Bugs in seeds -) will freezing work?

suecirish(6 SE MA)December 15, 2008

Apparently a batch of small flying insects - rather flea-like in appearance and size - arrived with one of the seed trades I have recently received. They don't bite, and there are not many at this point, but I don't want them turning into a swarm for Christmas. I think I have heard that freezing will kill any bugs and eggs (so they don't hatch new ones). Can someone confirm this and any details? Like how long do they need to be in the freeze - should it be freezer rather than refrigerator temp -

I'm planning to take ALL my seeds now, including my own which had not previously been a problem, and put them in bunches in zip-locks and into the freezer. Will this do the trick?

Thanks for any info...


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Hi Sue,
Freezing will kill the bugs. I'm not sure if you got bugs that hitched a ride or actual weevils which damage seeds. Weevils lay eggs in the seeds. The eggs hatch they eat their way out of the seed.
To kill weevils, a week in the freezer is fine. For large seeds like beans though, make sure they are completely dry or you will kill them. Beans can be tested for dryness by hitting with a hammer on your driveway or other hard surface outside. If they smush, they are not dry enough. If they shatter,they are dry.
If you put in an air tight container(glass/plastic) in the freezer, let the container come to room temp before opening. You will kill all the seeds otherwise. Since it is only for a week, I just put an envelope in the freezer so I don't need to worry about that. Long term freezer storage would of course need a better container than an envelope.

You do not need to put all your seeds in the freezer. Well, all the seed you received since it doesn't sound like you are sure which exact seed is the source should be frozen.
For the rest of your seed, you don't need to freeze everything. Seed weevils are very plant specific, bean weevils eat only beans, hollyhock weevils eat only hollyhocks, etc. Most people don't run into them very often since there is only a select group of weevils that are common to the home gardener. Bean and Hollyhocks are the most common seed to get infested.
You can of course freeze all your seeds, but remember they must be completely dry before freezing, and let them sit at room temp before opening after freezing. If you trade often, taking them out of the freezer and waiting for room temp can be a pain. If it is for something you only take out in the spring, then it isn't much of a hassle.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 12:09PM
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suecirish(6 SE MA)

Remy, thanks for the info. I'm pretty sure they are not weevils. I really don't have beans, and I haven't seen any in the hollyhock or hibiscus seeds. They do fly quickly, kind of like fruit flies, but not quick enough to avoid getting caught - but they are not where fruit flies usually hang out. I suppose they could be fungus gnats. I'm going to do the freezing anyway, just to make sure. I have inspected all my houseplants and I don't see any evidence of pests there.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2008 at 1:40PM
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I found some bugs in my own envelope of some redbud tree seeds. I left the envy out on the patio for a few days. It definitely froze out there. When I brought the envy back in and eventually opened it, there were more bugs in it.

Personally, Id rather throw the seeds out rather than putting buggy seeds in my freezer. The bugs goon me out. Not to mention that if hubby found out I was freezing bugs, Id prolly have to throw the whole fridge out and replace it! He's even more goonier than me!



    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 9:37AM
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Lol Doris! I'm not sure if my husband knows I'm freezing hollyhock seeds to kill the weevils or not... well he was an eagle scout so I suppose he's ok with it, lol. You don't need to put them in the freezer if they give you the heebie jeebies, but anyone wanting to save hollyhocks or beans is probably going to have to overcome their squeamishness or buy an extra freezer just for seeds, lol.

I should clarify. Putting seeds outside when it is below 32 is not going to work. To kill weevils, it actually takes 3 whole days at zero. Since sustained temps at or near zero aren't going to happen to most people, a home freezer needs to be used. The week in the freezer is because not all home fridges run that cold all the time so extra time is added on to make sure the bugs die.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2008 at 9:51PM
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I have read that putting a few dried super-hot peppers in with your seeds helps, too, if the container is air-tight. The fumes hurt the bugs. Clove powder certainly works to keep ants away !

    Bookmark   February 13, 2015 at 1:13PM
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