Bugs can and frequently do grow in spices. A handful of common bugs feed off of and breed in many of the spices and other dried goods that people store in pantries, cupboards and cabinets. The University of Connecticut notes that of common spices, red pepper, cayenne and paprika are particularly susceptible to infestation.
The University of Nebraska reports that the most common bugs found in spice cabinets are Indian meal moths; dermestid beetles; sawtoothed grain beetles; cigarette and drugstore beetles; flour beetles; granary, rice and maize weevils; bean weevils and spider beetles. The University of Nebraska terms these bugs as “pantry pests.”
How It Starts
Most people first notice an infestation when they see little brown or black bugs around the area where they store grains and spices, or inside spice containers. The University of Connecticut states that most infestations start when a consumer brings home infected food. The bugs then infest other spices or grains, as most pantry pests enjoy a variety of food sources.
Once inside a pantry, bugs can spread from one open container to another and some can chew through cardboard or paper to infest sealed foods. The University of Connecticut reports that most pantry pests originate in tropical or subtropical areas and do not hibernate; they simply reproduce frequently in warm areas with lots of food – such as the spice cupboard of a warm house.
The University of Nebraska recommends storing spices and grains in airtight containers made from glass, ceramic or something else that bugs cannot chew through; if one item becomes infested, secure storage prevents the bugs from spreading. Furthermore, the University of Nebraska cautions against buying food in damaged packaging and recommends thoroughly cleaning your pantry and kitchen with soap and hot water once an infestation is discovered. Freezing, heating or throwing away contaminated foods gets rid of the bugs.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.