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Pantry moths/rice bugs: whats the problem?

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The recent posts on pantry moths and bugs in rice have got me wondering. I too have the moths and, yes, they are a mild nuisance buzzing around. I have found not bugs but tiny larvae in my jasmine rice from Thailand. (I assumed these were what recent poster meant by bugs.) I know that larvae will eventually ruin nuts, grains, etc. if in plastic bags or containers so I keep these in glass jars with tight lids or in the freezer. Moths are still around, however. But so what?

I mean are they harmful to health or merely an aesthetic annoyance? It is easy to scoop the tiny rice larva off the water by soaking the rice (and any left disappear when the rice is cooked anyway). The moths are not actually in the food and their larvae are very easy to spot and get rid of.

So I repeat: health problem or aesthetic one? Any ideas?

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  1. I guess you could regard the larvae as "bonus protein" and just enjoy 'em poached. Not to my taste, though.

    1. The moths themselves are mostly an esthetic problem. But if you have moths, they'll lay more eggs, produce more larvae, etc. In the rice -- not so bad. In the flour -- not so good.

      1. The original product that started the whole moth problem wasn't fresh. Your taste buds will thank you for using fresh grains. To get rid of the problem, you'll need to replace all of your dry goods in that pantry/cabinet unless all ready packaged in glass containers. And then, you might still find some critters.

        1. they are potentially harmful... think about it, they are essentially fornicating and defecating in your flour, cereal and rice. Not a very appetizing thought... and probably potentially harmful to your health.

          1. I don't like bugs of any kind flying around my house- it says to me dirty.

            1. So far responses seem to be purely aesthetic--bugs say dirty--rather than clearly health-related. "Probably potentially" harmful is closest to factual response. As for my kitchen: flours--I keep 'em in refrigerator or freezer. No bugs. Cereals in glass or, if eaten regularly enough to move out of cupboard quickly, just a ziplock. Still have the pesky moths which annoy me but not enough to through out everything and use any pesticide before replenishing. Unless someone can show me where to find evidence of health dangers in their presence.

              2 Replies
              1. re: al@Fairfax

                The only way common insects (or even four legged vermin) can be a health problem is transmission of disease. In large enough quantities, they could affect taste. Presumably one can figure that last one out for oneself. As for disease, moths that spend their entire short lives in your kitchen are not picking up the invariably unspecified and so "scary" Germs unless said germs are already there. If they are, chances are overwhelming you were exposed to them long before the moths were.;)

                1. re: MikeG

                  Thanks MikeG for your reply; as you may have surmised from my OP, it was more or less what I was hoping to hear. And thanks to others who have had to deal with this problem and have responded with good sense suggestions. Bay leaves! I have a yard full of them (the NorCal type, not the better culinary type) and will go chop some right now.

              2. Don't know if anyone said this but cedar deters moths. I found some nice cedar boards at the hardware store and put them where I keep dry goods. Cedar balls work in small spaces such as spice racks etc.

                1. I don't think that they are a health hazard, but if the infestation gets bad enough it can be quite irritating and a pain to deal with. In the past, before we realized what was happening, we would find infestations of Indian Meal moths - meaning webs, frass, and wriggling larvae, in many of our pantry items including in grains, on our chocolate, and in hot pepper. They also like the edge inside the lid of jarred items like pickles or pasta sauce. Keeping grains in glass does not necessarily help. The eggs are in the grains themselves and hatch just fine in the gasket-lined glass containers. Pantry Pest traps can help some. They may not kill you (and I have certainly picked out the wriggling larvae and rinsed the frass off rice) but it does get kind of gross after a certain point. I think it crosses the "aesthetic" line into "disgusting mess" and becomes all you can think about when eating that nice batch of brown rice you just rinsed off.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: LizR

                    I have a question that may seem rather silly considering I have been cooking with my mother since I was a young girl... I live in Manhattan but my husband and I just bought a home in suburban NJ...We will be moving in early July. I currently have not experienced these pesky pests in the city, perhaps we did not have enough room to store large quantities of these items for as long as it takes to develop these problems. As I am moving out of the city and will have plenty of room to store food items, is this something that will definitely occur? I have not seen this in my relatives and friends homes in the suburbs as well. Am I missing something? Should I just accept this as unavoidable and do my best to prevent it in my new home. If so, I appreciate all the tips from the thread below, in advance. Thanks for any insight you may have on my inquiry.

                    1. re: Michele


                      Although buying and storing larger quantities of grains could make a difference, I think it depends somewhat on where you purchase things. I find that health food stores, farmer's markets, and ehtnic groceries are the worst offenders. Still, it sems you can get an infested batch from almost anywhere.

                      You may want to just stick your newly purchased bags of grains and beans in the freezer overnight for extra insurance. Good luck!

                  2. Purely aesthetic.

                    Let's be real here: all the food you eat gets eaten by bugs. Full stop. It may not be in your cabinet, but it happens at some point in the process. People are just so used to the artificial sterilized environment of a supermarket/refrigerator that the thought of a bug boring a little hole into their apple makes them nauseous. It's just one of the ramifications of the industrialization of food.

                    You know what will kill you tens times faster than a little larvae in your rice? Petroleum-derived pesticides - that's what. That stuff gets sprayed all over most of the food you eat, but for some reason the general public doesn't seem to have a problem with that. Or hormones. Or the waste that makes its way into the water that you drink. Or deforestation and soil erosion. I could go on.

                    1. It's gross.

                      The only time this happened to me, i had bought flour at a little country convenience store when I had a cake-ingredient emergency. It must have been there a long time. In fact, when I threw out everything in the pantry, I saw that the bag had tiny holes in the bottom. It was definitely the culprit. I started keeping all grains in tupperware containers at that point, but I doubt it really helped. I think the important part was tossing EVERYTHING they could conceivably get in (this included some poppy seeds....geeeod it was gross), cleaning , and restocking at stores w/ turnover. Good luck.

                      1. Our pantry was infested with moths. They stowed away in a bag of bird seed of all things. We cleaned out the pantry and tossed anything that had moths or worms. Some of the larvae had gotten behind the wood trim of the pantry and were emerging days after the cleanup. I kept the vaccum cleaner by the pantry and every morning and evening I sucked the little worms into the vacuum along with a shot of insecticide. This went on for a couple of weeks. YIKES!!!
                        In addition we got several "traps" that use a pheremone to draw in the moths and they get stuck to some sticky substance inside. When I first opened the sealed pheremone packets I noticed the moths swarming in the kitchen. That "sexy" pheremone was a great bait. We were amazed at how many moths there were caught in the traps. It took a few weeks to get rid of them all.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Motosport

                          We apparently brought a bunch of them from Nashville to SoCal, because although the house had just been fumigated we had a major onslaught within a week. They can even chew through Ziplocs! The only solution is LOTS of moth traps on all the high points in the kitchen, inside all the food cupboards, above the sink. They aren't dirt cheap - enough to respond to an average invasion will cost me around thirty bucks - but they last several months and eventually do the job. I now see maybe one or two a month. And kill it.

                          1. re: Motosport

                            I had this happen as well from bird seed. And not the cheap stuff either......it was from a specialty wild bird store. Luckily, it was stored in the basement in a tupperware so it did not spread. I did some research and the larvae can take up to a year to hatch so you could be seeing them for up to a year after the incident. I now store all seed in teh freezer for 48 hours first as I read it will kill the larvae if there is any. I'm not much of a grains person, but I guess you could do that with your grains and such after buying to be safe.
                            Lesson learned........freeze birdseed for 48 hours....lol.

                            1. re: fryerlover

                              Grain-based animal food of all kinds is particularly likely to have moth eggs. When we lived in Nashville, the place to find moth traps was the pet supply store! They kept a whole bunch scattered around their premises, and sold them as well.

                          2. the REAL reason flour is sifted in traditional recipes.

                            1. Use Aunt Norma's Pantry moth spray- it's the only all-natural product I could find for pantry moths and it works!!!! I feel so sorry for all the people on this blog who can't get rid of them... you gotta try the spray and also I think a pantry moth trap helps (but it doesn't kill the eggs and larvae so that's what the spray is for). Good Luck!

                              1. We had these moths a couple years ago after buying some flour from a discount grocery store. In the end, we had to throw out all the food in the cabinet where the moth were and scrub it a few times. The moths thankfully disappeared and from then on we have kept all flour, rice, etc in the fridge, just in case.