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Grain Weevils, Flour Beetles, and a Flash Fiction Story

Linda Crampton is an experienced teacher who enjoys reading and creative writing. She likes classical literature, fantasy, myth, and poetry.

Bread flour may contain grain weevils and/or flour beetles.

Bread flour may contain grain weevils and/or flour beetles.

Inspiration From Nature

Nature is often fascinating. l always enjoy exploring the natural world and learning more about it. As I investigate the features and behaviour of plants and animals, I often find inspiration for my creative writing as well as my factual articles. One of my stories is shown below.

Weevils play a starring role in my tale, though technically the insects are probably flour beetles, not weevils. The animals are often confused in real life as well as by fictional characters, especially the species that infest grain products. According to the Canadian Grain Commission, however, although rice weevils are usually found on intact grains they do sometimes infest flour, so the characters in my story might have encountered weevils instead of flour beetles.

A Weevil and Beetle Comparison

Weevils and beetles belong to the class Insecta and the order Coleoptera. Weevils belong to the superfamily Curculionoidea and to several families within this superfamily. Beetles belong to the superfamily Tenebrionoidea and the family Tenebrionidae.

Grain weevils and flour beetles are small animals that are attracted to grain products and can be pests. It's understandable that they are confused. One way to distinguish the insects from one another is to look at their snout. Weevils have a long and narrow snout, which is technically called a rostrum. Beetles lack this projection. Weevils may need to be examined closely to see the rostrum because they are so small. The insect photos above and below are greatly magnified.

Weevils, Beetles, Grain Kernels, and Flour

Three common grain weevils in North America are the rice weevil, the maize weevil, and the granary weevil. Pennsylvania State University says that they are found in countries "throughout the world." They are similar animals, although they have been classified in different species within the genus Sitophilus.

The insects use grains to enable them to reproduce. The female weevil creates a hole in a stored grain kernel and then deposits an egg inside. She seals the opening with a gelatinous fluid. The Canadian Grain Commission says that the rice weevil sometimes lays its eggs in flour, at least in Canada. The larva that hatches from an egg won't develop unless the flour is compacted, however.

Two common flour beetles in North America are the red flour beetle and an animal with the interesting name "confused flour beetle." The name is said to have been created because the insect is often confused with the red flour beetle. The insects can't pierce grain kernels and do lay their eggs in flour. They are kitchen pests. Their presence can give a very unpleasant odour to flour or cereal.

Even the unpleasant parts of nature can be useful for writers. While we should try to avoid those aspects of nature that can create major harm, other parts of the natural world can be intriguing.

The Nature of Flash Fiction

The definition of flash fiction varies according to the source of the information. The story focuses on plot rather than character development. It’s a short work, though there is some debate about the maximum length needed in order for the composition to be called "flash fiction." Some literature websites say that the story should be no longer than 1500 words. This seems a bit long to me. Many flash fiction writers appear to aim for less than a thousand words.

A famous example of very short flash fiction that's often quoted is shown below. It's sometimes attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, but there is no firm evidence to support this idea.

“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

Whoever created it, this very short composition triggers many thoughts and images. That's one of the goals of flash fiction. It's not the case that a very short story must be easier to create than a longer one. When the words are few in number, the challenge is to insert as much meaning as possible into the phrases and sentences while keeping the story readable.

A cup  of tea is often comforting, but this may depend on who is doing the pouring.

A cup of tea is often comforting, but this may depend on who is doing the pouring.

Flash Fiction: Weevils in a Storm

Rebecca collided with the bakery door as the wind and driving rain pushed her into the building. "Five pounds of bread flour with weevils, please," she gasped to the shopkeeper inside, trying to catch her breath.

"None of our flour has weevils. We run a clean establishment and follow all the health rules," the shopkeeper announced, smiling at the customers who were watching the scene as he spoke.

"I promised my children that they could play with some weevils today," Rebecca complained. "A bakery that mills so much flour ought to have weevils!"

"All of our products are in pristine condition," the shopkeeper said, giving Rebecca the evil eye. "We would never allow insects on these premises!"

"I have lots of weevils in my house," said a friendly voice. Rebecca turned to see an elderly woman drinking tea at a table. "Of course, they only enter my flour with permission," the woman laughed. "One lump or two?" she asked with a smile.

Now this sounds promising, thought Rebecca. "No sugar for me," she said, sitting down at the table. "I don't suppose you have lemon?"

"Well, you are a woman after my own heart!" the old lady exclaimed. "I always carry a lemon with me for emergencies like these, as well as my little pot of honey. It's a great combination for a cold."

"I don't have a cold," Rebecca said, just before she sneezed loudly. The two women burst into laughter. The shopkeeper brought Rebecca some tissues, slamming the box on the table.

"I really don't know why weevils are so unpopular," the elderly woman lamented, stirring lemon juice and honey into Rebecca's tea. "They have so much to offer us. It's wonderful to find someone else who likes them!"

"It's my youngest, really. She's never seen a weevil before," Rebecca explained as she drank some tea. She was surprised and embarrassed to feel tears welling up in her eyes.

"Poor thing! Weevils are so enticing. Your daughter deserves to meet one," said the woman. "I'd love to give her some of mine."

"That's very kind of you. Do you live nearby?" Rebecca asked, patting her eyes with a tissue.

"If you don't mind, I'd prefer to go to your home. I don't have the opportunity to visit people very often these days. Would four o'clock be a good time to arrive?" she inquired.

How sad, thought Rebecca. "Of course. I live about a forty minute walk away, though," she said, considering the women's age and frail appearance, "and the weather is terrible. There's no bus, either."

"Oh, the trip's no problem. I have my own form of transport, and I enjoy riding my vehicle in a storm. The air is very refreshing when it rains, especially at higher altitudes," the woman said, smiling as she sipped her tea. "Meeting your children would be delightful. We evils love a chance to visit!"

References

  • Grain weevil facts from the Canadian Grain Commission
  • Weevils in stored grain from Pennsylvania State University
  • Flour beetle facts from Texas A&M University

© 2022 Linda Crampton

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