Everyday on a sailboat is a learning experience.
Sitting at a remote anchorage one day, the thought of sushi crossed my mind (how else was I going to use up 20 lbs of fresh tuna?). I could almost taste the zing of the wasabi as I rooted around in the pantry for the nori. The last ingredient to be grabbed was the rice as it was on the bottom of the grain bin.
And then the horror set in.
It was alive.
Small black things crawled in the unopened bag. ARGH!!!! We had weevils.
Never met a weevil? Not as bad as a cockroach and much easier to get rid of. First some weevil facts.
Grain Weevils (of the insect family curculiondae) or snout beetles, are characterized by a head elongated into a snout. Two species of this large family, the rice weevil and the granary weevil, are common pests of stored whole grain and may become pantry pests. The adults feed on the outside of grain kernels. The larvae are small, white, legless grubs that develop inside the kernel.
Granary weevil. This weevil is about 3/16 inch long and is chestnut brown to black. There are no wings under the wing covers, so it cannot fly. Both adults and larvae feed on a wide variety of grains. The adult female uses her mandibles to bore a small hole in a kernel, into which she lays an egg. The larva develops entirely inside the kernel. Developmental time from egg to adult is about four weeks.
Rice weevil. This weevil is almost 1/8 inch long, reddish-brown to nearly black and marked with four light red to yellow spots on the wing covers. Unlike the granary weevil, it has a second pair of wings under the wing covers and can fly. Its biology and habits are very similar to that of the granary weevil.
Weevils hate bay leaves. Scatter them throughout your dry goods especially around all grains, pasta and rice. Storage: Tupperware and Rubbermaid are the best way of keeping your dry goods clean. If your containers are sealed, there’s no physical way for insects to get into your bug-free food. Weevils eat through plastic bags. If you must store in plastic bags, double bag your dry goods and put bay leaves between the layers of plastic.
Back in the days of old, sailors would tap their hard tack (the pre-Oreo days) on the table before biting in. This was to shake out the weevils. Since they were living on salt pork, rum and hard tack, an occasional weevil was a extra bit of protein. Personally I’d throw out everything that looked even slightly infected. It won’t kill you if you do eat them, but your crew will not be happy. Microwaving will kill all larvae and adult weevils if you really can’t afford to lose the provisions (and you have a microwave).
If you do get an infestation, immediately clean out the pantry. Hopefully you will get to it while it is still localized. It could be worse, it could be roaches.