Food Pests: An Ancient Problem

Categories: Did You Know
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From caveman times to modern times, stored food pests have greatly reduced the amount of food available to humans. It all started when cave man learned he could survive winters better by storing food. In doing this, he created a new food bonanza for certain pests.

When he harvested the food, he brought in insects that occur naturally on corn, wheat, and other grains in the wild. These pests eventually became well adapted to living in and eating his accumulations of food. Protected from the cold and rain, many species of pests could feed and multiply year round, consuming and ruining our foods.

Stored food pests were often in the food ancient man ate. We know this because paleontologists have discovered fragments of some of the same pantry pests we have today in human coprolites (petrified feces). Pantry pests have also been found inside sealed Egyptian tombs. A flour beetle was recovered from food in an Egyptian tomb made around 2,500 B.C. King Tut’s tomb, built around 1,380 B.C., had several kinds of stored food beetles in it.

Even today, stored food pests consume and contaminate a huge amount of food, whether it’s in a clay jug, a modern silo, or a box of cake mix. Losses worldwide are estimated at 15 to 25% each year. A loss of 20% means that all the crops planted by farmers are lost every 5th year! Fortunately, the modern methods of professional pest management we use today in silos, food processing plants, grocery stores, and homes keep our losses from stored food pests to far below the worldwide average.