How to Get Rid of Weevils in Your Pantry
Don’t let these pantry pests get the best of you. Vanquish rice bugs, wheat weevils and their pesky relatives with this battle plan.
No matter how scrupulously you clean your kitchen, you may still open your cabinets one day to find them crawling with tiny bugs. Unlike insects that enter through doors, windows, and crevices, weevils sneak in with your groceries. The adults chew into grains and lay eggs, making it virtually impossible to tell if you’ve purchased a sack of something that contains weevil larvae.
Of the some 60,000 species of weevils, the ones that threaten your larder are rice weevils and maize weevils (dark reddish-brown with red or yellow spots, about 1/16-inch long) and the larger, shiny, dark brown-to-black grain weevils. But have no fear—this step-by-step guide will walk you through how to get rid of weevils for good.
STEP 1: Get rid of any unsealed food.
By the time you spot weevils, odds are they’ve infested other nearby food items. So to oust them, you’ve got to purge your pantry of unsealed dry foods, including oats, rice, barley, flour, corn meal, pasta—even prepackaged box-type dinners that don’t have sealed internal pouches. Rice weevils often hatch from larvae in sealed bags of rice, so examine your pantry items—even the sealed packages—thoroughly.
Don’t stop there: If boxed products have sealed airtight bags inside, toss the box and keep the bag (label the bag with an indelible marker to help you remember what’s inside). Do this even for boxed products weevils won’t eat, such as gelatin, because the pests might have entered the box and could later emerge to infest other packages in your pantry.
STEP 2: Freeze salvageable pantry goods to kill weevil larvae.
Put salvageable foodstuffs in the freezer for 4 to 7 days, which should kill any weevil larvae that might be hiding in the product. Items you don’t think will withstand freezing—dried herbs, for instance, that may lose their zing—can go in a sealed bag or container and be stored elsewhere. Before returning anything to the shelves, proceed to Step 3.
STEP 3: Remove everything from your cabinets and vacuum them.
Thoroughly empty the pantry and cabinet shelves. Everything has to come out—canned goods, spices, aluminum foil, whatever you store in there—to get rid of every weevil. Vacuum the shelves, making sure to get the nooks and crannies, and then take your vacuum outside to dump its canister.
STEP 4: Clean your shelves thoroughly.
Sponge all shelving and cabinet interiors with either hot soapy water, white vinegar, or a nontoxic household cleaner, and let dry thoroughly. Again, concentrate on corners and cracks, where weevils might hide. Using heavy chemicals like bleach or ammonia won’t have any effect on the pests.
Likewise, avoid spraying insecticides in cabinets and pantries where you store food. Many do not work on weevils. Some homeowners have reported use of nontoxic enzyme cleaners like Nature’s ERADICATOR, which you can find at home centers and through online retailers.
No matter your chosen cleaner, be certain to follow all the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Some cleaners are toxic, and be sure to let any cleaner dry thoroughly before replacing food items in the cabinets.
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Keeping Weevils Out of the Pantry
The four steps outlined above can get rid of weevils in an afternoon. Still, it’s important that you reinspect food, including any you placed in the freezer, before you place it back in the cabinet or use it for the first time. It might take a weevil life cycle or so to completely rid your pantry of the pests.
Since any and all innocent-looking dry food packages could contain weevils, the only best way to prevent another infestation is to seal and place dry staples, such as rice, beans, lentils, quinoa, wheatberries, macaroni, and cereals in the freezer for 4 to 7 days after purchase before stowing them in cabinets (or simply keep nuts and grains in the freezer if you have space).
If there’s no room in your freezer, another option is to store these items in individually sealed glass, metal, or heavy plastic food storage containers. If these suggestions seem like overkill, note that all it takes is one female weevil to start another invasion.
Weevils can enter your home straight from a grocery shelf, so prevention is the key to managing these grain-eating insects. Carefully inspect packages of nuts, seeds, and grains before purchase or when you unpack online items at home. Once you spot weevils, remove all food, inspect food and packages, and thoroughly clean cabinets.
Prevent weevils from setting up shop in your pantry by protecting food they like; store it in the freezer or in sealed glass, metal, or sturdy plastic containers.
FAQs About Getting Rid of Weevils
It’s worth the effort to eradicate and prevent weevils in your kitchen. It helps to know what attracts the bugs and how they move, so we’ve answered those and other questions below.
Q: What are weevils attracted to?
The tiny beetles like dry foods such as cereals and grains. Rice weevils enjoy lots of grains beyond rice, including barley, wheat, corn, oats, and rye. Weevils also prefer seeds and nuts. Weevils thrive in warm to hot conditions, which can add to their numbers.
Q: Can weevils get into sealed packages?
Sometimes, weevils get into products early in the food chain, such as during harvest or storage. Weevils also can chew through paper and plastic packaging to reach their meals.
Once inside a box, they can live undetected while working their way through additional plastic or paper barriers. When possible, avoid buying packages that have holes or other openings to prevent bringing the bugs home with you from the grocery store.
Q: What is the lifespan of a weevil?
The lifespan of a weevil—from egg to adult—can last up to about 45 days. Adult rice weevils can live as long as 6 months. In that time, a female weevil can produce as many as 300 eggs. She perforates seeds or kernels, then seals them with a secretion. Her weevil larvae eat the seed or kernel from the inside out, leaving nothing but a husk.
The grain weevil (also known as a wheat weevil) has nearly as long a lifespan. In short, the weevil larvae can destroy grains as they grow, mate, and lay their own eggs while safely inside a sealed bag of grains.