Emergency food storage is a large target for common pest infestations. Mice, rats, ants, moths, weevils, and silverfish all seek out stashes of food to call home. Keeping your survival food free from these pests is challenging to say the least. It requires a little research, some planning and a lot of diligence. Chemicals and insecticides are not recommended around food storage, so part of the challenge is finding safe methods of keeping these vermin away. Even if these products are not in the vicinity of your food, they are still harmful beyond the animals you are trying to control. Pesticides can wash into rivers, streams and lakes and contaminate them. Groundwater can become polluted when these chemicals are placed in landfills. Rodenticides cause internal bleeding in rodents, resulting in a slow painful death. Contaminated rodents go outside to find water and are caught by birds of prey, and the poison has the same effect on those birds as it does on the rodents. So rodenticides are killing the very best natural rodent control available.Let’s explore some methods of pest control that will have minimal environmental impact. Starting with the obvious, package all of your food in vacuum sealed bags or in 6 gallon heavy plastic buckets with self-sealing lids. Place all cardboard boxes and plastic bags of food into heavy plastic bins with tight fitting lids. Seal your food right away and make it as air tight as possible.If you are storing grains or cereals, preparing it with a technique using dry ice has proven effective to kill any eggs or larva already present. Research this method for proper implementation. Placing bay leaves or basil leaves in and around the containers has been known to produce good repellent results. Food grade diatomaceous earth is fossilized deposits of microscopic shells created by one-celled plants called diatoms, and it contains naturally occurring silica. Some claim that adding this to stores of grain repels insects and has health benefits to humans. If sprinkled around the outside of the containers, it will kill insects that come into contact with it. Neither of these methods have been scientifically tested or approved by the FDA, so do your own research and make your own conclusions. Other pest control steps include traps. Snap traps can be effective, but some don’t want to deal with the carcasses. Live traps are a good option, and the rodents can be released far from your home or taken to a local organization that uses them for feeding animals. Mixing flour with borax and sprinkling around your food containers is effective ant and rodent control, but can be dangerous to children and pets. Setting out mashed potato buds and a bowl of water is a method of rodent control. They eat the buds and then need to drink water, which makes them bloat up and die. Now you are dealing with carcasses again, not to mention attracting them to the area with food. You could build a framework around your food storage shelves and wrap it with wire cloth to keep out the rodents. You would have to build a door into the structure, and there couldn’t be any gaps bigger than an inch. Possibly the best natural rodent control is having a cat patrol the storage area. Be sure to leave space between the bins and walls for the cat to get through.If you do discover an infestation in your emergency food storage, inspect all of the supply and destroy the affected food. Follow these tips provided by the University of California at Davis:
•Do not put exposed food on shelves. Place it in containers with tight-fitting lids (plastic bags are not adequate).•Regularly clean shelves, bins, and all other locations where there is any possibility of flour or other food particles accumulating. Certain pests need only small amounts of food to live and breed. •Soap and water is great for cleaning flat areas, and vacuuming with a crevice attachment will help clean cracks, edges, and corners.•Do not mix old and new lots of foodstuffs. If the old material is infested, the pest will quickly invade the new.•Clean old containers before filling them with fresh food. They may be contaminated and cause a new infestation.•Do not purchase broken or damaged packages of food materials. They are more likely to become infested.•Construct storage units so that they are tight and can be cleaned easily.•Store bulk materials, such as pet foods, in containers with tight-fitting lids.•Keep storage units dry. This is important because moisture favors the development of pantry pests; dryness discourages them.•Some pantry insects breed in the nests of rodents and insects and may migrate from these into homes. Eliminate any nests found in or near the home.•Pantry pests can also breed in rodent baits. Be sure to frequently check and discard infested baits.
Whatever you do, don’t just store your survival food and forget about it until you need it. Follow up with whatever procedures you choose to implement. Repeat them as the seasons and weather change, as this encourages the pests indoors again. -Gary Jenkins-Gary Jenkins is a father and husband living in Oregon who is a wildlife rehabilitation and outdoor adventure enthusiast.