When Sally May read about a Taupō woman’s pantry infestation, it brought back “some not so pleasant memories”.
May, like Sylvia Wright, has been through the experience of trying to eliminate bugs her pantry was crawling with, and also says it started with a bag of rice.
Wright earlier told Stuff she knew she had a problem when she opened her pantry and saw “little moth type things fly out”.
Further inspection revealed “white caterpillar things crawling round the cupboards”.
“They were in everything,” she says.
She even found them in a jar of olives – after eating one.
None of this surprised ‘Bug Man’ Ruud Kleinpaste, who says he has been studying Indian meal moths, the most likely culprit for both infestations, for 50 years.
“It’s an extremely regular occurrence,” he says.
While he couldn’t be sure of the exact bug in question, having not seen them, he said there were three different species of Indian meal moth – and they will eat almost anything.
“Muesli, Mars bars, stored food.”
He says they can even chew their way through tin foil in search of their next meal.
May says she read Wright’s story and realised they had “the exact same problem”.
“We were amazed to read such a similar story to ours,” she says.
“Like the Taupō woman, it all started with buying a bag of rice.”
She says the first sign something was awry came when they spotted “tiny white dots on the shelves and in a few products”.
She says the “dots” started to increase in number, and move, so they checked the open packets of food and wiped their shelves down.
“Unfortunately, this made little difference and [it] got worse, so we started checking unopened products like bags of flour and the rice,” she said.
“We were shocked to see the insects crawling all through the bag of previously unopened rice. My husband Bruce noticed that the unopened bag of rice had miniscule perforation holes punched all over, and the insects were coming out of these tiny perforations.”
She says they emptied out the pantry, sprayed the insides, removed and washed the shelves.
“But, it wasn’t long before we noticed the insects were back again, so we repeated the whole process,” she says.
“Our kitchen was a shambles because we decided to leave everything out of the pantry for a few days and do the spraying and wiping of the shelves and walls again. But, once again, when everything was put back in, the insects came back.”
May says they then emptied the whole pantry again, “not that there was much left”, sprayed and washed again and left everything out for a week.
“It was chaotic and frustrating so we know exactly how the woman in Taupō felt,” she says.
“Fortunately, this time we were lucky and the pests got the message. We have always been very diligent about emptying opened packets into sealed containers but it made little difference to these insects. We didn’t notify anyone about it but, in hindsight, it might have been wise to contact the supermarket at the time.”
Kleinpaste says the unwanted visitors can be removed – but you might need to freeze them.
He says simply throwing out food and packets that are infested won’t kill the bugs, and they’ll likely be back.
Freeze them first to kill them, he said, “otherwise they’ll come back”.
He also advises using a residual insecticide, “so anything that comes back it not able to survive that”.
He says sometimes you may need to apply the residual insecticide for months.
“It’s not a problem for human beings, but I wouldn’t lick it clean.”
He also has one further piece of good news.
Humans can eat the bugs safely, and in fact they’re a good source of protein.