Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Be Careful Where You Store Your Birdseed

I'm going to start this blog out with a disclaimer.  If you are eating or are the least bit squeamish then either wait to read this or don't read it at all.

As you know, we feed the birds.  We feed them all year long.  I know that some people don't feed the birds in the summer because they feel there is plenty of natural food.  We not only feed the hummers sugar water and the orioles grape jelly, we feed the other birds a variety of seeds.  We feed them for many reasons.  Mostly to keep them close by so we can enjoy seeing them all the time.  They also depend on us because they know we have available food when they are hungry or need to feed their young.

Generally we buy large 40 pound bags of sunflower seeds.  This lasts us quite a while, but after a period of time we started noticing some cupboard moths in our garage.  Then we noticed them in the seed.  My husband thought that the seed wasn't sealed up tight enough, and the moths were getting into the seed.  So next time the sunflower seeds were on sale, we bought a bag but didn't open it.  Eventually we used up the old seeds, and then a few days ago we opened the new bag.  Guess what we found?  The moths were not getting into the seeds, they were in the seeds themselves.  Apparently there are eggs in the seeds.  If not used within a certain period of time, the eggs hatch.  Fortunately it is winter and everything had frozen.

Laying on top of the sunflower seeds was a mass of larvae.

As you can see in the photo, on top of the seeds were a mass of larvae.  They were intertwined in a heavy duty web that resembled tissue paper only it was very strong.  I scooped it up in one sheet of web and worms and put in on the platform bird feeder.

 A sheet of web embedded with worms.
Isn't this disgusting?  

The larvae are frozen and I think the good part is that all the eggs have hatched in the sunflower seeds.  What is left is probably fine to feed to the birds.  The positive part of this story is that I no sooner had put the larvae out on the feeder, and the purple finches showed up in record numbers.  They were fighting to get to them.

Not only had the finches come to feast, so did the chickadee's and the sparrows.

Chickadee with a larvae in its mouth.

They are still digging in for a few that are leftover.
He found one.

The lessons learned are that you should use the seed you buy within thirty days in the warm summer months.  It takes about 30 days for meal moths to go through their life cycle but a little longer if the weather is cool.  

Never store bird seed in your house. Heat from the house can cause the eggs to hatch and grow quickly. You don't want the larvae to hatch into moths and then get into your cupboards.  A shed or garage is the best place to store your seeds. 

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