Thanksgiving is now officially over, but your seasonal culinary duties may not be. If you attended a family get-together for the Thanksgiving holiday, then there is a good chance that you prepared and shared your own side dish with your relatives over turkey dinner. If this is your family’s tradition, then you likely have to prepare yet another meal for Christmas dinner. Unless you love to cook, you probably had to search every corner of your kitchen for the necessary herbs and spices that you have not seen since last year’s holiday festivities. Before you use those old spices on your Christmas dinner recipe, you may want to make sure that they are free of all forms of insect life.

Believe it or not, but of all the food items that are currently in your kitchen, it is your spices that are most likely to contain insect pests. Some insect pests possess symbiotic gut bacteria that allows them to gain nutrients from the types of foods that are lacking in nutrients, such as spices. Drugstore and cigarette beetles are the most common insect pests found infesting spices, and this is because these two insects possess the gut bacteria necessary for gaining nutrients from nutrient-lacking foods. For example, cigarette beetles are aptly named for feeding on tobacco, which contains hardly any valuable nutrients at all. In fact, tobacco even works to repel most insects, but cigarette beetles are able to convert tobacco into nutrients with the help of their symbiotic gut bacteria. For drugstore and cigarette beetles, spices are an ideal source of sustenance.

In addition to attracting insect pests, spices are sometimes infested with insect pests before they are purchased by the consumer. This is because the vast majority of spices sold in the United States are imported, and it is not rare for imported spices to be contaminated with insects. In case you find this hard to believe, you should know that the Food and Drug Administration estimates that as many as 12 percent of all imported spices are contaminated with insect body parts, or whole insects. So think about that the next time you reach for your paprika.

Have you ever discovered insects within your store-bought spices?