Do you remember the 2019 holiday season? Crowds of (maskless) people filling shopping malls, busy grocery stores, and more holiday cookies than your waistline could handle? After what we’ve been through in 2020, it seems like a lifetime ago.
In addition to spreading the holiday cheer this month, many pest management professionals (PMPs) also spread practical integrated pest management (IPM) advice to clients, reminding them to keep holiday baking supplies like flour, nuts and candies sealed in airtight containers to deter stored product pests (SPP) from finding their way inside packaging.
But what do you tell a client who opens up a container of last year’s cookie ingredients only to find that it’s been overrun with SPP that have been busy multiplying inside their “Tupperware terrarium” for the past 11 months? Was your advice bad? How can this be explained?
There are at least two explanations for this type of a discovery:
1. Not every plastic container is created equal. Storage containers can run the gamut in terms of quality, so if your client used something bought at the local dollar store, it might not truly be pest-proof. Sawtoothed grain beetles (pictured in flour, above) or other SPP might have found their way in, despite your customer’s best efforts to seal them out.
2. The pests already were inside the food when your client stored it away. Unused food stored in even the best containers can be attractive to pests, and extended storage time only increases the chances of infestation.
Regardless of which explanation is correct, remind customers it is best to discard food items that are old, outdated or expired.
So this year, when sending out cards with season’s greetings to your customers, remind them to keep foods sealed tightly in the cupboard. Once winter is over, they also should invest some time in spring cleaning the pantry and removing expired ingredients that may harbor stowaway SPP.