The One Spice In Your Cabinet You Might Want To Check For Bugs

We've never had a reason to question the integrity of our spices. After all, more often than not, they sit in sealed bottles in our pantry, and we only take them out when we need them. But what if we told you our spices can harbor uninvited guests which love our spices as much as we do?

Speaking to HuffPost, board-certified entomologist Jody M. Green explained that spices are "rich in minerals and vitamins" and that two spices in particular — paprika and cayenne — "have high prevalence of insect filth compared to other imported spices."

And that's not all. According to Green, "The pepper family appears to contain the nutritional requirements necessary for multiple generations of stored product beetles to successfully sustain life," adding that, as a rule, bugs are "particularly fond of products derived from dried sweet peppers/chiles/red pepper products like red pepper flakes, paprika, chili powder, and cayenne" (via Delish).

The demonstrated love beetles have for peppers would explain the number of videos and posts we've seen on social media, which shows stunned cooks opening up their peppers and tipping them into the pot (we're looking at you, cayenne and paprika!), only to find the dish spiced not just with pepper but with creepy crawlies, too.

There are ways to make sure bugs don't live and thrive in your spice cabinet

The ickiest part of this bug infestation is that peppers don't draw big bugs, they draw little ones, such as cigarette beetles and drugstore beetles — and these only grow to become as large as sesame seeds, which can be a challenge to spot with the naked eye. As Green explained to HuffPost, "Adult beetles are active fliers and can get into storage facilities via gaps, open doors, unscreened windows, infested vehicles, bulk bins, and containers" (via Allrecipes).

Still, it doesn't have to be this way, and there are ways to keep unintended ingredients out of your cooking. Allrecipes recommends you start off by giving everything a once over before buying them, regardless of what packaging they come in. Further, you should put newly bought spices in the freezer for about four days; doing so will make sure any uninvited guests are eliminated before you transfer the spice to the spice cabinet. You'll also want to keep unused spices tightly sealed, to make sure nothing goes in or out. Green doesn't offer tips on how to get the bugs out once they've breached your defenses, but we think that's something a fine-meshed strainer can fix.