Picture this unhappy scenario. You open up your carefully prepared and stored food at a time of need only to find it infested with bugs.
Nearly all dried foods – including grains, cereals, beans, nuts, powdered milk, dried fruits, cured meats and spices — are susceptible to an insect infestation. How can you prevent this problem from happening to your important long-term food investment? Some people freeze foods before storing them. But does that really work? The answer: yes!
Freezing does work, with some caveats.
Your first step is to realize that storage containers can make all the difference in eliminating insect infestations.
Flimsy paper or cardboard packaging is no match for hungry bugs, so it is important that you store your food in strong, airtight containers. Insects can also eat their way through foil, plastic bags and plastic lids.
For example, a study by The Benson Institute showed that insects found their way into #10 cans containing insect-free wheat by way of their plastic lids. Using several packaging barriers to protect your stored food is a good idea.
How long do you need to freeze your dry goods for bug control — and at what temperature? Geri Guidetti, founder of the Ark Institute and a leading authority on survival gardening, suggests that you freeze food for a minimum of three days.
Another Benson Institute study suggests that the temperature at the center of the food container must reach -9 degrees F (-23 C) for two to four hours for best results.
In his book “When Disaster Strikes,” Matthew Stein writes, “You can freeze containers of food to destroy living insects, but this will not usually kill their eggs. Refreeze the container after 30 days to destroy bugs that have hatched. Freeze in an upright or chest freezer for 72 hours at 0 degrees F or lower.”
Some researchers say freezing will not kill all insects. If you try the freezing method to prevent an infestation, it is a good idea to inspect your food for bugs on a regular basis. Early detection of a bug problem can prevent all your of food supply from sustaining insect damage.
Here are other options for ridding your dry food of bugs:
Food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) can work as an effective natural pesticide. Use one cup of food grade DE for every 25 pounds of grain for long-term storage. Layer the DE throughout the grain for best results. An added bonus is that DE is highly absorbent, so it protects dry foods from moisture that might cause food to clump, grow moldy or germinate.
Dry ice also can kill bugs in your dry foods. “The Family Preparedness Handbook” by James Talmage Stevens suggests two techniques for this method.
For the “on-top method,” place a quarter-pound of dry ice on an insulating material (such as Kraft paper) on top of a nearly full five-gallon container. Press the lid down on top of the material firmly but gently to allow air to escape.
After a half hour or so, look for the dry ice to have evaporated completely. When the dry ice has completely evaporated, remove the insulating material and seal the container.
The “on-bottom” method is another option. Place a quarter pound of dry ice under the insulating material. Press the lid down so air can escape. After about 30 minutes, check to see if the dry ice has evaporated. When the dry ice has completely evaporated, remove insulating material and then seal the container.
How do you kill bugs for long-term food storage? Share your ideas in the section below: