Biosecurity authorities in Western Australia have launched the annual Pantry Blitz, asking the public to monitor their food cupboards for insects and provide data that supports the local grain industry to access overseas markets.
- WA biosecurity authorities are asking for public help monitor for exotic pests
- People can install traps in their home pantry to reports what they find
- The information helps grain exporters access overseas markets
The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) is asking people around the state to register for the 2021 Pantry Blitz, after which they will post out a trap and lure.
“Once that arrives in the mail you set it up in your pantry and follow the instructions,” said Rosalie McCauley, manager of the DPIRD Grains Biosecurity Planning project.
“Then the first step is to send us an initial report and then we are asking for a report once a week for four weeks.
“We have calculated that it will take about half an hour to do all those reports for us.”
While researchers are interested in all reports, they are particularly concerned about the detection of exotic pests.
“The concern is that if we get an exotic pest, and it spreads away from the metropolitan area into our grain-growing area, it would mean our grain growers would have to treat their produce before they can sell it, so that’s an extra cost,” Dr McCauley said.
Public to report strange insects
The pantry reports are submitted via a free app, which also allows people to report other issues to the department.
“What we are hoping is that once you have the app on your phone you will keep an eye out for other things that you see,” Dr McCauley said.
In past Pantry Blitzes, the most frequently reported insects have been weevils, moths, cockroaches, ants, flies, and silverfish.
“What we have found before is that the most commonly found pest in pantries is the Indian meal moth,” Dr McCauley said.
Expert help to remove pests
For people who do find unwanted insects and report them, DPIRD will send out information on how to manage the insects and avoid further pantry infestation.
But Dr McCauley says the commonly found pantry insects are nothing to worry about.
“Importantly, with all of those, they are pests that we know about and we know they are in Western Australia,” she said.
“What we are really hoping not to find is exotic pests.”
While the idea of finding insects in your pantry might sound mortifying, it is not a reflection on someone’s housekeeping ability.
“The standard thing is you have unknowingly bought a stored grain product and you don’t realise but there might be a little egg in there,” Dr McCauley said.
“When it arrives in your pantry, whatever is in there hatches out, starts eating the food and suddenly you have a pest in your pantry.
No bug reports especially welcome
Dr McCauley has firsthand experience of a surprising insect discovering.
“What really got to me last time, in the last Pantry Blitz … I found a cigarette beetle,” she said.
But some of the most important reports come from participants who find absolutely no intruders in their pantries at all.
“We have over 1,000 people enthused about this project and the overwhelming majority won’t find anything in their pantry,” Dr McCauley said.