Flour in a Hot Climate

This post is cautionary tale. One hot summer morning in my Athens kitchen when I was assembling ingredients to make bread, what should I see but little black bugs in the flour.

flour_beetles1Open up a bag of flour and see little black dots! Red arrows point to the telltale signs of bugs. Any closer look would just be revolting. If want to see what the bugs look like, I suggest a google search.

It is an unpleasant story, but one that needs to be told. In hot climates, flour is prone to attract bugs, specifically several species of the Tribolium genera. Unless you look at them close-up, the different species are difficult to distinguish. Collectively they are simply called flour beetles. There is nothing you can do to prevent an infestation from happening. They can appear in older packets you’ve had in your pantry for some time, or they can appear in newly purchased bags from the supermarket.

colour_pencil_flour_supermarket2

From experience, they seem to be drawn more to wholemeal flours than to white, but that does not prevent them from infesting white flours.

So, what to do? Most web-sites recommend disposing of the packet of flour. Sifting may not catch all traces of insects – including eggs and larvae. You should also check any packets of food that were adjacent to the buggy one. Remove any infected foods and thoroughly clean the area.

A disgusting, but necesssry task done just prior to leaving for holiday!

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19 comments

  1. Oh I hear you Deb, also oats, rice can get infested, in fact any grains. I got caught out last summer, my first in Brisbane. I’ll be much more vigilant this year. Many people I know refrigerate, even freeze their flour over the summer.

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    • I simply got caught out with these bugs. Back in the UK, it rarely gets warm enough. I will probably start refrigerating the flour in the hot months (which might be most of the year), but the trouble is you never know how the bags are stored in the supermarkets and delis. I know that certain flours need to be stored in the freezer since they have a short life span – chestnut, chickpea and the like. The things you learn!

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  2. Hi Debi. It happens here too. As Sandra mentioned, the trick is to store your flour in the fridge or in a cool room, if you are lucky enough to have one. When we were kids we would say ‘there are weevils in the flour’. I wonder now if they were weevils or the same bug as you have. We always used to sift the flour to get them out (That wouldn’t work for w/m flour but we never had w/m flour then). I think we are a bit too precious these days. Surely a bit of protein wouldn’t hurt us. I am alive to tell the story. I am glad you did this post. I have 25 kilos of bread flour and 12.5 kg of plain flour behind the door. Off the cool room it goes for summer.

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    • No cool rooms in Athens!!! Despite the fact that it is an old house with very thick stone walls, the heat can sometimes be unbearable. However, we have numerous refrigerators and freezers (all of which add to the heat in the kitchen and storerooms, by the way). The bugs we have are Tribolium genera – slightly elongated and reddish. Weevils (at least the kind that infest dried foods, known as biscuit weevils) are scientifically Stegobium paniceum and are a bit smaller and wider than the flour beetles. I agree – a little protein doesn’t hurt. The next bag of flour I get goes directly into one of our refrigerators so I can avoid that additional protein issue!

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  3. My mum used to give me the job of going through all the jars in the pantry looking for signs of weevils and bugs. Kept me quiet for hours! I think it must be the season for these bugs, as quite a few in a bread group I’m in have commented on the same dilemma. I’m with Glenda, once they get cooked at such high temps they shouldn’t present too much of a problem. Now mouse poo, that I couldn’t cope with! 🙂 Have you ever tries zea flour? When we were in Athens I read about it and tried to find the bakery that specialises in using this ancient grain in sourdough but they were closed on the Sunday. Sounded interesting.

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