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Can You Use Bay Leaves For Food Storage Insect Control?

Part of getting everything prepared means protecting your food storage against infestation. Can you really use bay leaves? Is it Fact or Fiction? Well that depends on who we listen to. Some indicate bay leaves will protect our food storage against those little food storage infesting creepy things. Others say they do not provide any insect control. You will have to decide for yourself.

I guess that keeping my wheat in plastic buckets with bay leaves for more than 13 years isn't a scientific experiment. After all, I kept them in the garage and in a slightly below ground level, cement room. These are definitely not controlled environments for scientific testing. And...no...I am not being sarcastic.

My buckets of oats didn't fare so well, but then again, we didn't use bay leaves in them. When we opened the buckets later, there were just too many exoskeletons and too much protein (creepy crawlies) for my taste. Maybe we just didn't prepare that particular food storage correctly with the dry ice. I think we waited a little too long to close the bucket or maybe we just didn't use enough dry ice. But, I think that is taken care of. Upon further research, I confirmed how to use the dry ice correctly. But, I digress. Let's get back to bay leaves.

An Argument For Bay Leaves For Food Storage Insect Control

According to Eau Claire County UW Cooperative Extension and the Department of Horticulture, "Dried [Bay] leaves can also be used in potpourri, for wreaths and other craft projects, or to repel pests such as silverfish or stored product insects."

Upon further research we can also discover that Cornell University Department of Horticulture said, "Destructive insects often locate their food by smell. Many plants, especially culinary herbs, produce strong scents which may confuse insect pests looking for a host to feed on. Garden vegetable plants such as garlic, onions, chives, and herbs such as catnip, horehound, wormwood, basil, tansy, and mints all produce scents which seem to repel insects or mask the scents which attract insects. A certain level of insect protection can be achieved by carefully interplanting some of these as companions to vegetables." Basil has seemed to have some properties for insect control in food storage products also.

Additionally, Erin Cram, a Graduate student in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the University of CA, Berkeley indicated that, "Most plants produce defensive chemicals that help fend off insects and diseases. These chemicals may be insect poisons, make insects stop eating, or kill fungi."

And if that isn't enough, the University of Wyoming, in a Report from the Powell Cooperative Extension Office, stated, "Scattering bay leaves or lavender in the drawers and cupboards and a bay leaf in containers of susceptible foods repels insects as well."

At least according to the above information, there seems to be a good indication that food storage insect control can be helped by bay leaves. But, it isn't absolutely certain this will work. There are also universities that have differing opinions or research.

An Argument Against Bay Leaves For Food Storage Insect Control

According to an article on the University of Minnesota Extension office, Utah State University, and Iowa State websites, "There is no evidence to prove that placing bay leaves or sticks of spearmint gum in a cupboard will prevent or deter stored food insect pests." The same quote is basically word-for-word on each of the three websites so I suppose they must have worked together on it.

At least there is one article that indicates the possibility of actual research being done where there is an indication that bay leaves might not work for insect control in food storage instead of quoting what others have said. From the University of Idaho it states, "Homeowners have used bay leaves, spearmint and peppermint gum, and other scented items to repel grain insects, with the claim of many years of insect free storage. The authors [of this article] have not experienced good results from these repellents in controlled test situations. Therefore, we do not recommend reliance upon them."

Some Agreement About Food Storage Insect Control

Well...there we have it. Bay leaves for insect control in food storage might or might not work. A couple of  things are for sure. They all tend to agree that wherever we keep our food storage, it needs to be kept clean and free from bugs. There is some good advice about how to do just that in a couple of the articles.

They also seem to agree that we shouldn't use pesticides in our food storage...DUH!!!

You Decide

So let's see what we have. It might work or it might not. Bay leaves are inexpensive in bulk (otherwise you are paying for the container). Food storage (storage of grains) can be expensive. And, we don't want to have to throw it away after taking all the time and effort to store it in the first place.

So...do we leave it absolutely, 100% unprotected. Or...do we use something that has a pretty good indication it might provide our food storage with some natural, non-poisonous insect control? As for me, bay leaves have worked in my food storage, so I will continue to use it. Unfortunately, I forgot to add them in my last batch of wheat (it was a group packaging effort).

Placing them on top of the grain is probably best. That way it is right near where most of the creepy crawlies may enter the buckets (by the seams/opening). Maybe 5-10 leaves would be enough.

But, do not take my word for it. We are each responsible for our own food storage and no one else's. Study it out. Ponder it. And, then pray about which answer is best for you. I am not making any recommendations. I am just providing the information.

Best wishes on your food storage insect control.

P.S. I forgot to mention. The food storage I mentioned above, the ones with the bay leaves, was given to us so it has been insect free for over 13 years. I think we received it about 10-15 years after it had been stored.