Bugs in the Flour

By Carolyn Shearlock, copyright 2012 . All rights reserved.

You do not want to see this when you open up a bag of flour.  Little black dots, crawling everywhere.  But they’re there, so what do you do?

No matter what precautions you take and no matter how carefully you store your flour, chances are good that it will happen some day.  This bag had been stored inside a Ziploc with a few bay leaves in it.  But somehow the Ziploc didn’t get completely sealed the last time I used it and the bugs discovered a new home.

Step 1 is to get the buggy stuff off the boat.  Not just into a trash bag, but actually off the boat.  Pitch it.  While old-time sailors would eat wormy flour, calling it an extra source of protein, leaving it on the boat will just cause the bug problem to spread.  Yes, I know that some people will say you can salvage the flour by sifting it to remove the bugs.  That doesn’t remove the eggs and you’ll be fighting a losing battle as the next generation arrives.  Get rid of it if you want to end the problem.

Step 2 is to go through all the other containers in the same locker and adjacent lockers.  Check everything and see if it has bugs too.  Be sure to check any baking mix (“Bisquick”), box mixes and other packages.  Anything with bugs has to be pitched (I know, it hurts).

If the buggy food was in a good plastic storage container, you can pour out the flour or mix and then immediately wash out the plastic container with a bleach solution.  If it was in a Ziploc, throw the whole thing out — don’t try to reuse the bag.

Step 3 is to take every single thing out of the affected lockers and wash the outside of each with a bleach solution before setting it down elsewhere.  If you don’t disinfect the outside before putting the containers somewhere else, you can transfer eggs and perpetuate the problem.

Step 4 is to carefully wipe out all the affected lockers with bleach solution.  Get every single surface.  If you can’t use bleach because of fabric nearby, use either ammonia or vinegar — don’t mix them — and the stronger the solution, the better.

Step 5 is to dry out the lockers and the containers.  Add a few more bay leaves to each “non-buggy” container as an added precaution, and toss a few bay leaves into each locker.

Step 6 is finally to put everything away.

And — perhaps most importantly — keep a sharp eye out over the next several weeks for any lingering bugs.  If you see any, take immediate action so as to avoid an even larger infestation.

While bugs are more likely in flour purchased from barrels and in small villages, they can be found almost anywhere.  Don’t ignore it if you see even just one . . . where there’s one, more are certainly nearby!

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Comments

  1. Paul Schroder says:

    Carolyn
    I just received my copy of your new book and I can tell right away that it is going to be one of those well worn and tattered books that inhabit my kitchen/galley.
    Nicely done!

  2. We battled this at home for a time and a few additional things:

    Do not use most plastic or Tupperware containers. I found bugs in my Tupperware cereal keepers and my flour container!! I ended up putting my flour and rice into containers from King Arthur Flour and they have been bug-free for about 10 years now. Ziplock baggies are useless unless you are storing in the fridge. They can eat right through the plastic.

    Freeze any grains for 3-5 days if you can. Forget the 24 hour thing – it’s not enough time to kill the eggs. You need at least 3 days and in a boat freezer that doesn’t get as cold as a land freezer, I’d go longer and keep it low.

    You can also purchase Pantry Pest traps that will catch the moths that come from these bugs. I would only have one on most boats since having more than one in a smallish area can compete and the moths will ignore it. At my home, I kept three in different rooms (one in my pantry in the kitchen, one in the pantry in the laundry room and one in our den next to our rabbit) and it worked great.

    Lastly, I’d keep some bay leaves right in the lockers where you store the food, not just in the food. It will help drive them away. I’d also regularly clean the lockers just to be proactive. :)

    • My only comment is that I think you can use any good locking plastic containers, such as Lock & Locks or Sterilite that just can’t pop open. Containers that don’t have a positive lock on them can open and then the bugs get in.

  3. Barbara Lowell says:

    Living in FL bugs are my constant companions. Please do not throw overboard any plastic bags. It sounds like you suggested this tho you didn’t say overboard, but where is “out” on a boat. A huge whale beached recently and his intestines were filled with throwaway plastic bags and some agency, I think the EPA says this is very common. Very sad.

    • No, no, no. You’d never put plastic bags overboard, since that’s about the worst thing anyone can do!! When I said to get the item off the boat, I meant in the nearest trash receptacle.

  4. Why do’nt we use vinegar any more to clean the lockers? Its also cheap, neutralises salt, but it’s less agressive for paint or vanish etc. It was used by the navy for centuries. It seems to be as effective as bleach. Exept: your boat will smell more like a beaker of gherkins instead of a swimming pool. Does anyone has any experience with vinegar?

    • I use vinegar a lot for cleaning. However, bleach is a more effective disinfectant in most cases. And when you have bugs, it’s important to disinfect where they’ve been as they can track germs and excrement.

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