Next Saturday, Feb. 17, is the Spring Into Gardening Gala! There are a few more open spots if you register by Feb. 15 at the secure site http://go.illinois.edu/sprig. Or drop off or mail your $25 check to the U of I Extension office listed below. (For your digital safety, the office is no longer able to take your credit card number over the phone or in person.)

It’s a delightful morning filled with camaraderie with like-minded gardeners, sparkling speakers, scrumptious snacks and an awesome silent auction. You’ll be glad you came!

Are Pantry Insects Fluttering Around in Your Home?

The Indian meal moth is the most common insect to inhabit kitchens. The adult moth has a wingspan of about 3/4-inch with the forewings banded in whitish gray and copper.

Within a few days after the female lays her eggs, they hatch into small whitish larvae, which feed on the food and spin webs as they crawl around. This webbing is often the first evidence of an infestation. When fully grown, the larvae often crawl away from their feeding site and pupate in crevices. In six to eight weeks the moth has completed its life cycle.

How can you control food pests? Insect eggs or larvae can enter your home on bulk purchases of beans, flours, grains, dried fruits, spices, dry pet foods, bird seed. To prevent the insect pests from spreading to other foods in your cupboards, seal all dry food products, including spices, breakfast cereals, flours and noodles, in airtight glass, rigid plastic or metal containers. Beetles and moth larvae will chew through paperboard containers, waxed paper, cellophane and plastic bags to get at the food inside.

Good sanitation is important to prevent an infestation and to keep one from spreading. Spilled food that gets into cracks, under sinks, under the refrigerator and dishwasher and behind drawers will harbor insects and keep an infestation going.

If you discover the problem early before food becomes badly infested, you can salvage the food by sterilizing it with heat or cold treatment. Spread the contents on a tray and heat in an oven at 130 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes, or place in the freezer at 0° F for four days. Repackage in tightly closed containers such as glass jars or tins.

In order to completely control the infestation, vacuum and wash all cupboards, cracks and crevices thoroughly with a strong soap and water solution. Rinse clean and dry. Do not use an insecticide to control these insects in the home.

Destroy badly infested food by composting it or sealing the containers and placing them in the garbage. I consulted with some avid birder friends, whose opinion was that it is OK to put it outside for the birds to enjoy the insect and plant protein during this cold weather.

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a master gardener at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034, 707 Windsor Rd Suite A near the Post Office. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ new Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners. And register now for Spring Into Gardening!

If you have other questions about your garden or landscape, feel free to contact a Master Gardener volunteer at the University of Illinois Extension office in Charleston at 217-345-7034. You can also check out the many horticulture webpages at the U of I Extension’s website by visiting http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ . And be sure to like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

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