The last thing a bird owner wants to find when they open a bag or container of food is bugs. You certainly do not want to expose your treasured pet birds to an insect infestation, nor do you want your home to be overrun by a horde of many-legged creatures. There’s also the financial cost in replacing the spoiled food which most of us would rather avoid.
The problem of bugs in the bird food can affect pet owners as well as those bird enthusiasts who stock feeders to feed their local birds. Let’s take a look at the kinds of bugs that you might find in bird food, what causes them to be present, and ways you can minimize your chances of having to deal with this predicament.
Types of Bugs in Bird Food
The bugs could have been already resident in the seed when you purchased it. Insect larvae can make it into the seed bags that you buy and spawn adults when you are ready to use it. According to absorbentproductsltd.com, these are the most common types of insects you will find infesting bird food.
- Weevils – Three type of weevils commonly are found in bird seed. Granary and Rice Weevils deposit their larvae in grain before the seed is processed. They will not be seen until the tiny adults are seen exiting through holes in the grain. They are not harmful to humans and do not bite or sting. Maize Weevils are also often found and are black or brown with long snouts. These insects can infest other stored foods in your home if left to their own devices. Checking for weevils is best done with a flashlight and careful observation to observe the insects’ movements.
- Indian Meal Moths – A moth infestation can also occur during seed processing or after you have brought the food into your home. Moths lay their eggs in the seed where the larvae feed until emerging as adult moths. The larvae’s appearance is that of tiny worms with black heads. They may leave the food and can be found on the container walls suspended on silk webs. Adult moths fly in the dark and these insects will get into other food sources in your home if you let them. If you notice fine webbing in your storage containers you may have Indian Meal Moths. Below is a video that demonstrates methods to cope with these moths.
- Cigarette Beetle – These small, oval insects can be seen flying in low light. As the name would suggest, they favor tobacco plants but can also infest bird seed and other products.
- Ants and other assorted insects – Despite the best efforts at obtaining clean bird seed and treatment and inspection at the production facility, inadequate storage can lead to infestation from a variety of different insects. We will discuss proper storage a little later in this article.
Your best course of action if you discover bird seed infested with moths is to dispose of it as soon as possible or freeze it to kill the insects. The potential of further infestation is too great and you are better off taking the financial hit and moving on than trying to salvage some of the seed if it’s weevils that you discover in the food. If you find that the problem is recurring, you might consider changing the sources of your bird food.
How to Minimize the Chances of Insects in Your Bird Food
There are some steps that you can take to lessen your chances of having bugs in your bird seed. According to pesticide.org, Indian Meal Moths can be killed through freezing or heating. Freezing the seed for a period of four to seven days should do the trick. You can also bake it or microwave it to kill the insect larvae. Below is a video from Parront Tips regarding freezing your bird food to prevent moths.
Purchasing a quality brand of bird food can minimize potential infestation. Some obvious precautions such as not buying an open or torn bag of bird food and ensuring the freshness by its expiration date can be more closely controlled with a commercial, packaged product. Caution needs to be taken when buying loose bird food at the bird or pet store.
Proper Storage to Keep Bugs Out of Your Bird Food
After you are sure you are buying fresh seed and see no initial problems with it you need to store it in a way that the bugs can’t gain entry and the freezer is a good place to store seeds and pellets. If you are challenged for freezer space, your best bet is to use sealed plastic containers or double plastic bags. Store the containers in a dry, cool, and dark place. Monitor the food and if you see any webs, freeze it. Small black bugs moving around means you should get rid of that food.
Feeding outside birds poses additional problems when trying to control bug activity. You may be storing your bird food in a garage or a shed to make it more convenient to reach your feeders. These places can pose additional problems by being damp and subject to high heat in the warm weather. Try to gauge the amount of seed you use bi-weekly and only have that much on hand at any given time.
In the event that you find an infestation in your storage containers, they need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove all possibility that a stray cocoon or bug is present. A single leftover can start the process all over again.
If your avian diners do not consume food too quickly, you should consider buying smaller bags at a greater frequency to help control potential insect problems. The money saved in economy size packages will be offset by the hassle of dealing with an insect infestation. While finding bugs in your bird food is certainly not the end of the world, you definitely would prefer not to have to deal with this problem.