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Finch Food Storage

Storing seed isn’t quite as easy, as they will need to be stored in a cool, dark and dry space in airtight containers. This both lengthens its shelf life and helps prevent infestations of flour mites, grain beetles, moths and any other unwanted visitors. If you are keeping only a canary or just a pair of birds, you won’t need to keep much seed at one time, a small box should be enough. If you aren’t keeping a lot of food at once you don’t have to get too paranoid about infestations, though keeping seed in an airtight container is a good habit to get into.

Canary food
A Canary's seed needs to be kept fresh and dry

If you are buying seed in larger quantities for an aviary or are simply just buying in bulk, you still don’t need to buy a special bird seed container. A normal plastic box or bin with a tight lid should be fine. Glass jars with lids on also work, though keep in mind that if you do opt for a glass or clear plastic container, you will have to store the seed in a dark cupboard or basement. “Wet'' foodstuffs should be frozen in airtight freezer boxes. Don't leave wet food hanging around once defrosted, as mold will start to form, also never refreeze it.

If stored correctly, your seed should last upwards of 6 months. After time, even if the grain is still drt, a lot of the vitamins and nutrients will have been lost. You can freeze batches of seed to solve this problem, but in turn it creates new ones. After defrosting, the seeds will be moist which can lead to fungal and bacterial growths, which will make your birds sick. Unless you have an aviary, it is best to avoid buying in bulk as you won’t have to worry about preserving your seed for months on end.

As mentioned above, seeds can become damp. Mildew quickie spreads through damp seeds and if you see even a faint dusting of mildew in some of your seeds, it’s best to assume the whole batch is bad and throw it out.

Finch Seed Infestation

As long as your seed is from a reputable source and is kept dry, and as long as your fresh food is indeed fresh you can’t really go wrong. This being said, there are still a few things to look out for, especially if you are buying bird seed in bulk. Not only can fungus or parasites spoil your seed, but some of these can also cause harm to your birds.

flour beetle
During their short lives, Flour Beetles will happily gorge on your bird seed

If you aren’t buying your seed from a trusted source, or if you’re unhygienic or even just unlucky at home - you may end up with a batch of contaminated food on your hands. The eggs and larvae of some parasites are not that easily spotted at first glance, and it is easy to assume that dry seeds and grain must be ok. This isn’t always the case and you have to make sure that you properly examine the food you are about to buy.

If you see small creatures crawling through the seed, it is fairly obvious that you have a full-blown infestation of beetles, weevils or osme other sort of unwanted insect. Grain that smells damp or musty are also a no-go. ALways be sure to store bird seed well to avoid infestations.

If you suspect that you may have some unwanted visitors in your seed, place a jarful of seed and put it in direct sunlight, the insects will overheat and head for the sides of the jar and inside of the lid, betraying their camouflage. Beetles and weevils tend to gather at the bottom of food containers, so it’s worth a check every once in a while. If you do find that your seed has been infested, be sure to wash any contaminated food containers, and check any other storage boxes you may have for further infestation. Cleaning the whole storage space will help prevent further infestations.

Grain weevils
Grain and Rice weevils lay their eggs in bird food boxes, and their larvae gorge on the grain

Several insect and fungus invaders can be potentially harmful to your birds health, and there is also the secondary issue of the grain parastoes spreading to your own food (rice, flour etc). If you manage to spot the infestation early on, you can save your food supplies by freezing them in batches, this kills the insects without harming the seed.

Pests - Beetles

Beetles intruders can be hard to spot. There are around a dozen species of grain and seed infesters, though taking immediate action is always more important than figuring out what species it is. All grain beetles present the same problem, food spoilage, and if a remedy for getting rid of them works on one species, it’ll work on them all.

One of the most common types of grain beetle is the Saw-toothed grain beetle (Oryzaephilus surinamensis). They measure in at just 1/10th of an inch, so they aren’t always easy to spot. They have a keen nose for grain and can sniff out a bag of the stuff from a few miles away.

Other common types of beetle that may pose a threat to your seed supplies include the Confused flour beetle, another tiny brown insect that has yellow-white larvae; and the similarly sized Rust-red flour beetle, which can also infest stored spices and dried fruits.

weevil closeup
Is there something unwelcome lurking in your storage boxes?

The Grain Weevil (Sitophilus granaruis) can also pose a problem, as can their cousins the Rice weevil (Sitophilus oryzae). They have the classic weevil nose and can, again, grow up to 1/10th of an inch in size. If your grains are not kept in airtight containers, you are running the risk of your seed becoming a playground for these pests. You can check your grain for holes, these are where the larvae have gnawed their way out.

If you manage to catch the infestation early, i.e. before a mouldy smell has taken over the whole batch, there is still a chance that you may be able to salvage the grain. Freeze the seed in batches for two days to kill off the beetle population. If weevils are your problem, take the seed from the freezer after the two days have passed, leave it for another two days outside the freezer and then refreeze it to polish off any potential survivors. Whilst your seed is freezing you can clean out the storage area to stop any future infestations.

Pests - Moths

If any thin, thread like substance appears in the grain, sticking them all together like a messy ethnic necklace, you have a moth problem on your hands. The culprit here is, most of the time at least, the Grain moth (Sitotroga cerealella). Their larvae spin a silk cocoon prior to transforming into their adult selves.

Adult grain moths can also infest grain too. They reach up to 0,4 inches in length and are a light brown in color. Another common culprit is the Brown house-moth (Hofmannophila pseudospretella). This is another moth that has a weakness for grain and wheat products. They can be found across most of the USA. Both of these species lay a lot of eggs and just a few weeks of them flying into your house there could be thousands of larvae in your food boxes. The maggots are the same size as the adults and have a distinctive red-brown head.

Moth infested grain can be salvaged by using the freezing method, however this only works if the eggs are not yet hatched, if you see any of the silky white substance on your seeds, there is no salvaging them.

Prevention is always the best cure. If your finches are kept indoors, be sure to keep all surfaces clean, not forgetting to take the vacuum cleaner to get those hard-to-reach corners that the moths may dwell in. There are also pheromone-based moth traps available on the market. If you ipt to go for one of these, be sure to keep them out of reach of free-flying birds as their feathers could get gummed up and stuck on them. Lighting a candle in a dark room will also lure moths into a rather unfortunate end. If you’d prefer a less bloodthirsty way of getting rid of the moths, you can try a herbal sachet deterrent, though this is more effective for the Common clothes moth rather than the grain moth. Effective ingredients for these herbal sachets include bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus, dried lemon peel and black peppercorns.

Java Sparrows in wild
These Java sparrows supplement their diets with creepy-crawlies

Pests - Mites

If you notice that your seed has developed a moldy smell, yet there are no signs of moths or beetles, you could have a mite infestation on your hands. Flour Mites (Acarus siro and Tyrophagus putrescentiae) are the usual suspects and could be potentially deadly to finches if ingested. The problem is that they’re tiny, hard to spot in a bag of white flour, let alone a bag of grain. The moldy smell is going to be your only giveaway here.

To check if you have a mite infestation, place a small pile of grain or seed into a small cup, full to the top making sure that the sides of the mound are as steep as possible. If any mites are present, they will work through the grain in the bowl, like worms do to the earth, flattening it out. Sadly, there is no way to get rid of the mites and chucking out the supplies are your only potion here. Be sure to thoroughly clean out the storage space to prevent future mite problems.

Aviary Pests

If you keep your birds outdoors, you are bound to have some form of infestation at one point or another, it’s like free real estate for pests. Flies and wasps can’t be stopped from entering the aviary, but they don't pose much of a problem anyway. Ants on the other hand are a different beast. They are naturally attracted to fresh food, and if you let them they could storm the aviary in plague-like proportions, causing problems for nesting birds and chicks. If you keep any insect-eating birds with your finches, they'll help keep the ant population down. Ant-killing dust is not safe to use in an aviary, though it can be spread outside the aviary as a moat of sorts. Some owners swear by cinnamon powder too, and as a bonus, this can be used in the aviary with no risks. Cinnamon is also said to deter cockroaches and garden beetles. Similar claims have been made for powder bone meal, cayenne pepper, chalk, charcoal, coffee grounds, and talcum (it has to be the non scented kind). Cucumber peel can also have some deterrent effects too, though your birds might just eat it.

You can make your own repellents at home too. A cider vinegar and water mix or a crushed garlic and water mix will both work well. Spray this on the ant’s trial and on any feeding station which the ants have claimed as their own. Lemon juice works well too. These sprays will not harm your birds (as long as you’re not spraying them directly). Any infested fruit needs to be gotten rid of. An hour after your first spray down, check back and if there are still any signs of the ants, give the whole area another spray. If you can track the ants down to their nest, you can get rid of the problem by blasting them with ant dust or by pouring boiling water on them. They will always return, but the goal here isn’t to destroy the ants but rather deter them as much as possible.

Fruit flies (Drosophila) are another uninvited guest that is certain to make an appearance at one point or another. If you spot one, you can rest assured that there will be swarms of them in a couple of days. Their numbers can be kept down by using fruit fly traps. To make these place containers of wine or apple cider vinegar in the aviary. These containers should have lids with holes in them, making it easy for the flies to enter but hard for them to get back out. It is important that the containers have a lid that can’t be broken into by your finches. They won’t be harmed by the contents of the container but will let loose all the trapped flies. Some species, notably the Strawberry Finch, actively hunt the flies, making your life just that little bit easier.

strawberry finch on aviary floor
Strawberry finch - a handy fruit fly guzzler

If the problem you are facing is one of the mosquito kind, you will have to tackle it at its source. Mosquitoes larvae hatch out in standing water - this means water butts, abandoned buckets, plant containers, garden ponds, etc. Get rid of, or cover-up, any water sources you can find. A film of vegetable oil on an open water butt works too: the larvae won’t be able to penetrate it, meaning they won’t have access to air and will subsequently drown. If you have a pond in your garden, it’s safe to assume that this will be where the majority of the mosquitos will be coming from. A population of goldfish or minnows will happily much their way through the larvae, which will help.

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