A “bug” was found alive in this reader’s container of rice in Nipomo, California, and she has seen nothing of the sort before. The bug in question appears to be a worm-like creature which is not even close to being as big as a grain of rice, is an off-white/beige color, has a darker-colored head, and is clearly segmented.
Our first instinct is to immediately identify this as an Indianmeal moth larva (or ‘pantry moth larva’). However, there are some indicators which point to the possibility of this being a carpet beetle larva, oddly enough. This article will discuss both possibilities, but will ultimately conclude that it is far more likely that this is an Indianmeal moth larva.
First, let’s take the Indianmeal moth. This common house pest will fly in through an open window, or crawl in through the cracks in one’s walls and instantly zoom for the kitchen, where it can lay its eggs in food products for its larvae to feed on, ranging from grains (such as rice and flour) to dog food. The larvae’s presence can often go unknown when they are young or few in number, and have not started feeding as voraciously as they can, but once an infestation has gone on for some time, the food will be noticeably spoiled and overrun with their off-white larvae. In terms of revealing individual larvae in one’s rice (such as this one), one can rinse the rice several times and the larvae should float to the surface. When it comes to eliminating any organisms that may be present in any food product, freezing the product will do the job. So, we think this is an Indianmeal moth larva based on the location it was discovered (as the adult moth lays its eggs on food).
That being said, there are reasons to believe that this may be a carpet beetle larva. The reasons for this are that what we assume to be a very clear-cut segmentation on this larva could very well be stripes, and given how much of a darker color they are from the rest of the body, it would not be farfetched to jump to that conclusion. Additionally, upon zooming into the photo, one can make out what looks like bristles sticking out all over the body. However, seeing as the photo becomes blurry once one zooms in, we cannot insist with certainty that these are bristles. Nonetheless, if we do assume that these are stripes and bristles, then it would be far more accurate to identify this as a carpet beetle larva, purely based on the physical characteristics.
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At this point, our reader may be wondering why a carpet beetle larva would have wound up in rice, when their primary diet is animal-based textiles. Well, interestingly enough, the adult carpet beetle does not feed on textiles — that is reserved for the larvae — but does feed on grains, pet food and other food products. It would not be impossible to suggest that an adult carpet beetle was feeding on this rice when they laid their eggs right there on the spot. What puts a hole in this theory is that even assuming that the adult carpet beetle mother made a mistake and laid her eggs in the rice, instead of between the folds of some material (which is usually where they lay their eggs), there would have been far more larvae present in the rice. Adult carpet beetle mothers will usually lay around 40 eggs at a time, so the chances of finding just one carpet beetle larva at the place where eggs were first deposited are slim to none. And if we were to still assume that this is a carpet beetle larva, the rice would have to be the place of hatching, as a carpet beetle larva would have no reason to wander into a rice container as they would be in search of textiles, not grains.
Thus, we conclude that this is an Indianmeal moth larva and not a carpet beetle larva. Based purely on the location it was found, it is far more likely that this is an Indianmeal moth larva. Although its physical appearance matches that of a carpet beetle larva, we cannot presume that the stripes are actually stripes, and that the bristles are actually bristles, and as far as whitish-beige larvae with segmented bodies and dark brown heads go, this little critter does resemble an Indianmeal moth larva. We hope that this article was useful for our reader!