Beetles (Not the Fun iTunes Kind)
Cigarette beetles, to be exact. Oh how I wish they had broken up in 1970, too. That’s right, pantry pests happened to me.
Apparently God decided a little while ago that I was getting too big for my britches and I needed to be taken down a peg, so He sent a pestilence into my home, and Lo! It was terrible. And gross. And a little embarrassing.
But I conquered them! And I’ll tell you how I did it, because great news! I don’t mind writing about embarrassing stuff on the the interwebs. Much to Edmund’s chagrin.
I say that it seems a little embarrassing because I always would have associated pantry pests with uncleanliness–and it’s an open secret that I am not going to win any housekeeping awards. While my housekeeping fantasies might run very Martha Stewart, my housekeeping reality puts me in the esteemed company of The Bloggess herself, and I quote: “I’m fine with the clutter of mail and magazines and toys lying around as long as it’s clean and sanitary underneath the clutter. As far as I’m concerned, a house should look lived in, and I consider it clean as long as I don’t stick to it and it doesn’t give me cholera.” So you see? I am not a dirty person, I’m an untidy person. My mom, on the other hand, is both clean and tidy and her house is always neat, and my first introduction to pantry pests was at her house. She had an infestation of moths, which was pretty gross because they made nests in all the dry food and when you went to open the chocolate chips (oh yes) there would be a cocoon of larva and moth droppings inside. A ton of food had to be thrown away and it was all very sad. When we moved into 1404 here, we noticed old moth webbing/cocoons in the pantry in the corners, but fortunately there were no moths there anymore. We found more old cocoons when we changed our kitchen light:
See all the brown specks? Those are old moth cocoons stuck to the ceiling. Blech. We may not have had moths anymore, but we did have beetles.
Beetles, moths, it’s all the same, and you still have to waste more food. Turns out, these little guys come into your home mostly from the grocery store, where they are already in some of the dry goods. Yuck, right? I saw a couple of them in the pantry, but they are so small and unmoving (about the size of the head of a pin) that I couldn’t tell what they were and I wiped them up, only to find more later. I eventually caught on and learned that, like moths, they can be difficult to evict–but that did not deter me, because the only beetles I want in my life have an A in the name, you get my drift? Since I don’t like chemicals around my food, I tried to keep it as natural as possible. Here’s what worked for me.
1. Most importantly, all dry food should be moved into an airtight container. These are my personal favorites:
These are the Good Grips line made by Oxo. They are a little expensive, so I’ve been buying them a couple at a time, but I’ve found them to be worth it. You only need one hand to open them because the button on top seals/unseals the lid, so if one hand is full or dirty you just press the button and the lid lifts right off. Magic. They are pretty heavy duty, machine washable, and BPA free. Oxo has not compensated me for this in any way because Oxo does not read this blog. I just like them.
If you already have pests, check all the food for signs of infestation before you seal it up. (No point in sealing the little suckers IN.) There will probably be one or two foods in the back somewhere that are harboring the infestation (mine was an old box of Melba Toast). You might have to look a little harder for the beetles than you would for moths, who leave telltale webbing behind in the seams and corners of the packaging, as well as dry sawdusty stuff. An airtight container is important because pests can get into regular paper/plastic packaging, and if the container is not sealed they will still be attracted to the food. I guess they can smell it. I don’t know! I’m not a scientist!
2. Empty the pantry. Wipe down everything that you plan to put back in (after examining it for pests). Vacuum out the pantry very well, focusing on the corners and cracks where the shelves meet the wall.
3. Fill the sink with soapy water and use it to wipe everything down, and I mean EVERYTHING. Walls, shelves, underneath shelves, every nook and cranny. You could also use a tiny amount of bleach diluted in a sinkful of water if you rinse the pantry out really well afterwards and aren’t going the “natural” route.
4. After you have the pantry totally cleaned out, this is your secret weapon:
Peppermint oil! I have heard that citrus oils work as well, but this is what I used and it did the trick. This stuff is really strong, so don’t just start shaking it all around in there. Apply the oil using a cotton ball or q-tip in the corners, cracks, and edges. No need to put it all over the place (it’s unneccessary and trust me, the stuff is too strong!). Peppermint oil repels those suckers like whoa–and it smells fresh, too. You might want to repeat this step a few times a year just to make sure you don’t get a recurrence–no need to unload the pantry again if you aren’t seeing pests. Just get your cotton ball and dabba-doo.
5. Let the pantry air out for a couple of hours at least. This ensures that everything has a chance to sink in and any little bugs you missed die/leave.
When you are done, your pantry might look something like this, but only if you are organizing goddess Benita Larsson of Chez Larsson. Because this is her pantry.
Photo: Chez Larsson
Or it could look more like mine, if you have chipped paint and more junk food and more containers to buy:
Either way, reward yourself with a glass of wine and a good album. I recommend Revolver.