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Pest Control/tiny white worms in sunflower seeds


QUESTION: Jack I buy black oil sunflower seeds for the wild birds.  I store them in large glass jars.  The ones used to make sun tea and also the ones that come with pickles.  They get filled with small white worms that form a white film on them and they also form a thick white film at the opening of the jars.  The birds refuse to eat them because they obviously don't like the yucky stuff on them.

Where do these worms come from?  Is there a way to deal with them so they don't get into the jars?



These are probably meal moth larvae (moth) but could also be meal worm larvae (beetle). If you post a picture I may be able to id it. Otherwise a trip through the freezer will kill the larvae in the jars before they have a chance to develop. Put newly "jar-ed" seeds in the freezer for a day or two then they should keep better.

Jack DeAngelis

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Yes, that's what they appear to be.  I see little tiny moths flying around. Are these larvae already in the sunflower seeds when I purchase them?

Thanks again.

Yes, packaged seeds frequently (always?) have at least a few larvae of various "stored product" insects. Various moths and beetles are the most common. If you use the seeds fast enough the larvae won't have time to develop but anything more than 2 months they should be treated with freezing. See for ways to get rid of these moths.

Jack DeAngelis  

Pest Control

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Jack DeAngelis


I can answer questions about the control of pest insects, spiders, mites and related arthropods. These household pests include termites, carpenter ants, powderpost beetles, nuisance ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, fleas, wasps, and many others. I can also answer questions about using pesticides and other pest control tools such as baits and traps.


I am a retired university extension entomologist. I've taught and conducted research in urban and agricultural entomology. I've published over 70 extension publications, 20 research publications and several books about insects.

Ph.D. in Entomology

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