Revamp Your Cooking with These Surprising Bay Leaf Hacks

If you’ve ever opened your flour container and seen tiny black bugs crawling around, you might have encountered weevils. Weevils, a type of beetle, are approximately 1/4- to 1/8-inch long and known to infest dry pantry goods, like flour, rice, oats, and beans. They are distinguished from other beetles by their long snout and can reign havoc in your house. While they’re not poisonous to eat, it’s pretty unpleasant to see them crawling around in your flour storage. And once you have an infestation, it’s tough to get rid of them without throwing out every dry good in your pantry.

The best way to avoid insects in your pantry is to prevent the little bugs altogether. Some people say adding a few bay leaves to your flour container can ward off these unwanted pests—but is this true? Let’s get to the bottom of it.

What Are Weevils?

There are 95,000 weevil species, but the most common pests in our pantries are rice, granary (wheat), and maize weevils. Rice weevils are reddish-brown and tiny, about 1/8-inch long, and can fly. Granary weevils are reddish-brown to black and are slightly larger at about 1/4-inch long. These weevils cannot fly but are the ones that you might see in your flour bin. 

kanin/Adobe Stock

What Do Weevils Eat?

Weevils feed on wheat, rice, beans, nuts, cereals, corn, rye, buckwheat, grapes, apples, and pears. Once you see weevils on any food, it should be discarded as the infestation goes beyond adult weevils. Weevil eggs, which can be hard to see, are also present, meaning even if you got rid of the adults, you’d still have an infestation again very shortly. 

How Do You Prevent Weevils?

The best way to avoid weevils is to prevent them from entering your house. This involves checking all sources for contamination before adding them to your pantry or bins. This is particularly important if you purchase items in a bulk food section and transfer them to storage containers. Storage containers should have tight-fitting lids, preferably with a pressure seal or gasket, so nothing can get inside. Avoid storing dry goods in plastic bags and cardboard, as weevils can chew through them.

Do Bay Leaves Work for Preventing Weevils? 

Bay leaves, the herb you use for flavoring chicken soup, have been said to prevent weevils in flour due to the concentration of the insect-repelling oil eucalyptol, but is this true? The short answer is maybe. There is little research on whether bay leaves repel weevils specifically; however, studies have shown that they can repel other bugs, like cockroaches and mosquitos. This is because eucalyptol is a particularly fragrant essential oil that insects don’t love, so they stay away from the food source (your flour and rice).

The downside is also precisely why bay leaves may work: your dry goods will now smell like bay leaves! So if you want to potentially keep the weevils out, by all means, throw in some bay leaves. Just know that your blueberry muffins and risotto might have a hint of bay leaf flavor since the essential oil smell is strong—not just to insects but to the human nose, too.