Pests can be a real problem when it comes to long term food storage. Many people do not realize what a challenge pests are in the food supply business. Between the time of harvest and reaching your dinner table, more than 20% of food in the US is destroyed by pests. In third world countries it can be even worse, often reaching levels of 80% or higher. It’s a troubling fact that much of the food sent to these countries from charities and relief organizations is actually eaten by insects and rodents while sitting on the docks.
With this in mind, it follows that pests can be devastating to food supplies in the home too. How can this problem be addressed in a realistic way? Here are several suggestions.
First, get your grains and other foods from a reputable dealer. This will still not gaurantee that you won’t have any problems, so oxygen absorbers in air tight containers are recommended (CLICK HERE TO READ A POST ON THAT). This provides a simple way to increase the level of nitrogen in the container. Nitrogen gas has been used effectively for protection against pest infestation, and is considered safe for this use.
If you have the capability, you could take steps to kill any stored insects which might be present in your food when you purchase it. There are several methods which can be used to do this. First, you can freeze grains at 0 degrees Fahrenheit for a week before storing in air tight containers. This will kill most insects.
Another method is fumigation with carbon dioxide. The easiest and safest ways to do this in the home is with the use of dry-ice. To fumigate home-stored wheat or similar foods, spread approximately 3 ounces of crushed dry ice on top of 3-4 inches of grain in the bottom of a 5 gallon container. Next, add the remaining grain to the can. (For larger quantities, use 8 ounces of dry ice for 100 Lbs. of grain or 1 Lb of dry ice for 30 gallons of stored grain.) Because the gas from the dry ice is heavier than air, it displaces the air in the container. You will want to keep the lid loose until the dry ice has completely vaporized before sealing the container. If you close it too soon, and the bucket starts to bulge, carefully remove the lid for several minutes to release the pressure. If you use plastic bags inside the containers, do not seal the bags until the process is complete. It is best to follow this procedure in as dry an environment as possible to reduce the condensation in the bottom of the container. When done right, one treatment is generally enough. Yearly treatments should not be needed unless there is an infestation. WARNING: Handle dry ice with care as skin can be severely frozen. Dry ice should be kept out of reach of children or adults who are not aware of its freezing or vaporizing properties. Also, do not use in a closed room where carbon dioxide buildup could cause asphyxiation.
One other method for killing insects which have come with your grains would be to heat them. You can spread the grains out on a pan and heat them in the oven at 150 degrees F for 20 minutes, or for 2-3 hours at 120-130 degrees F.
Whatever method you use to deal with pests, grains should be placed in air tight containers as soon as possible after purchase.