensible. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 5 '13 at 2:48
    
@SAJ14SAJ While I agree we should preserve wheatfloor, I'm not sure about the intended purpose of the salt balls –  mfg Jul 9 '13 at 19:56
    
@mfg Not my assertion.... –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 9 '13 at 20:36
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